Posted: Wednesday September 8, 2004 2:26AM; Updated: Wednesday September 8, 2004 2:26AM





AUBURN, Ala. (AP) -- Southern Mississippi athletics director Richard Giannini says he has discussed the possibility of heading Auburn's athletics department with the school's independent search firm, but has not been interviewed by any Auburn officials.

Giannini told the Mobile Register for a story Wednesday that he has spoken with Carr Sports Associates about the position, which will be vacated by athletics director David Housel when he retires in January. But he said he is not seeking to leave Southern Miss.

"I've got a great situation at Southern Miss," Giannini said Tuesday. "I've really enjoyed the five years I've had here. We're in the midst of a $60 million capital campaign that is coming along very well. It would be difficult for me to leave."

Giannini came to Southern Miss in 1999 after five years of heading the athletics department of Northeast Louisiana, now called Louisiana-Monroe. Earlier, Giannini was president of two Charlotte-based private firms and had a nine-year stint as a senior associate AD at Florida, his alma mater.

Giannini is one of several potential candidates for the job. Other reported candidates include FDIC chairman Donald Powell, former Auburn player and Birmingham financial planner Mike Kolen, LSU senior associate AD Dan Radakovich and Florida associate AD Greg McGarity. Internally, Auburn is also expected to consider senior associate AD Jay Jacobs.

Retired Georgia athletics director Vince Dooley, last week ruled out a return to his alma mater.

Auburn still fires up Miss. State's Croom
STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) -- You can take Sylvester Croom from the Iron Bowl, but you can't remove the emotional Auburn-Alabama rivalry from the former Crimson Tide star's psyche.

Croom traded his Alabama crimson for Mississippi State maroon, but said the sight of Auburn's burnt orange and navy blue uniforms still fires him up.

"It always has," Croom said Tuesday. "It always will."

The first black head football coach in Southeastern Conference history will meet an old nemesis -- Auburn -- in his first league game Saturday.

The history between Croom and Auburn dates back to the 1970s, when the Tuscaloosa native played and later coached for the Crimson Tide.

Last year, Croom was a finalist for the Alabama job, but the Tide hired Mike Shula instead. Mississippi State gleefully snapped up Croom months later.

In 10 of 14 games as a player and coach against Auburn, Croom walked away a winner in one of the most intense rivalries in college football.

Alabama went 2-1 against Auburn when he starred at center from 1972-74, and the Tide was 8-3 against Auburn from 1976-86, when he was on the staffs of coaches Bear Bryant and Ray Perkins.

Croom's favorite Iron Bowl memories?

"Every time we won," Croom said.

It'll take more than Croom's Auburn-beating reputation to keep his first Mississippi State team in the game against the 18th-ranked Tigers, he said.

"We can't waste a minute this week," Croom said. "We have to improve every single minute just to have a chance."

Auburn (1-0) embarrassed Louisiana-Monroe 31-0 last weekend behind two touchdown passes from Jason Campbell and 103 rushing yards from Carnell Williams in a performance coach Tommy Tuberville called vanilla.

Similarly, Mississippi State (1-0) opened its season by routing Tulane 28-7.

But Croom said Auburn's talent is decidedly better than Tulane's -- or, for that matter, Mississippi State's.

Williams rushed for a school-record six touchdowns last season in Auburn's 45-13 rout of the Bulldogs, the day after coach Jackie Sherrill announced his retirement.

"We're talking about one of the top teams in the country from a talent standpoint," Croom said. "So there's no question, we'll find out where we are as far as what kind of football team we have. I know already (that) we don't have the talent they have. That's obvious."

Kickoff Saturday is 11:30 a.m. CDT. The game will be televised by Jefferson Pilot.


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