West Virginia needs a coach and Terry Bowden likes the idea of making a return to coaching in his hometown.

Bowden, who grew up in Morgantown when his father, Bobby, was Mountaineers coach and played at West Virginia, has been out of coaching since 1998. Not long after Rich Rodriguez left the Mountaineers to take the Michigan job, Bowden, the former Auburn coach, let it be known he's interested in the West Virginia vacancy.

"I made a full commitment to get back into coaching almost 2 years ago. Coming home to West Virginia would obviously be the dream job for me," Bowden, a college football analyst on radio and for Yahoo! Sports, said in a statement released by his publicist.

When reached at his home yesterday in Orlando, Fla., Bowden wouldn't say whether he's been in contact with the Mountaineers since Sunday, when it was announced Rodriguez was going to Michigan.

West Virginia athletic director Ed Pastilong didn't immediately return a telephone message yesterday.

Pastilong must first find an interim coach to lead No. 11 West Virginia (10-2) in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 2 against No. 3 Oklahoma (11-2).

Rodriguez said he wouldn't coach the Mountaineers in the bowl because he didn't want to be a distraction.

"The attention should be on the team. But I have not talked to West Virginia University about that," he said.

Rodriguez' $4 million buyout clause in his West Virginia contract still must be worked out. When Michigan lured basketball coach John Beilein away from West Virginia last April, his contract had a $2.5 million buyout clause. Under an agreement with West Virginia, Beilein agreed to pay $1.5 million to the WVU Foundation.

The interim coach won't be offensive coordinator Calvin Magee or secondary coach and recruiting coordinator Tony Gibson. Rodriguez introduced them at his Michigan news conference.

Gibson said he wouldn't call any West Virginia recruits who had made verbal commitments.

"We'll start recruiting for the University of Michigan right away," he said.

Bobby Bowden coached the Mountaineers from 1970 to '75, going 42-26 before leaving for Florida State. Terry Bowden played running back for West Virginia in 1977 and '78.

Terry Bowden won his first 20 games at Auburn and 47 overall in six-plus seasons before resigning on Oct. 23, 1998, after learning he was going to be fired at the end of the season.

Another coach interested in West Virginia is Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster, said his agent, Bob Lattinville.

Also being mentioned as a possible candidate is Florida State offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher, a Clarksburg native. But Fisher has a $2.5 million buyout clause in his contract if he leaves Florida State before Jan. 9, 2011, after agreeing to be FSU's "head coach-in-waiting." Also, FSU must pay Fisher $2.5 million if he isn't hired to replace Bobby Bowden as head coach in 3 years.

Noteworthy

* Washington coach Tyrone Willingham released two members of his staff: defensive coordinator Kent Baer, who had been with Willingham for 13 years, as well as special teams and tight ends coach Bob Simmons. Washington's defense was the worst in school history, allowing 446.4 yards per game. The Huskies went 4-9. *