PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh athletic director Jeff Long plans
to interview at least three candidates to replace football coach
Former Miami Dolphins coach Dave Wannstedt, Houston Texans
assistant Jon Hoke and Oklahoma co-defensive coordinator Bo Pelini
are expected to talk with Long, while Pitt defensive coordinator
Paul Rhoads also is interested in the job.
"I'm excited about the limited opportunity I've had to see the
kind of people expressing interest in the program," Long said,
"so I'm very confident we will land a leader that will bring our
program to greater heights."
Rhoads is being pushed by some of the Panthers' players before
they leave for the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 1 against No. 5 Utah.
Wannstedt, a former Pitt player and assistant, is the best known
of the group but has not said if he wants to coach again so soon.
He is currently working as an analyst on Fox's NFL games after
stepping down as Miami's coach last month.
Wannstedt has not returned phone calls from The Associated Press
regarding the Pitt job.
Hoke is a lifelong friend of Long's and the two played football
together at Fairmont East High School in Kettering, Ohio. Hoke was
the assistant head coach and defensive coordinator at Florida under
Steve Spurrier and now coaches the Texans' defensive backs. He
turned down a chance to rejoin Spurrier at South Carolina.
"I've just had conversations with them. I spoke with Jeff
twice, and I think I'll have to leave it at that," Hoke said
Wednesday. "Obviously, it's flattering, but there's a process they
have to go through. There's not a lot more I can say. It is
exciting and it's real nice to be considered."
Pelini is a former assistant coach with the 49ers, Patriots and
Packers before moving to Oklahoma, where Long was the senior
associate AD before being hired by Pitt in May 2003.
"I will not comment on the search while the search is going
on," Long said. "The next time you will hear from me on the
search is when we introduce the next football coach here at Pitt."
Harris left Pitt after eight seasons to become Stanford's coach.
Harris made the move after the school failed to extend his
contract, which ran through the 2006 season.
Pitt will appear in a bowl for the fifth consecutive season
under Harris and the sixth time in eight seasons. The Panthers are
25-12 the last three seasons, their best such stretch since they
were 33-3 from 1979-81 under coach Jackie Sherrill.