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Friday, March 19, 2010

Is Auburn targeting Tubby Smith? Minnesota AD says Tigers have not asked for permission to speak with him

A new name has jumped to the forefront in Auburn's coaching search: Minnesota's Tubby Smith. Several outlets have trumpeted Smith as a high priority by Auburn athletics director Jay Jacobs in the early stages of the Tigers' coaching search.

CBS Sportsline's Dennis Dodd went as far as writing today that Auburn is "close to hiring" the 58-year-old Smith from Minnesota, citing anonymous sources. He declined to elaborate much and even wrote that "it could be nothing." The report was two paragraphs.

Minnesota athletics director Joel Maturi said Auburn has not contacted him about speaking with Smith.

"I've heard the rumors," Maturi told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "But I haven't gotten the call."

Jacobs said Auburn would wait until any potential candidate had finished his season before making contact. Smith's Gophers play Xavier in the first round of the NCAA tournament at 12:25 p.m. ET today.

Jacobs said last week that he will not comment on the coaching search until it is over. He declined to give any names he might be considering.

Smith certainly has the credentials. In 19 seasons as a head coach at Tulsa, Georgia, Kentucky and Minnesota, he has a 450-184 record, with 16 NCAA tournament appearances. He won the 1998 national championship in his first season with Kentucky.

His name has been rumored all over, including the vacant Oregon job. The Ducks, like Auburn, are opening a new basketball arena next season.

Smith makes $1.75 million a year, but the University of Minnesota is unwilling to raise his salary. Maturi said there is a salary freeze at the university.

"Right now there's a salary freeze at Minnesota, so from a raise standpoint it would be very challenging for me to do that immediately," Maturi told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "I think Tubby understands that because, frankly, if it were about money, then he will be offered more money by other institutions. That's a fact. Somebody will offer him $3 million. We can't pay him $3 million."

Jacobs said Auburn will be competitive in the SEC with a salary for a new coach, meaning a new coach could command a salary well over $1 million a year. Recently fired coach Jeff Lebo made $750,000, lowest in the conference.

Maturi said Minnesota would not match an offer in the $2 million range, which is reportedly what Oregon is set to offer.

"We can't match that. We won't begin to try to match that," Maturi said. "We're trying to keep Tubby by allowing him to have the right staff, support staff, travel the right way, stay at the right places, (have a) recruiting budget and a practice facility," Maturi said. "Those are all of the things I can control and am working hard to accomplish."

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