The Norman Transcript

OU Sports

March 30, 2011

Williams off the table, OU talking to Illinois' Weber

NORMAN — Oklahoma’s initial choice to replace Jeff Capel went off the table Wednesday. Marquette coach Buzz Williams “finalized” an extension to remain the Golden Eagles head coach.

Marquette did not release the terms of Williams’ new contract, but it is believed to include a raise over the $1.6 million he had been making.

According to two sources close to the OU program, Williams was the initial target when OU athletic director Joe Castiglione fired Capel on March 14. But that was before the Golden Eagles advanced to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament, making Marquette’s incentive to keep Williams even stronger.

“I was given an opportunity beyond my wildest dreams 1,086 days ago,” Williams said in statement released by Marquette, “and my entire family is extremely humbled and grateful by the opportunity to continue this journey.”

So where does OU go from here?

A well-placed college basketball source told the Transcript on Wednesday night that Illinois coach Bruce Weber has emerged as a viable candidate and there appears to be mutual interest.

Weber, who has been at Illinois the last eight seasons and led the Illini to the national championship game in 2005 and the NCAA Tournament in six of his eight seasons, appears to have some reasons to find OU attractive.

The Illini went 20-14 this past season and reached the NCAA Tournament as a No. 9 seed, reaching the second round. Earlier in the season, Illinois athletic director Ron Guenther actually issued a statement supporting Weber’s future at Illinois when it looked like it might miss the NCAA Tournament for the third time in four years.

Illinois will also have to replace four senior starters next season.

Another factor that could make OU very attractive to Weber is that Guenther’s contract expires at the end of June. If it’s not renewed, Weber’s seat at Illinois could get very hot under a new athletic director.

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