Maryland's Jerry Claiborne said yesterday he will consider taking the University of Kentucky football coaching job if it is offered to him. In another development, the Naval Academy has given the University of Virginia permission to talk to Coach George Welsh about the vacancy there.
Claiborne, who confirmed Friday night that he had met with Kentucky's screening committee Thursday, said yesterday:
"I don't know what I want to do yet, but if I was offered the job, I'd have to sit down and think it over, just like anybody else. But I haven't been offered the job. Nobody has been offered the job yet. And I don't know when the Kentucky people will make up their minds on who they want. It's still up in the air."
Sources at the Southeastern Conference school have indicated that Claiborne, a native of Hopkinsville, Ky., and a university alumnus, appears to be the leading candidate to succeed fired Fran Curci, now that Howard Schnellenberger has decided to remain at the University of Miami.
But Claiborne insisted "the Kentucky selection committee hasn't said anything about me being the leading candidate."
A Kentucky official said yesterday the selection committee has not set a deadline for making its decision.
Meanwhile, Navy's Welsh, whose name perennially is mentioned whenever major college football coaching posts open up, said last night he talked by telephone with Dick Schultz, Virginia's athletic director, twice last week.
"I wouldn't call it an interview," Welsh said. "It was a discussion. I don't know what they want and I don't know what I want to do right now."
When asked, Welsh said he would not classify his conversations with Schultz as "serious discussions" or negotiations to replace Dick Bestwick, who was fired last month. Welsh denied a report that he had been on the Virginia campus last week.
In Charlottesville, Schultz still would not confirm or deny contacts and interviews he has made in his search. However, when asked, he said he had one more candidate to interview and a coach likely would be named by the end of this week.
There was no indication last night whether Welsh, or possibly Yale Coach Carmen Cozza, was that final candidate.
Cozza said he had been contacted by Schultz but not interviewed.
At College Park, four recruits visited Maryland yesterday morning, and Claiborne said he discussed with each of them the possibility of his going to Kentucky.
"It was in the papers," Claiborne said. "I had to tell them. But I told them my decision would be made long before their decisions (on whether to attend Maryland) would have to be made."
Claiborne may be influenced in his course of action by the surprise firing Saturday of Jim Carlen, South Carolina football coach.
"When I heard Jim Carlen got fired, I almost fell out of my chair," Claiborne said. "Jim is a good friend of mine. It just goes to show you, you never know what's going to happen in coaching. That's why I had to at least talk to the Kentucky people and see what they had to say. You always have to keep your ears open."