- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 12, 2002

Marvin Lewis will not become Michigan State's coach, sources close to the talks said late last night.

Lewis' decision came in a surprising late turnaround. University officials had grown increasingly confident during the day that Lewis was about to accept their five-year, $7.5million offer. But late last night talks broke off and Michigan State began preparing to resume its search, sources said.

The exact reasons for Lewis' decision were not clear. He last spoke after practice at Redskin Park, declining comment. He could not be reached when first, word of his probable acceptance, and then when word of his official rejection came late last night.

The chances of Lewis remaining as Redskins defensive coordinator into next season still are in doubt. He is expected to receive consideration for five or so NFL head jobs likely to open this winter.

The terms of the Michigan State offer were generous for a coach at a major college, and those close to talks said Lewis did not hold out for more money. Also, he apparently was comfortable with what the school was planning to pay his assistants, and the buy-back clause to inhibit a return to the NFL was not seen as a major obstacle.

Michigan State tried to make clear in recent days that it didn't intend to trap Lewis. He would have been free to pursue NFL opportunities and, if his Spartans teams were successful, he might have received financial incentives to stay longer.

Whether Lewis ultimately got past his concerns about potential NFL head coaching possibilities was unclear. In recent days he did not want to take the Michigan State job when an NFL job might be had this winter or next.

Top posts with the Arizona Cardinals, Cincinnati Bengals, Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars and Seattle Seahawks might be vacated after this season. But it is unclear how seriously Lewis will be considered for those potential openings.

After leading the Baltimore Ravens' defense to an NFL record in points allowed and helping win the Super Bowl XXXV title in 2000, Lewis has been strongly considered for several NFL head-coaching positions in recent years. Last winter, he seemed all but certain to be named Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach.

This year there is expected to be heavy pressure on clubs to consider black candidates, though there is no guarantee Lewis will land a job.

Earlier yesterday, Redskins coach Steve Spurrier made clear that he would not keep Lewis from moving forward with his career as the Redskins play out a season without hope for the playoffs.

"If he takes that job and goes recruiting, that's what he should do," Spurrier said after practice. "We're prepared to carry on if that would happen, sure."

If Lewis ultimately leaves, linebackers coach George Edwards and defensive line coach Ricky Hunley are getting the strongest consideration to replace him. And Hunley, regardless of whether he takes that post, could assume Lewis' duties as assistant head coach.

Among the Michigan State officials speaking to Lewis in recent days was basketball coach Tom Izzo, those close to talks said. In eight years as coach, Izzo has won a national title (2000) and elevated the Spartans' program ahead of the state's traditional powerhouse, Michigan.

Lewis' rejection came as Spartans boosters were beginning to grow impatient. There was some conflict of opinion about his credentials, and he was close to starting his career without the full support of boosters.

Lewis, for his part, seemed immune to such pressures in recent days. After an unusual series of events Monday, the day he met with Michigan State officials in East Lansing, he seemingly became very patient while determining his future.

His delay in deciding supports what he said Monday, that "there's no question" he learned something from the messy turnaround 10 months ago while negotiating with the Redskins. In a three-day span Lewis seemed certain to become Bucs coach, then to stay with the Ravens, then to join the Redskins on a three-year, $2.6million offer that made him the NFL's highest-paid assistant.

His candidacy for Michigan State, however, began and ended with similar unpredictability. At the start, school officials were confident he would accept the job when he left East Lansing. But that afternoon, ESPN reported that he had told Redskins officials he would stay in Washington. In the evening, he spoke to reporters and declared both scenarios false.


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