Washington's Rick Neuheisel says he's not interested in the vacancy.
KNIGHT RIDDER NEWSPAPERS
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Speculation that Rick Neuheisel was a candidate to coach the San Francisco 49ers was met Monday with an emphatic denial by the University of Washington coach.
In a statement, Neuheisel said he had not been contacted about the vacancy and has never discussed the job with anyone from the 49ers, including general manager Terry Donahue, who coached Neuheisel at UCLA.
"I want to reiterate what I have said in the past," Neuheisel said. "I am the football coach at the University of Washington and I am very happy with my position and I am not interested in coaching anywhere else."
Even if there had been anything to the speculation, it would have been an expensive proposition to pry Neuheisel from his long-term deal at Washington, which included a $2.1 million buyout.
With a dwindling pool of potential candidates from the college ranks, the 49ers might refocus attention on the confirmed candidates: defensive coordinators Ted Cottrell of the New York Jets, Greg Blache of the Chicago Bears and Jim Mora of the 49ers.
In separate sessions last week, the three completed a second round of interviews with Donahue and team director John York. And barring a surprise entry, it appears the 49ers will install one of them as coach by Wednesday or Thursday, a team source said.
York and Donahue met extensively last weekend to discuss the vacancy. Despite Donahue's hope of bringing college coaches into the mix, the most desirable candidates have removed themselves from consideration, with Neuheisel the latest.
Other college coaches who removed themselves from consideration for the 49ers job or rebuffed inquiries about their availability include Oklahoma's Bob Stoops, Oregon's Mike Bellotti, USC's Pete Carroll, Ohio State's Jim Tressel and Iowa's Kirk Ferentz.
Oregon State's Dennis Erickson also has been rumored as a potential candidate, but he hasn't indicated a level of interest.
Philadelphia coordinators Brad Childress and Jim Johnson and Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin also withdrew from consideration after signing new deals with their teams.
The 49ers have been without a coach since firing Steve Mariucci on Jan. 15, three days after the team's 31-6 second-round loss to eventual Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay. Mariucci, who was dismissed after clashing with York, received a five-year, $25 million deal from the Detroit Lions, matching Washington's Steve Spurrier as the highest-paid NFL coach.