CATEGORY: FOC College Football

AUTHOR: TODD

HED:Cavan meets with UM officials

By Todd Vinyard

Daily Journal

University of Mississippi officials traveled to Dallas to interview Southern Methodist coach Mike Cavan Sunday, two sources close to the Ole Miss football program said.

Cavan appears to be the leading candidate to replace Tommy Tuberville, who left after four years Saturday to become the new Auburn coach. A source also said Ole Miss met with another unnamed candidate Sunday and would probably talk to two more today.

Ole Miss Chancellor Robert Khayat did not return a phone message to his home Sunday night. Cavan could not be reached for comment.

"In this business you look for opportunities, and I would be interested in Ole Miss. It has a lot to offer," Cavan said Friday night when reached by the Daily Journal.

SMU sports information director Jon Jackson confirmed Sunday the school had been asked and given Ole Miss permission to talk with Cavan. Despite televised reports, Cavan was not in Oxford Saturday, an Ole Miss official said.

Ole Miss athletic director John Shafer said Saturday he felt it was important to move quickly in a coaching search, but wouldn't put a time table on it.

Cavan, 50, has a 78-61-2 mark in coaching stops at Valdosta State, East Tennessee State and SMU. In two seasons at SMU, Cavan is 11-12. The Mustangs were 5-7 this season, including a 48-41 overtime loss to Ole Miss. The Rebels came from 22-points down in the fourth quarter to beat the Mustangs.

SMU went 6-5 in Cavan's first season in 1997, which included a five-game winning streak its longest in 12 years. Ole Miss also defeated Cavan and SMU 23-15 in 1997.

Like Ole Miss, SMU felt the sting of NCAA probation. The Mustang football program was shut down from 1987-89 after receiving the NCAA "death penalty."

Cavan and Shafer have a connection from the University of Georgia. Cavan spent 13 years as an assistant for Vince Dooley at Georgia and also played for the Bulldogs from 1968-70. Shafer spent 16 years at Georgia before coming to Ole Miss in June.

In addition, one of Cavan's assistant coaches is Derek Dooley, the son of the former Georgia coach who is now the athletic director.

"I've got to contact athletic directors. I believe that is the way to do it," Shafer said. "I'm not going to do anything unethical. When I feel comfortable with telling you about candidates without embarrassing someone or embarrassing Ole Miss, I will do that."

Shafer said Auburn did contact him about Tuberville. But he asked they not talk to Tuberville until after the season. Shafer could not be reached for comment Sunday.

Cavan isn't a favorite among some Ole Miss fans. An Internet site named "No Cavan" had been started. Two separate sites are encouraging faxed comments asking Cavan to not be hired be sent to Ole Miss officials.

Other possible candidates include Tommy Bowden of Tulane, David Cutcliffe of Tennessee, and Bobby Wallace of Temple.

Cutcliffe has expressed an interest in the job. Tulane Sports Information Director Scott Strickland said late Sunday Ole Miss has not requested permission to talk with Bowden.

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