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UA athletic director Greg Byrne's cone of silence - and insistence on secrecy - was briefly pierced Tuesday, when The New York Times reported that the Arizona Wildcats made a run at arguably the nation's top college football coach.

Urban Meyer listened to Byrne's pitch during a meeting last week in Miami, according to the Times, but ultimately decided to pass.

The report was, if true, an ambitious start to what should be a hectic two weeks.

Sometime between now and the end of the Arizona Wildcats' regular season, Byrne will identify a head coaching candidate, make his pitch and - if possible - seal the deal.

Although Meyer apparently is no longer a candidate, the following 12 candidates are all in play. Here's a look at the remaining pool of possibilities:

Something old

These three unemployed coaches could start right away:

• Mike Bellotti: Former Oregon coach has been the most-rumored candidate, though he has denied a move is imminent. Bellotti's connections within the conference and throughout the West would make him a good fit; but, at age 60, does the ESPN commentator want to return to coaching?

• Rich Rodriguez: Former Michigan and West Virginia coach's spread-option attack could be a hit in Tucson, especially with Matt Scott scheduled to start next season. But the CBS Sports analyst comes with baggage and has absolutely zero connections to Texas or California - the UA's two largest recruiting bases.

• Mike Leach: Former Texas Tech boss has interest in the opening, can recruit Texas and puts fans in seats. But a pending lawsuit against his former employer and reputation for being fiercely independent may work against him.

Something new

Think the UA won't hire another big-name assistant coach? Byrne's last football hire was a hotshot offensive coordinator:

• Bryan Harsin, Texas: If Arizona can't land Boise State coach Chris Petersen, Harsin - the former Boise State offensive coordinator who is in his first season calling plays at Texas - would be the next logical choice. Boyish at age 35, Harsin could set up shop in Tucson for the next two decades.

2011 salary: $625,000

• Justin Wilcox, Tennessee: Volunteers' defensive coordinator comes with a Pac-12 pedigree: He played at Oregon and coached at Cal before heading to the Southeastern Conference in 2010. Wilcox's father, Dave, a former 49ers linebacker, was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2000.

2011 salary: $600,000

• Gus Malzahn, Auburn: Arizona would jump at the chance to hire Malzahn, a one-time high school coach who parlayed his next-generation offenses into jobs at Arkansas, Auburn and Tulsa. But Malzahn's price tag is high, and he'll probably have better offers.

2011 salary: $1.3 million

Something borrowed

The UA would have to convince one of these three to leave their successful, high-paying jobs to take on a reclamation project:

• Chris Petersen, Boise State: Arizona would need to wow Petersen, the Broncos' super-successful coach, to get him to leave Boise and a program he's helped build into a national power. But Petersen and Byrne are friends, and Boise is due for a fall when quarterback Kellen Moore graduates.

2011 salary: $1.5 million plus incentives

• Kevin Sumlin, Houston: Arguably the hottest coaching candidate on the market, Sumlin boasts the nation's best passing offense and scoring offense. The way his teams rout their opponents - Houston defeated Tulane last week by 56 points - one has to wonder if Sumlin plans on being back next year.

2011 salary: $1.2 million plus incentives

• Mark Hudspeth, Louisiana-Lafayette: Ragin' Cajuns coach knows Byrne: the AD interviewed him for the vacant head coaching job at Mississippi State in 2009 before hiring him as the Bulldogs' defensive coordinator. UA fans can see him in person next week, when ULL comes to Arizona Stadium.

2011 salary: $400,000 plus incentives

Something (red and) blue

These guys have connections to the UA, be it as a former student, star athlete or assistant coach:

• Chuck Cecil: The Arizona legend is still being paid (and handsomely), a year after being dismissed as the Tennessee Titans' defensive coordinator. Cecil would connect well with fans, but may be too Stoops-ish (fiery, defensive-minded, inexperienced) to be a fit.

• Sonny Dykes, Louisiana Tech: Arizona's former offensive coordinator has led the Bulldogs to five straight wins in his second season as head coach. Louisiana Tech will face Nevada this week in a battle of Western Athletic Conference leaders.

2011 salary: $500,000 plus incentives

• Clancy Pendergast, Cal: The Golden Bears' second-year defensive coordinator has connections to Tucson and the state of Arizona. A 1991 UA graduate, Pendergast spent 15 seasons in the NFL before joining coach Jeff Tedford's staff in 2010.

2011 salary: N/A

Kish's new job comes with sizable raise

Tim Kish received a $100,000 raise when he was named the UA's interim head coach, boosting his 2011 salary to $400,000, university officials told the Star Tuesday. Kish was making $300,000 as the UA's associate head coach/defensive coordinator before Mike Stoops was fired Oct. 10.

It's not uncommon for universities to adjust salaries when coaches' responsibilities change midseason. Mike Hankwitz received an unspecified raise on his $140,000 base salary when he took over for John Mackovic midway through the 2003 season. More recently, the UA paid Russ Pennell $500,000 - a $350,000 raise above his base salary of $150,000 - to coach the Wildcats' basketball program in Lute Olson's absence. 

Kish, 57, was Arizona's longest-tenured assistant when he was named interim head coach. Though athletic director Greg Byrne said Kish would bring a "culture of calm" to a reeling program, the results have been the same. The Wildcats were 1-5 when Stoops was fired; since then, they have gone 1-3.

Up next

• What: Arizona at ASU

• When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday


• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM