MIAMI - Former first-round draft pick Josh Booty wants out of his contract with the Florida Marlins so he can play football at Louisiana State next fall.
But the Marlins aren't inclined to let Booty go.
"Josh made a commitment to us to play baseball," Marlins general manager Dave Dombrowski said. "At this point we are still in the belief that he still is committed to playing for us."
For the Marlins to even consider releasing Booty, he would have to repay his then-record $1.6 million signing bonus from 1994. And that's a problem for him.
"I can't come up with that kind of money," Booty said from his home in Shreveport, La. "I don't know if they feel like, since I want to play football, they'll let me go ... or if they want me back no matter what."
Even if he could repay the bonus, Booty would need the Marlins' consent to play football.
"They're my boss," he said. "I can't tell them what to do."
Booty, 21, set national high school passing records for career yardage (11,700) and touchdowns (126) at Evangel Christian Academy in Shreveport. He was going to enroll at LSU in 1994 before the Marlins made him the fifth overall draft choice and offered the huge bonus, with one stipulation: He would stay in the organization through 1999, no football allowed.
"That's one of the reasons we gave him so much money," Dombrowski said.
Booty's brother, Abram, a highly recruited senior receiver at Evangel Christian, is waiting for a resolution of his brother's talks with the Marlins before choosing between LSU and Florida.
Josh Booty, an infielder, batted just .101 at Single-A Kane County in 1995. Last year he set a team record with 21 home runs and drove in 87 runs for the minor-league team, but he also hit just .206 with a league-record 195 strikeouts in 475 at-bats.
Now he thinks his future may be in the NFL.
"I think I can play at the top level in football," he said. "It would take a few years, but I believe I can."
HASKINS GONE: Billy Jack Haskins is leaving the University of Kentucky, apparently after getting word from new coach Hal Mumme that he wouldn't be the Wildcats' starting quarterback next season.
Haskins, a junior who played in all 11 games this year under fired coach Bill Curry, filled out transfer papers in the school's compliance office Wednesday and was granted an unconditional release, campus radio station WUKY reported Thursday.
Haskins did not respond to telephone messages seeking comment. But his father, Jack Haskins, said in a telephone interview from his home in Paducah that he knew the move was in the works.
Mumme said last weekend that he had decided who would start at quarterback next fall and had told both Haskins and freshman Tim Couch, the former Leslie County quarterback and the national high school player of the year who started in place of Haskins in two games this fall.
WESTERN REPORT: North Alabama coach Bobby Wallace is the top candidate for the head coaching job at Western Carolina, a newspaper reported.
Wallace interviewed with the Catamounts Tuesday after visiting Jacksonville State on Monday, the TimesDaily in Florence, Ala., said in Thursday's editions. Steve Hodgin, the Catamount coach since 1990, was fired at the end of the season. Jacksonville State has picked Southern Mississippi assistant coach Mike Williams as its new head coach, according to the Florence newspaper, quoting two unnamed sources.
TERP ASSISTANT: Former Illinois head coach Lou Tepper signed on as Maryland defensive coordinator and assistant head coach under new coach Ron Vanderlinden. Tepper, 51, coached the Fighting Illini for five seasons. Vanderlinden and Tepper coached together at Colorado from 1983 to '87, when Tepper served as the Buffaloes' defensive coordinator and assistant head coach.
NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) - Jack Siedlecki, who had a winning record and won coaching honors in four years at Amherst, was hired Thursday to try to turn around the struggling Yale football program.
He replaced Carm Cozza, who retired after 32 years.
Cozza, 66, was the winningest coach in the history of Ivy League football and the leader of 10 league championship teams. But the team had losing records four of the last five seasons, and finished 2-8 this year.
"I have spent my coaching career really to try and get this job," Siedlecki said at a campus news conference. "I'm just itching to get going. I'm pretty excited about this. This is a great Christmas present."
Siedlecki, 45, one of six candidates who interviewed, received a four-year contract. He will be the 32nd head football coach at Yale.
"My last 15 years in coaching have been at very good academic schools," he said. "I made a decision probably 10 or 12 years ago that this is where I wanted to be. I wanted to be with the best student-athletes."
"It's fun to coach guys who have that kind of intellect and have that kind of energy," said Siedlecki. "Their athletics is very important to them, a big part of what their doing, but it's a part of their life. They've got a lot of things going for them."
Yale defensive lineman Isiah Wilson, who served on a players committee, said players were impressed by his enthusiasm.
"He was really big on trying to get his players motivated," he said.
Yale's director of athletics, Tom Beckett, said the search committee was looking for "the next coach Cozza."
"We were looking for a man of great character, integrity, enthusiasm and talent," Beckett said. "The man that we are here to announce to you and to the sporting world as our new football coach has done a tremendous job everywhere he's been. He's won in places where people didn't expect someone to have great success."
Siedlecki was joined by his wife, Nancy, and their three children, Kevin, 13, Jackie, 11, and Amy, 8, all wearing blue-and-white Bulldog shirts.
Siedlecki, who has 21 years of college coaching experience, had a 20-11-1 record in four seasons at Amherst. This past season, he led Amherst to a 7-1 finish, the school's third consecutive winning season. He was the 1996 American Football Coaches Association District I Coach of the Year.
Cozza, after his last game, was asked what advice he would give to the new head coach.
"I'd take the director of admissions out to dinner every night," he said.
Siedlecki said he was coming to Yale with "my eyes open" about how difficult the admissions office's high standards could make it for his recruiting efforts.
"We're going to get in that admissions office and battle, but I understand the word, `No.' I can handle that. I'm a big boy, and we're going to go out there and find the best kids that fit this football program for Yale," he said.
Siedlecki is a 1974 graduate of Union College, where he played both running back and linebacker.
Cozza will stay on with the Yale Athletic Department to help the new coach in the transition. He retires with a 179-119-5 record.
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