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Originally published December 9, 2011 at 8:54 PM | Page modified December 10, 2011 at 12:29 AM

Steve Sarkisian refutes UCLA job rumors

Huskies coach says Bruins haven't contacted him, and that he won't engage in speculation.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Almost as soon as UCLA fired a former Washington coach — Rick Neuheisel — some in Los Angeles began hinting that maybe the Bruins should come after the current Huskies head man as his replacement.

And Friday, The Los Angeles Times reported that UW coach Steve Sarkisian had indeed "been approached by UCLA," seen by some there as the potential "big-splash hire" that the Bruins could use to revitalize their fan base.

Late Friday night, however, the Bruins' search for a coach took another turn as The Los Angeles Times reported that former Seahawks coach Jim Mora will become the school's new coach. Mora, 50, also played for the Huskies and was a graduate assistant at the school.

Sarkisian remained committed to staying at Washington despite Internet boards abuzz with talk of whether Sarkisian was really in the mix to replace Neuheisel.

After Washington's practice Friday afternoon, the Huskies' coach denied that he had been approached by UCLA.

"I have not been contacted, no," he said.

Washington athletic director Scott Woodward said that as far as he knew, Sarkisian had not been contacted. He added that he had not been contacted by anyone asking to talk to Sarkisian, though that's an old-school formality that isn't necessarily followed.

Aside from his success in rebuilding a UW program that was 0-12 the season before he took over, Sarkisian is well-known in Los Angeles. He was an assistant at USC under Pete Carroll for seven years.

Sarkisian is in the first year of a five-year contract he signed after last season to replace the five-year deal he received when he took the job after the 2008 season.

The contract calls for an escalating salary that will reach a guaranteed $2.85 million by 2015.

The L.A. Times reported that UCLA was rumored to have offered nearly $4 million to Boise State's Chris Petersen, who is said to have turned the job down. UCLA is also promising to renovate its football practice facility.

If UCLA were really interested in Sarkisian, it would likely have to come close to the Petersen money. On top of his salary, Sarkisian would also owe UW $2.5 million as part of the buyout clause in his contract, if he leaves during the first two years of the deal — the buyout decreases in later years, dropping to $1 million by Years 4 and 5.

No contact for Cozzetto

Washington has had two assistant coaches mentioned in media reports as potential candidates at other jobs, including Dan Cozzetto, the Huskies' offensive line coach and running game coordinator, at Arizona State.

Cozzetto worked at ASU in 1992-99 as offensive coordinator and was tight ends coach there in 2007-08. He was reported to be a favorite of a faction of former ASU players who met with athletic director Lisa Love. But Cozzetto said Friday he has not been contacted by ASU, and it is not expected he will be a candidate for the job.

Offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier has been mentioned as a possibility at Fresno State, where he was offensive coordinator before coming to UW in 2009. But recent reports from the Fresno Bee say the school may be focusing on another former offensive coordinator, Jim McElwain, who has been the coordinator at Alabama the last four years.

Notes

• Washington will practice Friday, Saturday and Sunday in beginning initial preparation for the Dec. 29 Alamo Bowl against Baylor. Practices are being held in Dempsey Indoor, which helps replicate the atmosphere the team will face in the Alamodome.

• Guard Colin Tanigawa, who suffered an ACL injury at Oregon State on Nov. 19, had surgery Friday; the procedure had to wait until swelling in the knee receded. Sarkisian said it's "iffy" whether Tanigawa will be available for the beginning of fall camp given the usual nine-month recovery process for such an injury.

• Washington is hosting about a half-dozen recruits this weekend. Among the group are Lakes High OL Zach Banner — regarded as one of the top tackle prospects in the country — Auburn High lineman Cory English and Mariner High RB KeiVarae Russell.

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @bcondotta.

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