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Snyder Out of Race; Bruins Wait on Barnett

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The hunt for a new UCLA football coach was down to two men on Saturday morning. But by Saturday afternoon one of those men, Kansas State Coach Bill Snyder, dropped out of the running. And the other, Northwestern Coach Gary Barnett, has asked for more time.

UCLA officials have made it clear to Barnett that he would be their top choice. While, in turn, indicating serious interest in the Bruin job, Barnett has continued to negotiate with Northwestern, which has offered him a lucrative 12-year contract.

Sources close to Barnett say he is also trying to negotiate a better deal for his assistant coaches at Northwestern while bringing up the financial situation of his assistants with UCLA as well.

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Rick Taylor, Northwestern’s athletic director, told the Chicago Sun-Times, “I know what’s going on. I have nothing to say about it.”

With his Wildcats in the Rose Bowl against USC on Monday, Barnett has tried to put the entire issue of his future aside until after the game, saying he’ll make a final decision by the middle of the week.

That doesn’t sit too well with UCLA officials. Athletic Director Peter Dalis has been saying since Dec. 11, the day Terry Donahue resigned after 20 years on the job, that he wanted a new coach in place by New Year’s Day. Dalis can’t afford to wait much longer with the school’s first heavy recruiting weekend starting in six days.

If Snyder had been interested in the job, that would have put more pressure on Barnett.

“I won’t ever pursue a job or an interview,” Snyder had told The Times earlier in the week. “But if UCLA calls, certainly I will listen.”

UCLA called, but Snyder, after coaching his team to an impressive 54-21 victory over Colorado State in the Holiday Bowl Friday night, bowed out of the Bruin situation Saturday without offering a reason.

Snyder has just completed the third year of a 10-year contract that pays him between $250,000 and $300,000 annually. UCLA is thought to be offering around $300,000 per season.

There is no question about Snyder’s coaching ability. Over the last three seasons, he is 28-7-1, including 17-1-1 at home.

The questions arose over his media relations. Beat reporters covering Kansas State complained about lack of access to players, saying they were limited to one hour a week.

Snyder knew that if he came to the Los Angles market he might have to change.

He did not return phone calls to a reporter Saturday night.

Now UCLA officials must decide if they will give Barnett the time he needs and risk winding up with nobody by the middle of the week.

The argument can certainly be made that Barnett is worth waiting for. In one season, he has turned perennial loser Northwestern from a 3-7-1 mark to a 10-1 record and the No. 3 ranking in the country. And in doing so, Barnett has become arguably the hottest coach in college football.

The alternative for Dalis would be to offer the position to one of the three others still remaining on UCLA’s list--Denver Bronco defensive coordinator Greg Robinson, Chicago Bear offensive coordinator Ron Turner and UCLA’s offensive coordinator, Bob Toledo.


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