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Sources: Howland considering MSU

Former UCLA Bruins coach Ben Howland has emerged as the front-runner and is in discussions to take the vacant Mississippi State Bulldogs job, sources told ESPN.

"He's leaning towards taking it," one source told ESPN.

The source also said that the situation remains fluid with Howland -- depending on whether he feels he could get another, more attractive job. However, he has made it clear that he does not want to stay out of the coaching ranks for another season.

Howland, 57, led the Bruins to three consecutive Final Four appearances from 2006 to 2008. He took UCLA to a first-place finish in the Pac-12 in 2012-13 but was fired following the season.

He has been a television analyst the past two years.

Howland would replace Rick Ray, who was fired Saturday after three seasons in Starkville. The Bulldogs were 13-19 this season and 37-60 in Ray's tenure.

NBCSports.com was the first to report that Howland is a serious candidate for the Mississippi State job.