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UCLA UPDATE: GUERRERO JOINS IN ON MEETING WITH RILEY.

Byline: Billy Witz Staff Writer

If there were any doubts about the seriousness with which UCLA is interested in New Orleans Saints assistant coach Mike Riley, it was dispelled Tuesday when Riley was interviewed in New Orleans not only by UCLA administrator Bob Field but athletic director Dan Guerrero.

It was believed Monday that Field, who had known Riley since he was a graduate assistant at Alabama when Riley played there in the early 1970s, was traveling to New Orleans alone.

But Field and Guerrero took an overnight flight that landed in New Orleans on Tuesday morning and spent several hours interviewing Riley, the former USC assistant who also has been a head coach of the San Diego Chargers and Oregon State. Guerrero and Field returned to Los Angeles late Tuesday.

Guerrero, as he exited the plane with Field, said no offer was made to Riley and the talks were preliminary. Guerrero said he will conduct similar talks with other candidates, then hone in on the best candidates for the job.

Guerrero declined to say whether he had asked permission to speak with any other candidate, something he said he would do with anyone he interviewed.

Riley found himself with more than one suitor Tuesday.

Later in the day, according to a source, he met with Alabama athletic director Mal Moore who, unlike Guerrero and Field, flew into town on the private jet of a booster.

Riley, who was back in his office at Saints headquarters at 6 p.m. CDT, was expected to have a third suitor by Tuesday night, or perhaps today: Kentucky, whose athletic director, Mitch Barnhardt, hired Riley at Oregon State.

With Guerrero on the road, there was little other movement on the hiring front.

Meanwhile, most of UCLA's seven commitments have a keen interest in the school despite the firing of coach Bob Toledo and the likelihood that few, if any, of the assistant coaches who recruited them will be retained.

However, most will be exploring other options in case there is not mutual interest between them and the new staff.

Oklahoma defensive end Chadd Evans has scheduled a visit to Tennessee and might set one up soon with Purdue. San Diego receiver Alex Ghebreselassie is taking a trip to San Diego State this weekend and also is looking at Oklahoma, Colorado and Oregon. Texas offensive lineman Jeremy Harrell already has been contacted by Arizona State and Arkansas.

``My commitment is still with UCLA,'' Ghebreselassie said. ``If (assistant coach Ron) Caragher stays, I'd be more than happy to honor my commitment, but he'll most likely be gone. UCLA is still my No. 1 choice, but you have to have a backup plan.''

Those more firmly set on UCLA are Agoura offensive lineman P.J. Irvin and Missouri cornerback Trey Brown, whose father, Theotis, is a former star running back at UCLA.
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Dec 11, 2002
Words:476
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