GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Bob Stoops said 'No' to Florida on Monday, sending Gators athletic director Jeremy Foley to Denver to talk with Broncos coach Mike Shanahan.
Waiting anxiously back in Gainesville are a handful of players, including quarterback Rex Grossman, who wants to see who the Gators hire to replace Steve Spurrier before they commit to coming back next year.
''I would love to come back and play,'' Grossman said. ''I am not ready to leave, but it may be the best decision for me in the NFL. Who knows?''
Grossman, the runner-up for the Heisman Trophy, said if Shanahan were the coach, he would love to come back. But he needs to know by Friday, the deadline for underclassmen to declare for the NFL draft.
Foley would love to make a hire by Friday, as well -- not only for the sake of the players who are already Gators, but because recruiting begins again in earnest on Saturday.
He knows he won't get Stoops, who was widely reported to be his first choice. Foley traveled to Norman, Okla., early Monday to talk to the Sooners coach, who was defensive coordinator for the Gators.
When it was over, Stoops had decided to stay, although he denied reports he had negotiated a new contract for a fat raise.
''Jeremy knew coming in, I felt strongly committed to our program, how strong and positive our program was, the way we're developing and where we're going with our program,'' Stoops said.
When he arrived in Denver, Foley started working on Shanahan, who became friends with the athletic director during his four seasons as offensive coordinator at Florida in the early 1980s.
''Obviously no offer, no nothing,'' Foley said. ''We're friends and we're going to talk. And you know, that's what's going to happen and we'll see where it goes from there.''
Shanahan's contract pays about $4 million a year and he would almost certainly take a pay cut. He has a new house in Denver, and his reputation is still strong, even though the Broncos have had three straight disappointing seasons on the heels of two straight Super Bowl titles.
Foley was scheduled to fly to New Orleans on Tuesday to meet with Saints defensive coordinator Ron Zook, Florida Today reported. Zook was an assistant with the Gators from 1991-95.
Asked about the search Monday, Foley refused comment. He is essentially a one-man search committee in charge of replacing Spurrier, the man who took Florida from decades of mediocrity to one of the top, and most entertaining, programs in the country over his 12 seasons.
Spurrier spoke to the media Monday for the first time since his sudden resignation from Florida last Friday.
It was a great hour, during which Spurrier denied having an NFL job already lined up, but sounded as though he knew something would come open soon.
He felt he had accomplished as much as he could at Florida, and it was time to move on.
''I'm intrigued to see if our style of offense, my style of coaching, can be successful at the NFL level,'' he said. ''I need to find that out before I completely hang it up, before I call my last play.''
He wouldn't comment about the search for his replacement.
''They're both excellent coaches,'' Spurrier said of Stoops and Shanahan. ''But whatever decision they make is up to them.''
It could have a drastic affect on which players stay or leave Florida. Receiver Taylor Jacobs, the Most Valuable Player in the Orange Bowl, is also wavering, after saying he would definitely come back.
And Grossman said he has been in frequent contact with Brock Berlin, who had all but transferred to Miami before Spurrier's surprise put things on hold.
''We're on the same page,'' Grossman said. ''I'm not 100 percent on that, but we've definitely been in communication. He is probably going to do the opposite of what I do.''
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