Word out of Tuscaloosa is that Navy’s Paul Johnson is an even-odds prospect to succeed the fired Mike Shula as football coach at the University of Alabama.
Alabama was turned down last week by West Virginia’s Rich Rodriguez, and Alabama athletic director Mal Moore is being pressured to move quickly to find a head coach who can return the Crimson Tide to the glory days it knew under the legendary Paul “Bear” Bryant a quarter-century ago.
A tough order—as seven Alabama head coaches have learned since Bryant’s death in 1983.
Among Johnson’s credentials: an 8-0 winning record over the Naval Academy’s Army and Air Force service rivals over the past four years. Shula’s inability to beat arch-rival Auburn in his four years as Alabama’s coach played a big part in the decision to fire him.
Busy preparing the Middies for their Meineke Bowl appearance against Boston College on December 30, Johnson has responded to word of Alabama’s interest only by expressing “surprise” that he’s on a list that included South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier and the Miami Dolphins’ Nick Saban.
One reason Johnson might leave Annapolis if he were offered the Alabama job: The deal Rodriguez turned down—presumably still on the table for the coach who gets hired—was a six-year contract at $2 million a year, plus incentives. That’s more than twice what the Navy job pays. Not to mention the state-trooper escort Alabama coaches get going to and from games.