Austin jumps ship for Ole Miss

JASON HILLS, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 1:56 PM ET

REGINA -- In the end, Kent Austin couldn't resist his dear Ole Miss.

Austin announced yesterday he was stepping down as head coach of the Saskatchewan Roughriders to become the offensive co-ordinator of the University of Mississippi Rebels. Austin played quarterback at Ole Miss from 1981 to 1985 and is not only the school's second-leading passer but also a member of its Hall of Fame.

"I struggled with this one pretty big time," Austin told reporters. "But it is my alma mater, I have a great love and affection for my university ... if it had been any other university, I wouldn't have considered it."

Austin, who led the Riders to the 2007 Grey Cup, met with new Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt about the vacancy last week. He accepted the offer Tuesday.

"It's hard to explain unless you've experienced it," he said.

"When you grow up there, play high school football there - it's a different world, it's a different culture.

"Apple pie, Chevrolet - that kind of thing. It's part of you. It's ingrained in you as a young athlete there."

NO STEP DOWN

At first glance, the prospect of leaving a pro head coaching post for an assistant's job in the NCAA might appear to be a step down. Financially, CFL head coaches usually earn between $225,000 and $300,000 while an NCAA co-ordinator can expect to make between $150,000 and $300,000, depending on the school.

Another draw is Ole Miss is closer to Nashville, Tenn., where Austin, 44, grew up.

"You never have a perfect scenario," said Austin. "These opportunities, quite frankly, don't come around very often, not that I don't have a great opportunity here."

Austin's decision comes despite a strong effort by Tillman, also an Ole Miss alumnus, to keep Austin in Regina.

Sources said Tillman was working on a contract extension for Austin that would have made him one of the CFL's highest-paid head coaches. Austin admitted had it been only about the money he would still be with the Roughriders.

"This is about a man who is going home," Tillman said. "If this was Rutgers, if this was UCLA, if this was Texas Tech or Texas A&M, we wouldn't be having this press conference."

TWO YEARS LEFT

Austin, who took over the Roughriders from head coach Danny Barrett, had two years remaining on the deal he signed with the team in December 2006.

Tillman said he doesn't have a timeline for naming a new head coach. Candidates both internal and external will be considered, he said, although he noted he wants to hire someone he has worked with before.


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