July 16, 2004

The Grand Rapids Rampage has come up with a rather unusual hiring procedure for its next head coach.

Pro sports teams usually try to keep their coaching candidates a secret, mainly out of respect to those who ultimately don't get the job.

But the Rampage, which plays in the Arena Football League, sent out a press release Thursday revealing its five finalists: Rick Frazier, Rampage interim head coach; Sparky McEwen, former Rampage offensive coordinator and current Oklahoma (Arena Football 2) offensive coordinator; Tom Luginbill, Detroit Fury head coach; Kevin Porter, New Orleans VooDoo defensive coordinator; and Steve Thonn, Dallas Desperados offensive coordinator.

Not only did the Rampage announce its finalists, but the team invited the media to spend time with each of them when they are flown in for interviews next week.

Another bizarre twist is the news that Luginbill would interview for the job. His contract with the Fury doesn't expire until August, but he has been given permission to pursue other opportunities.

Fury officials haven't addressed the future of the franchise since the season ended. Palace Sports & Entertainment president Tom Wilson hasn't responded to repeated interview requests about the Fury in recent weeks. Wilson originally told the Free Press that he would reach a decision on the Fury's fate after the season. It has been months with no official word. People familiar with the situation say the outlook is bleak.

The Fury did not sign any of its players in June, when arena teams are allowed to re-sign their players before the free-agent period begins in August. So all the Fury players are free to sign with other teams.

Reached in Alabama, Luginbill said he had no comment on Detroit's situation. But he said he's glad to be able to look for other work and said he thought Grand Rapids could be a good fit. "They have the intangibles it takes to have a championship atmosphere there," Luginbill said.

Frazier didn't show much when he took over for the Rampage, guiding the injury-plagued team to an 0-5 record after replacing Bob Cortese, who resigned after a 1-10 start.

Thonn and McEwen were finalists for the job before, losing out to Cortese.

Porter played five seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs and was a head coach in AF2 with Macon (Ga.) and Pensacola (Fla.) before helping the VooDoo to an expansion-record 11-5 regular season.

By George Sipple