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Original Issue

Thanks, but No Thanks

Why young coaches are turning down high-profile jobs

IT SEEMED like a logical step for Greg Schiano. Having built lowly Rutgers into a nationally ranked team, he had the chance to move on to Miami—a program with a higher profile, a more impressive history and a willingness to pay top dollar. So Schiano's announcement that he is staying put may have been as big an upset as anything the Scarlet Knights pulled off on the field. "I don't need to go somewhere else to win," Schiano says. "We have the ability to do great things at Rutgers. We can win big right here."

It's possible to win big almost anywhere these days. Scholarship limits have kept the name schools from stockpiling players, and the proliferation of cable has allowed programs to promise recruits plenty of TV exposure. So hot coaches like Schiano, 40, and West Virginia's Rich Rodriguez, 43, who turned down a six-year, $12 million offer from Alabama, aren't jumping at invitations from powerhouses anymore. With Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl and Louisville and Wake Forest in the Orange Bowl, it's clear that the road to a BCS bowl need not run through Tuscaloosa or Miami.

And with national rankings and big-money bowls within their grasp, traditional also-rans are stepping up their commitment to their programs, making it more enticing for a coach to stick around. Rodriguez received a two-year extension and a promise to upgrade West Virginia's facilities in exchange for turning down Alabama—which fired Mike Shula one year after a 10-win season. Just about the only thing that West Virginia doesn't now offer that 'Bama does is the intense pressure to be in the national championship picture every season.

That they can no longer count on raiding smaller programs may not be great news for the Old Guard, but it could be good for the game. Big schools will now have to broaden the field of head coaching candidates. When Schiano took himself out of the running at Miami, the Hurricanes selected their defensive coordinator, Randy Shannon, making him the sixth African-American head coach in Division I-A.

Of course, the old idea of plucking the best and the brightest from lower-profile schools isn't completely dead. Alabama is hoping to tempt Jim Grobe from Wake Forest, Navy's Paul Johnson or Oregon State's Mike Riley. And Schiano's name remains in the rumor mill. No sooner had he announced he'd stay at Rutgers than speculation began that what he really wants is to go to Penn State whenever Joe Paterno retires. But if that's what the Nittany Lions are counting on, they had better have a Plan B.