UTEP's Billy Gillispie hasn't been offered the Texas A&M coaching job, but he and A&M athletic director Bill Byrne met for the first time late Tuesday afternoon to discuss the opening.
Gillispie, who was offered a new contract Monday to remain at UTEP, wants assurances that he will have the necessary support to revamp the Aggies program and turn it into a Big 12 basketball power. A&M went winless in the conference under Melvin Watkins, who resigned earlier this month.
It appears that Gillispie would get the support he wants for A&M to be a Big 12 contender. University president Robert Gates told the Dallas Morning News for Tuesday's editions that "within some period of years" he expects every A&M team to "be nationally ranked and consistently competing for championships."
If the discussions go well, Gillispie is expected to accept an offer, the source told ESPN.com. If not, Byrne is expected to turn to Air Force coach Joe Scott, whom he also watched in Denver last week when the Falcons played North Carolina in the NCAA Tournament.
Gillispie, in his second season at UTEP, turned the Miners around from a six-win season in 2002-03 after he took over for embattled coach Jason Rabedeaux, to 24 this season and the program's first NCAA Tournament berth since 1992. The Miners tied Sweet 16 member Nevada for the WAC regular-season title.
On Monday, Gillispie met with UTEP athletic director Bob Stull.
"We had a great meeting yesterday. I'm very excited,"
Gillispie said. :On paper, we'd have a better team than last
Stull said the university has offered Gillispie a deal worth
more money, but he wouldn't say how much. Gillispie had a base
salary of about $145,000 a year.
Because the coach hasn't signed his current contract that runs for the next four seasons, he can opt out of the deal without penalty.
Byrne watched Gillispie coach the Miners at SMU, at Boise State and against Maryland in the NCAA Tournament's Denver regional. Gillispie, a former assistant to current Kansas coach Bill Self at Oral Roberts, Tulsa and Illinois, has strong ties to the state of Texas and recruited well there for Self and then for himself at UTEP.
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report