A plane was scheduled to leave Norman Sunday morning and land in Hattiesburg which confirmed reports Southern Mississippi planned to interview Oklahoma offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson. Due to inclement weather, Wilson was grounded. So what's the deal with OSU offensive coordinator Larry Fedora? Is he the leading candidate or not? Sources in Mississippi still maintain Fedora will be named head coach at a press conference Tuesday or Wednesday. One source said Fedora's wife, Christi, looked at houses in the area and his son, Dillon, talked with a high school football coach. But Southern Miss athletic director Richard Giannini emphatically has said it's not a done deal. Apparently, he planned to interview Wilson. There's also a report Giannini might interview another offensive coordinator from a BCS school. Fedora obviously hasn't signed on the dotted line. He's back in Stillwater. No one saw him packing boxes. The primary reason he hasn't been named head coach revolves around assurances his assistant coaches will receive higher-than-normal salaries for a Conference USA school. Fedora is bargaining from a position of strength. One of the highest paid offensive coordinators in the country, Fedora earns $393,000. Last year he was given a five-year contract. Guaranteed. That's why Fedora could turn down Rice's head coaching job last year and an opportunity to be Alabama's offensive coordinator. It's also why he might be playing college football's version of Texas Hold 'Em with Southern Miss officials. USM assistants made a combined $800,000 this season. The offensive and defensive coordinators were paid $130,000. If Fedora can convince USM officials to commit $1.2 million a year to his staff, Fedora could pay coordinators around $230,000 each and his other six assistants close to $130,000. That's sub standard in Big 12 country. But at Southern Miss that's a major commitment. Fedora might even woo some assistants from BCS schools. Dynamite recruiters and coordinators who are X's and O's wizards are invaluable. When he was hired at OSU, Les Miles sacrificed $400,000 of his initial salary so assistants would earn an additional $50,000 a year. It proved to be a stroke of genius. Miles assembled a quality staff. The Cowboys went to bowl games his final three seasons, including a trip to the Cotton Bowl. Next month, he will coach LSU in the national title game. One of Miles' biggest triumphs was convincing OSU officials guaranteed contracts would deter other schools from poaching his staff. His predecessor, Bob Simmons, struggled with that issue (14 assistants left during a five-year span). Gundy is following a similar blueprint. Fedora and offensive line coach Joe Wickline were given five-year guaranteed contracts last year. It's no coincidence both have been loyal. If Fedora leaves, Wickline is expected to stay at OSU. Every other assistant on OSU's staff was given a three-year guaranteed deal. Salaries are competitive with most programs. The guarantee is nearly as valuable as the dollars. If Southern Miss agrees to his terms, Fedora can assemble one of the top staffs in Conference USA. If Southern Miss doesn't meet Fedora's request, he stays at OSU. Other opportunities should be available in the future as long as the spread offense continues to compile gaudy stats. Fedora knows the benefits of taking care of your assistants. That's why he's in a win-win situation.
Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Larry Fedora might be leaving for Southern Mississippi, if the school will agree to pay his assistants higher-than-normal salaries. By MATT STRASEN, THE OKLAHOMAN archive