Ga. Tech may be forced to act fast, with SMU, Duke in wings

ATLANTA -- If Georgia Tech is interested in making Paul
Johnson its next football coach, it may have to convince the Navy
coach that the opportunity in Atlanta is better than openings at
Duke and Southern Methodist.

Georgia Tech also may have to outbid the other schools for
Johnson's services.

Johnson, who already has had talks with SMU and Duke this week,
may be the top outside candidate on Georgia Tech's list. Johnson
was believed to be interviewing with Georgia Tech officials on

There were indications Wednesday that the interest Johnson has
received from other schools could force Georgia Tech to make a
quick decision on a possible offer.

If Tech makes an offer to Johnson, the school may have to dig
deep into its finances to match possible offers from Duke and SMU.

The Annapolis Capital has reported Duke may offer up to $2
million to Johnson. The Dallas Morning News has reported Southern
Methodist will match or top Johnson's current $1.5 million deal
with Navy.

The Dallas paper reported there was no agreement between Johnson
and SMU after the coach was flown into Dallas Monday night for a
tour of the campus and facilities.

Johnson is represented by Atlanta attorney Jack Reale, who did
not immediately return phone and e-mail messages on Wednesday.

Georgia Tech already has to pay Chan Gailey, who was fired after
the 7-5 regular season, about $4 million. Gailey had four years
left on his contract at $1 million per season.

Defensive coach Jon Tenuta will serve as interim head coach for
Tech's Humanitarian Bowl game against Fresno State on Dec. 31.

Georgia Tech athletic director Dan Radakovich has said Tenuta
will be considered for the full-time position.

Johnson, the former Georgia Southern coach, has attracted
interest because of his strong record at Navy.

Johnson took over a Navy program that was 1-10 in 2001. Navy
went 8-4 and will play Utah in the Poinsettia Bowl on Dec. 20 in
San Diego. Johnson is 45-29 at Navy, taking the Midshipmen to five
straight bowls.

Johnson has deflected other opportunities in recent years and
has made it clear he is in no hurry to leave Navy.

"As any other human being would, if someone calls and asks to
talk to me about another job, I may listen," Johnson said
recently. "But it would take a special deal for me to leave."

Johnson, a former offensive coordinator under Erk Russell at
Georgia Southern, returned to the school to lead the Eagles to two
national championships. Overall, Johnson is 107-39 in 11 seasons as
a head coach.

Johnson's recruiting ties to Georgia would make him especially
attractive to Georgia Tech.

Georgia Southern athletic director Sam Baker said Wednesday
there is no apparent serious interest from Georgia Tech in the
Eagles' current coach, Chris Hatcher.

"They have never called me for permission to speak with coach
Hatcher," Baker said. "I think they had some exploratory calling.
Since no request was made, I'm assuming there was no serious
discussion. ... I think he's not in their picture."

Connecticut coach Randy Edsall announced last week he is
remaining at UConn after meeting with Georgia Tech officials.