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No ducking OSU

Oregon coach Bellotti tours Ohio State campus

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Posted: Monday January 15, 2001 5:37 PM
Updated: Tuesday January 16, 2001 12:59 AM

  Mike Belotti Mike Bellotti is the only known candidate with no previous ties to the Ohio State program. Jeff Gross/Allsport

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Oregon football coach Mike Bellotti visited Ohio State University on Monday with the athletic director who is trying to find a new coach, Oregon athletic department officials confirmed Monday.

Bellotti and his wife toured the Woody Hayes Athletic Facility with Andy Geiger, and Oregon athletic director Bill Moos said Geiger had called him last week and received permission to talk to Bellotti.

Reached late Monday by The Oregonian, Bellotti said, "I'm officially on the road recruiting."

He said he had not been offered the job at Ohio State, and declined further comment.

"I have no comment at all in that regard," he told the Portland newspaper.

Moos said he would be surprised if the situation was not resolved by Wednesday and that he was optimistic Bellotti would stay with the Ducks.

"If I were a betting man, I would bet that Mike Bellotti would be coaching at Oregon next (season) and for many years to come," Moos told The Register-Guard of Eugene, Ore.

Moos told The Oregonian that he talked with Bellotti on Monday, saying Bellotti was "very impressed" with what he saw at Ohio State but also very complimentary about his situation at Oregon.

Bellotti is one of several people who have been mentioned as candidates for the Ohio State coaching job vacated when John Cooper was fired Jan. 2, the day after the Buckeyes' 24-7 loss to South Carolina in the Outback Bowl.

Since then, Geiger and associate athletic director Archie Griffin have interviewed several possible successors, but have given no indication when a new coach would be named.

Minnesota coach Glen Mason and Youngstown State coach Jim Tressel are believed to be among the finalists. Geiger also has interviewed Ohio State assistant Fred Pagac and former All-Pro linebacker Chris Spielman. Those four candidates all played for the Buckeyes. Bellotti never played or coached at Ohio State.

Bellotti is 49-22 in six seasons at Oregon and has guided the Ducks to five bowl appearances, including a 35-30 victory over Texas in the Holiday Bowl in December and a No. 7 ranking in the final Associated Press poll.

Bellotti, 50, announced last month that he had agreed to a two-year contract extension that would keep him with the Ducks through 2007.

At that time, Oregon officials said Bellotti would sign a new seven-year contract that would raise his base annual salary from $400,000 to $600,000.

But Bellotti's contract has yet to be signed, and Moos said such things usually take two or three months to funnel through the lawyers and become final.

As for a buyout clause, Moos said there always has been one and that this new contract was no exception. He said he thought it was around $300,000.

Published reports have suggested the Buckeyes are willing to pay upward of $2 million a year to their next coach, meaning any buyout would not be much of an obstacle should Ohio State offer the job and Bellotti accept.

Bellotti had been rumored in December to be a candidate for the Southern California and Arizona State jobs, which have since been filled, but denied then that any other school had offered him a job.

Bellotti took over for Rich Brooks at Oregon in 1995 after six seasons as offensive coordinator. His overall coaching record is 72-47-2 in 11 seasons at Oregon and Chico State.

Geiger apparently approached Bellotti last week at the national coaches' convention in Atlanta, but said he wasn't interested. Geiger, a former Stanford director of athletics, also made a call to Stanford coach Tyrone Willingham. Willingham also said he wasn't interested, though a recommendation from him may have renewed the OSU interest in Bellotti.

Moos said news of his football coach's whereabouts was not a surprise.

"I knew it was going to happen," Moos said. "I think Mike really wanted to take the opportunity to look at the opportunity for him."

WBNS-AM in Columbus had said earlier that the search for a new coach would last "a few more days."

"It's going fine, I'm very happy. It's not dragging. I think it will take a few more days," Geiger told Columbus television station WSYX on Sunday. "There are a lot of things involved, reference checking, background checking."

"I won't get into names," Geiger said. "There are people involved who don't want their name in the paper. You have to coax these things along. This is a fairly important decision."


 
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