Utah State University football coach Chuck Shelton, who is approaching the last year of a five-season contract and who has so far been denied a contract extension, says he was just responding to a question - "I was trying to make a generic statement," he says - when he told a reporter from another newspaper, "I will not go into the season status quo.
"It's not even very serious, although in the paper it always looks serious," Shelton told the Deseret News Friday morning after the newspaper article appeared.He agreed such a statement could be interpreted as a threat, but, he said, "What kind of threat is there? I have no power to make a threat in the first place, and I would not expect anybody to respond to that in the second place.
"Status quo means exactly what it says, that Rod (athletic director Tueller) and I are having continuing conversations about my position here. We need to look at where we are and what expectations there are.
"I mean a lot of things (by status quo), but more than anything else I mean I'm maintaining counsel with Rod Tueller."
Tueller reportedly recommended such an extension to USU President Stanford Cazier several months ago, but Cazier has been reluctant to go through with it. "His comment (to Shelton) was that we would continue to evaluate; I have a year left, and he feels that's confidence enough," said Shelton.
Until recently, Utah State has not given coaches long-term contracts, and such an extension with a year to go could be viewed as unusual for the school.
It is Shelton's contention that a contract extension would benefit football "program security."
He says that, without an extension, the program will go into 1991 with media attention on a coach in the last year of his contract. With a difficult nonleague 1991 schedule to start - at Nebraska, Utah and Oklahoma - "I don't want our direction to be focused on anything but football games," he says.
Utah State's practice of scheduling opponents such as Oklahoma and Nebraska helps pay USU's athletic department expenses but don't help a coach's record. Shelton says he was told he wouldn't have to be accountable for that. He is 1-19 in nonleague games, 21-33-1 overall and 20-14-1 in Big West Conference games but has beaten conference powers Fresno State and San Jose State just once each.
Shelton's Aggies go into spring practice (April 13-May 4) with a strong squad of returnees from a team that last year was 5-5-1 overall and 5-1-1 in Big West play, winning its last four league games as its newer players worked themselves into stars. Shelton will also have a number of outstanding junior-college players coming into the program. He didn't expect so many good ones, he says.