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Report: ‘Shaka Watch’ ends with Coach Smart’s decision to leave VCU

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RICHMOND, Va. -- The 2015 “Shaka Watch” has been a bumpy ride, and gone where none other have ventured before, but it came to an end April 2. Athletic Director Steve Patterson flew into Richmond on Thursday to meet with Coach Shaka Smart about replacing former Longhorn coach Rick Barnes.  At the same time, across town, Virginia Commonwealth University fans assembled to show their support for the Coach.

Thursday evening the coach met with his team, and minutes later, CBS Sports reported that Shaka has accepted the position at Texas. The official word will have to come from Texas,  but that is expected tomorrow, according to CBS 6 sources.

After the team's meeting, the VCU Director of Athletics, Ed McLaughlin released a brief statement.

"Out of respect for Coach Smart and the University of Texas, we decline comment at this point," McLaughlin said. "I have spoken with Coach Smart and we will have a statement tomorrow."

Reports out of Austin say the University of Texas is planning a mid-afternoon (CT) press conference on Friday.

Sources have also told CBS 6 Sports that any potential deal would be for five years, and in the neighborhood of $15-16 million, which would double Smart’s current salary at VCU, which is $1.57 million. Texas was paying former coach Rick Barnes $2.55 million.

Smart's contract calls for a $500,000 buyout payable to VCU for breaking his deal which was set to run through 2023. There is also a clause that mandates any team to which Smart leaves would have to come back and play VCU at the Siegel Center. However that team, Texas, can opt out of that clause for an additional $250,000 payment.

Smart replaced Anthony Grant in 2009 and has since led the men's basketball team to a Final Four appearance in 2011, CAA and Atlantic-10 titles, and five straight appearances in the NCAA tournament.

As the school made more big tournament runs, games consistently sold out and the "Ram Nation" become a force to be reckoned with, as did "Havoc," the team's unique style of intense defense and full-court press.

News of Smart's potential exit typically ramped up every spring.  Last December, Smart opened up to CBS Sports college basketball insider Gary Parrish and he explained one of the big reasons why he usually decided to stay at VCU, despite offers for more money at larger basketball programs, was because of something that happened to him as a child.

"I remember just crying for like three days,” Smart told Parrish. “I was 19 and lost because this guy [basketball coach Bill Brown] , my father figure, just left. And, honestly, that’s one of the reasons I’ve stayed at VCU. It factors into my mind. It really does. What happened to me is a factor.”

The confessional helped people breathe a little more easily -- until April 1 came around. The stunned public was quick to react though, with an outpouring of support. On Twitter #ShakaWatch quickly became a trending topic.

What remains to be seen is who will step up to become the next VCU head men's basketball coach.