PROVO — While retired coach LaVell Edwards has been cleaning out his campus office a little bit at a time, BYU officials are finalizing plans, a little bit at a time, to hire his successor.

"We're getting closer. We hope to make a decision within a couple of weeks," said athletic director Val Hale. "We're zeroed in on things. We're waiting for the right time."

The interview process has been completed, according to BYU associate athletic director Duff Tittle. "The search committee is mulling over the information they've gathered on the candidates," he said.

Tennessee Titans assistant George Henshaw, Alabama quarterbacks coach Charlie Stubbs, BYU offensive coordinator Lance Reynolds and BYU defensive coordinator Ken Schmidt have all been interviewed.

Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Gary Crowton, widely regarded as the leading candidate to replace Edwards, is well-known to the search committee and will not have a face-to-face interview with the committee.

Mike Borich, the Bears' receivers coach, is a longtime friend of Crowton's and was Crowton's receivers coach at Louisiana Tech for four seasons. He also played for Crowton at Snow College and Western Illinois. Should Crowton take the BYU job, Borich, a Bingham High product, could follow him to Provo.

Reached this week by phone at Halas Hall, the Bears' headquarters, Borich said all he's thinking about right now is the Green Bay Packers, Chicago's opponent on Sunday. "I'm concentrating on one game at a time," he said.

The Bears' season has been disappointing, to say the least. Chicago is 3-9 and the offense under Crowton has struggled. Last week in New York, Chicago lost to the Jets, 17-10, in a game that saw the Bears throw for just 98 yards.

Injuries have plagued Chicago, however. Wide receiver Bobby Engram suffered a season-ending knee injury early in the year while quarterbacks Cade McNown and Jim Miller are out of action with injuries. "It's been a tough season," Borich said. "But we can still turn things around."

After Sunday's game against Green Bay, the Bears will host New England, then travel to San Francisco. They close the campaign at Detroit on Dec. 24.

Publicly, Crowton has said he would not take the BYU job until after the season. But BYU officials would like to name Edwards' replacement long before that.

Meanwhile, most of BYU's assistant coaches have hit the recruiting trail, trying to shore up the 2001 class. National letter-of-intent day for junior college players is Dec. 13, and the Cougars are looking to sign some key players for next season.

Those players, of course, want to know who they will be playing for. While Hale says the new head coach will have free rein to choose his own staff, he added, "I would be surprised if the new coach doesn't elect to keep some of the current assistants."

"There's a fine line between making coaching changes and losing an entire recruiting class," Tittle said. "There could be a transitional period, where the majority of current assistant coaches are kept on staff and will be evaluated from there. Specifically what will happen, I don't know. The new coach will be given flexibility."

Edwards, meanwhile, is out of town on vacation. Next week, he is scheduled for an appearance on ESPN's "Up Close" program.


E-MAIL: jeffc@desnews.com