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Tech has competition for Johnson

POSTED: December 16, 2007 5:03 a.m.
ATLANTA — If Georgia Tech is interested in making Paul Johnson its next football coach, it may have to convince the Navy coach that the opportunity in Atlanta is better than openings at Duke and Southern Methodist.

Georgia Tech also may have to outbid the other schools for Johnson’s services.

Johnson, who already has had talks with SMU and Duke this week, may be the top outside candidate on Georgia Tech’s list. Johnson was believed to be interviewing with Georgia Tech officials on Wednesday.

There were indications Wednesday that the interest Johnson has received from other schools could force Georgia Tech to make a quick decision on a possible offer.

If Tech makes an offer to Johnson, the school may have to dig deep into its finances to match possible offers from Duke and SMU.

The Annapolis Capital has reported Duke may offer up to $2 million to Johnson. The Dallas Morning News has reported Southern Methodist will match or top Johnson’s current $1.5 million deal with Navy.

The Dallas paper reported there was no agreement between Johnson and SMU after the coach was flown into Dallas Monday night for a tour of the campus and facilities.

Johnson is represented by Atlanta attorney Jack Reale, who did not immediately return phone and e-mail messages on Wednesday.

Georgia Tech already has to pay Chan Gailey, who was fired after the 7-5 regular season, about $4 million. Gailey had four years left on his contract at $1 million per season.

Defensive coach Jon Tenuta will serve as interim head coach for Tech’s Humanitarian Bowl game against Fresno State on Dec. 31.

Georgia Tech athletic director Dan Radakovich has said Tenuta will be considered for the full-time position.

Johnson, the former Georgia Southern coach, has attracted interest because of his strong record at Navy.

Johnson took over a Navy program that was 1-10 in 2001. Navy is 8-4 and will play Utah in the Poinsettia Bowl on Dec. 20 in San Diego. Johnson has taken Navy to five straight bowls.

Johnson has deflected other opportunities in recent years and has made it clear he is in no hurry to leave Navy.

"As any other human being would, if someone calls and asks to talk to me about another job, I may listen," Johnson said recently. "But it would take a special deal for me to leave."

Johnson, a former offensive coordinator under Erk Russell at Georgia Southern, returned to the school to lead the Eagles to two national championships. Overall, Johnson is 107-39 in 11 seasons as a head coach.

Johnson’s recruiting ties to Georgia would make him especially attractive to Georgia Tech.

Georgia Southern athletic director Sam Baker said Wednesday there is no apparent serious interest from Georgia Tech in the Eagles’ current coach, Chris Hatcher.

"They have never called me for permission to speak with coach Hatcher," Baker said. "I think they had some exploratory calling. Since no request was made, I’m assuming there was no serious discussion. ... I think he’s not in their picture."

Hatcher is Georgia Southern’s third coach in three years, and Baker said he is "thrilled" it appears he will keep his coach.

"We love coach Hatcher, he’s done a great job here," Baker said.

Meanwhile, Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp apparently is not on Georgia Tech’s current short list of candidates. Also, Randy Edsall announced last week he is remaining at Connecticut. Edsall was believed to be the first outside candidate to interview with Tech.



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