LEXINGTON, KY. — Kentucky wants a new football coach in place by Christmas to replace Guy Morriss, who is leaving for Baylor.
Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart spoke to the school's Athletics Association board of directors Tuesday, less than 24 hours after Morriss returned from Waco, Texas.
Barnhart said he has a long list of possible replacements, but would not identify anyone. He said he would prefer someone with head coaching experience.
"The Kentucky job is a great job in a great conference," Barnhart said. "There's a good foundation here. There is interest, there are people calling, so that's encouraging."
The 51-year-old Morriss returned to Lexington on Monday night. He met with the Wildcats on Tuesday but did not speak with reporters.
Morriss was awaiting his introduction as Baylor's coach at a news conference today in Waco, Texas. Kentucky spokesman Tony Neely said Morriss wanted to make his first public comments about the move there.
"The future looked really bright," kick returner Derek Abney said after Tuesday's 45-minute meeting. "I don't want to say we have a dimmer future now, but it's not as solid."
QB Jared Lorenzen said he understood Morriss' decision.
"It hurts us a lot, but we're going to go on," Lorenzen said. "A couple of guys got a little emotional. It was tough, but we're happy for him."
Barnhart admitted he lost a bidding war with Baylor to keep Morriss. He would not reveal the details of his offer.
In September, Morriss signed a contract that would have kept him at Kentucky through the 2007 season and paid him a base salary of $400,000.
Barnhart said he sweetened Morriss' contract with performance incentives, but Morriss told him it was not enough.
"I put something on the table and we were pretty firm in where we wanted to be," Barnhart said. "I didn't feel like we could go much beyond that. Guy came back and said, 'Mitch, this is too good an offer" from Baylor.
"I said, 'I think we've got an outstanding opportunity for you here,' and he said, 'I don't disagree. But this is a lifetime opportunity."'