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Dolphins offer coaching job to LSU's Saban

Nick Saban took over LSU's struggling football program five years ago and soon delivered a championship team.

DAVIE, Fla. (AP) _ Nick Saban took over LSU's struggling football program five years ago and soon delivered a championship team.

The Miami Dolphins hope he'll do the same for them.

Miami offered its coaching job Wednesday to Saban, the favorite for the position since Dave Wannstedt resigned last month. Saban did not immediately announce a decision; one might come sometime Thursday.

When Saban told LSU athletic director Skip Bertman of the offer, he did not divulge details of the deal or indicate if he planned to accept.

``My feeling is it's 50-50,'' Bertman said.

A Dolphins source, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that Saban's agent, Jimmy Sexton, and team owner Wayne Huizenga met Wednesday. Sexton did not return phone calls to his office and cell phone Wednesday and early Thursday.

This is a tough decision and a big decision,'' Bertman said.He wants to make it as fast as possible, but he's got a lot to think about.''

A message left at Huizenga's home wasn't returned, and the answering machine at Saban's home in Baton Rouge, La., was full. Dolphins president Eddie Jones also declined to discuss reports of an offer.

``I have no comment about anything that's going on,'' Jones said.

Saban has been courted as a potential NFL coach for nearly a decade. He was approached previously by at least five teams, including a year ago by Atlanta and Chicago, but turned down every offer.

He was the first of three candidates the Dolphins have interviewed. Former Oakland Raiders coach Art Shell interviewed Monday, and interim Miami coach Jim Bates met with Huizenga on Tuesday.

Saban told Bertman he may need until Friday to decide. Saban has previously said he'd prefer to have the situation resolved by Christmas Day, when LSU travels to Orlando for its bowl game against Iowa.

Bates, preparing the Dolphins for Sunday's game against Cleveland, said he was unaware of any offer.

``We have no idea,'' Bates said.

Bates is 2-3 since taking over as interim coach, including Monday night's upset victory over Super Bowl champion New England. The Dolphins, mired in their first losing season since 1988, were 1-8 when Wannstedt resigned.

The 53-year-old Saban has NFL experience as an assistant coach with the Houston Oilers in 1988-89 and with the Cleveland Browns in 1991-94.

He's 48-15 at LSU, which went 3-8 the season before Saban arrived; the Tigers then went 8-4 in his first season. An SEC title followed in 2001, and he led LSU to last season's BCS national championship.

Bates wouldn't say whether want to be part of Miami's staff if Saban was hired. Miami's players believe Bates deserves the chance to lead the team into the 2005 season.

We've already made our decision. We want coach Bates as our next coach. Period,'' defensive end Jay Williams said.There's no discussion about anybody else. That's all upstairs.''

Washington attorney Cyrus Mehri, speaking for a group that advocates more minority hirings in the league, said the Dolphins complied with NFL policy by interviewing Shell, who is black. Guidelines established in 2002 require teams to interview at least one minority candidate for coaching vacancies.

We believe there was a serious interview with Mr. Shell, and that he's an exceptionally strong candidate,'' said Mehri, counsel for the Fritz Pollard Alliance.Our overall position has been and will continue to be that teams should wait until Jan. 3 when a host of other candidates are available, white and black. The Dolphins are selling themselves short if they don't cast a wider net.''

AP Sports Writers Steven Wine in Miami and Mary Foster in Baton Rouge, La. contributed to this report.

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