LSU coach Nick Saban kept the Miami Dolphins on hold yesterday, apparently still hesitant about making the leap to the NFL. Saban, who has turned down other chances to join the...

Share story

DAVIE, Fla. — LSU coach Nick Saban kept the Miami Dolphins on hold yesterday, apparently still hesitant about making the leap to the NFL.

Saban, who has turned down other chances to join the pros, had not responded to an offer he received Wednesday to coach the Dolphins.

Saban told LSU athletic director Skip Bertman he might need until today to decide whether to take over one of the NFL’s worst teams. The coach and his agent, Jimmy Sexton, met last night at Saban’s house in Baton Rouge, La., to discuss the offer, Bertman said.

“This is the first chance he’s had to sit down with his agent and his wife and really weigh the situation without interruptions or the pressure of other things,” Bertman said. “I have no reason to think he’s going to hurry things unnecessarily. We have no timetable.”

Saban previously has said he would prefer to resolve the situation by Christmas Day, when LSU travels to Orlando for its Jan. 1 bowl game against Iowa.

Bertman dismissed reports that LSU made Saban a counteroffer. Saban already is the highest-paid coach in college football; he’s in the first year of an $18.45 million, seven-year deal.

However, the Miami Herald reported that LSU is offering to raise Saban’s contract to nearly $4 million a year.

“We said all along it’s not about money,” Bertman said. “Nick does not want to renegotiate his contract. … The question is: Does he stay here and continue to build, or does he take on a new challenge?”

Louisiana State fans held out hope that Saban would stay. Atop a “wish list” posted at a smoothie shop near the LSU campus was world peace, followed by “Saban as Coach.”

The Dolphins’ offer, believed to be worth between $4 million and $5 million per year, came when owner Wayne Huizenga met with Sexton in Fort Lauderdale. Miami players expressed disappointment that the team’s offer didn’t go to popular interim coach Jim Bates.

“It hurts,” cornerback Sam Madison said. “But he’s going to continue to do his job, and we’re going to continue to do our job for him.”

Bates is 2-3 since taking over as interim coach, including Monday night’s upset victory over Super Bowl champion New England.

The Dolphins (3-11), mired in their first losing season since 1988, were 1-8 when coach Dave Wannstedt resigned.

Saban is 48-15 at LSU, including last season’s BCS national championship.

Packers, Vikings vie today for division title

MINNEAPOLIS — The Packers and Vikings have quickly forgotten about all their failures this year. Today’s showdown has fast arrived.

Rarely does one NFL regular-season matchup carry this much significance, but the league showed some foresight in scheduling this rivalry game for a nationally televised slot the day before Christmas.

Though families and clergy members in these neighboring states aren’t thrilled with the timing, many people will be delaying dinner plans and skipping afternoon church services to watch Green Bay and Minnesota decide the NFC North title.

Both teams are 8-6, the Packers having rebounded from a 1-4 record and the Vikings having stumbled after a 5-1 start. Regardless of what happens in the final week, however, the winner of this one will be the division champion.

Nobody cares that it’s a down year for the North, as well as the entire conference.

“It’s just as big over here as it is over there,” said Packers coach Mike Sherman, whose club has already clinched at least a wild-card spot. Minnesota needs one more win or one more loss by either Carolina or St. Louis to do so.

After escaping Detroit with a one-point victory when a bad snap at the end of the game cost the Lions an extra point, the Vikings were full of energy and optimism this week — with two fewer days to prepare and their postseason hopes suddenly very clear.

“We’re fired up and ready for it,” quarterback Daunte Culpepper said.

The Packers blew a big opportunity at home last week, losing 28-25 to Jacksonville when Brett Favre turned the ball over four times. That doesn’t mean they’ve had any trouble refocusing.

“This is probably the biggest game that I’ve played against them, as far as what it means,” said free safety Darren Sharper.


* Buffalo Bills running back Willis McGahee (knee) missed his second straight practice and is questionable for Sunday’s game at San Francisco. With backup Travis Henry (ankle) already out, undrafted rookie Shaud Williams practiced with the first-team offense.

* St. Louis quarterback Marc Bulger said he’s ready to return from a bruised shoulder, good news for a suddenly feeble Rams offense that totaled one touchdown during the two games he missed.

* Arizona Cardinals strong safety Adrian Wilson received a $21 million, five-year contract extension, a move hailed by Wilson’s teammates as evidence the front office is serious about building a winner under new coach Dennis Green. The deal includes a bonus of between $4.5 million and $5 million.

* San Francisco 49ers quarterback Tim Rattay will have surgery on his throwing arm next week. He is out for the season.

* The Dallas Cowboys put starting strong-side linebacker Al Singleton on injured reserve because of an injury in his midsection that’s kept him out the past 1-1/2 games.