UCLA is racing to secure a name-brand football coach, aggressively pursuing Miami Coach Al Golden while Athletic Director Dan Guerrero traveled to Houston on Saturday to meet with Cougars coach Kevin Sumlin.
Time is an issue because Texas A&M is reportedly prepared to make an offer to Sumlin, whose seventh-ranked and previously unbeaten Houston team was upset Saturday by Southern Mississippi in the Conference USA championship game. The Cougars are 12-1.
Sumlin denied during a news conference after the game that he had spoken to another school.
“I said a few weeks ago I wasn’t going to talk to anybody, period, during the football season,” he said. “I haven’t talked to anybody. I haven’t said anything to anybody about it.”
Mack Rhoades, Houston’s athletic director, said he planned to discuss a contract extension soon with Sumlin, who is 35-17 in his four seasons guiding the Cougars.
“People are crazy if they don’t think we are working our tails off to do what we can to keep him,” Rhoades said.
Sumlin reportedly makes a little more than $1 million annually at Houston, which gave him his first opportunity to be a head coach. Before joining the Cougars, he was an assistant with six other major-college programs, most recently Oklahoma.
UCLA’s first choice was Boise State Coach Chris Petersen, who passed on an offer of close to $4 million per season.
Golden, who had a record of 6-6 amid the tumult of his first season at Miami, was interviewed by UCLA in 2007 after Guerrero fired Karl Dorrell. Then the coach at Temple, he withdrew his name before Rick Neuheisel was hired.
Guerrero denied Friday night that there had been recent talks with Golden, and the coach’s agent also denied the school had been in contact. However, people close to the situation said UCLA had indeed reached out to the coach to see if he was interested, and they also were pursuing Sumlin.
Golden recently signed a four-year extension with Miami, blunting speculation he might become a candidate for the head coaching post at Penn State, where he was a team captain as a player and then was an assistant under Joe Paterno.
Golden’s new deal at Miami runs through 2019.
“I think the first person to sign should be me,” Golden said when the deal was announced, referring to the high school players who are expected to sign letters of intent with Miami in February. “I wanted to be here.”
But there is one big reason Golden might look elsewhere. Miami’s athletic program is under NCAA investigation because of allegations a booster broke NCAA rules by providing thousands of dollars of extra benefits to dozens of Hurricanes athletes, many of them football players.
The allegations were made by Nevin Shapiro, who was convicted for his part in a $930-million Ponzi scheme. He said he provided those benefits from 2002 to 2010.
Golden said he was unaware of the allegations when he took the Miami job and was blindsided when the story broke in August. Some university officials were aware of at least some of Shapiro’s claims long before Golden was hired, the Associated Press reported.
At Temple, Golden quickly revitalized a program that had won only three of its last 34 games before he took over. Golden’s Owls went 1-11 in 2006, his first season, but then steadily improved to 4-8, then 5-7 and then 9-3 and 8-4 before he left for Miami.
Financial details of Golden’s deal with Miami are not known.
Times wire services contributed to this report.