Kathy Beauregard has a tough task on her hands this weekend.
Western Michigan is getting ready for Saturday's MAC Championship game against Marshall. The contest will be televised nationally, and the winner earns a trip to the Motor City Bowl in Detroit.
Beauregard, Western Michigan's athletic director, says her No. 1 priority is making sure her student-athletes are prepared for the game. She wants them focused solely on the Thundering Herd.
That's going to be difficult considering Western Michigan's coach is at the center of a nationwide distraction.
On Monday night, North Carolina Director of Athletics Dick Baddour jumped in the line of suitors for Broncos coach Gary Darnell. Speculation over Darnell's future has trumped talk of a conference championship.
"I certainly hope we're able to keep things focused on (the game) and away from these interests," Beauregard said.
Beauregard understands that's not as easy as it sounds. For the last four weeks, Darnell has been courted by numerous schools with head coaching vacancies. Rutgers was the first to call and ask for permission to talk to Darnell. Missouri and Oklahoma State soon followed.
North Carolina joined the list on Monday night hours after Frank Beamer decided to stay at Virginia Tech.
Baddour called Beauregard and requested permission to talk to Darnell. Beauregard granted it, and Baddour was intent on getting in touch with Darnell that same evening.
"Obviously -- in the best-case scenario -- we would hope the whole thing could wait until after the championship game," Beauregard said. "But we have granted them permission to go ahead and begin discussion."
Darnell already had expressed that he wanted the opportunity to look at other jobs after the season. Beauregard tried to sign him to a five-year extension that would run through 2007, but Darnell said he wasn't interested.
Darnell has compiled a 31-14 record in four seasons at WMU. The Broncos are 9-2 heading into Saturday's contest.
"Anything that's going on, we're keeping in the background," Darnell said Monday at his weekly news conference. "There's no denying my name's been out there. I may look at some things later, but our No. 1 priority this week is Marshall."
Missouri is expected to hire Toledo's Gary Pinkel today, and Darnell has ties to North Carolina and Oklahoma State. He served as the linebackers coach at UNC from 1976-77. Darnell played at OSU and was an assistant there from 1970-72.
Beauregard said, "It's going to be a matter of what Coach Darnell and his wife feel is the best scenario for them."
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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