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Saturday, December 15
Updated: December 16, 2:33 PM ET
Sources: Coughlin would listen to Irish offer

By Len Pasquarelli

Despite his reluctance to publicly address the Notre Dame vacancy, several sources close to Tom Coughlin insisted to ESPN.com on Friday and Saturday the embattled Jacksonville Jaguars coach would listen seriously to any legitimate overtures made by the school.

The problem: No one from Notre Dame has called to assess his potential interest in attempting to remedy the mess that now exists there, and Coughlin will not permit his representatives or friends to contact university officials, because he doesn't want to appear he is pursuing the job when the job might not be pursuing him.

"The bottom line is that Tom wants to be wanted by the (Notre Dame) people," said one source. "But they have to make the move, because he hasn't, and he won't."

At first glance, Coughlin would appear to be a solid fit. He is a staunch Catholic whose resume includes a successful tenure at Boston College, another Catholic school. Although he has often battled with the media, Coughlin is respected as tough but fair, and he certainly carries the kind of high profile it is believed Notre Dame officials are now seeking.

Most observers feel Coughlin, 54, would restore credibility to a program reeling from a series of on- and off-field disasters, which culminated in the Friday resignation of George O'Leary after just five days on the job.

Coughlin earlier this week told Jacksonville-area media that the Jaguars post is his "dream job," but the season has been more a nightmare for the team and the coach. Beset by injuries and also hamstrung by a salary cap squeeze that won't be significantly improved even next season, the Jaguars are 4-8 entering the final month of the campaign. Coughlin's current record is 64-52.

"Why do you have to ask me?" Coughlin snapped Friday when asked about the Notre Dame job. "I don't know anything more than what somebody told me."

Ironically, Coughlin was on the Syracuse staff with O'Leary in 1980.

The only coach the expansion franchise has ever had, Coughlin has two years remaining on his contract. Speculation to the contrary, he is all but assured of returning in 2002, if that is indeed what he wants, since owner Wayne Weaver is not inclined to dismiss him.

"He's loyal as hell to Wayne but, if (Notre Dame called), well, that would be different," said a source. "He would be compelled to listen to them."

As of Saturday morning, though, Coughlin was hardly the only big-name coach who had not heard from Notre Dame athletic director Kevin White. The agents for Stanford coach Tyrone Willingham and Mike Bellotti of Oregon said their clients have not been contacted about the possibility of succeeding the tarnished O'Leary.

There is speculation that, if White and the university are willing to wait until the conclusion of the NFL season, Mike Shanahan of the Denver Broncos and Jon Gruden of the Oakland Raiders may have some interest. Gruden had been the popular choice of Notre Dame fans two weeks ago, but announced he would not be a candidate. Shanahan has not been asked publicly about the job but is said to at least be curious about it.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

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