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Saturday's movement - Search heating up

Written by Paul Zeise on .

Pitt's search for a head football coach seems to have really begun to heat up as Panthers athletic director Steve Pederson has suddenly disappeared and more importantly, has been in lockdown mode now for nearly 24 hours - information is very, very hard to come by right now and that is a good sign because it means the interview process has begun

And here is what we know - Oklahoma State coordinator Dana Holgorsen is near the top of the wish list and is in Dallas recruiting for the weekend - today he was at SMU's Ford Stadium to watch a Division 5-A state semifinal which involved three players who are committed to the Cowboys, including a big-time quarterback - J.W. Walsh of Denton Guyer.

But Hologorsen's interaction with the quarterback and the coach - who is the quarterback's dad - was apparently brief after the game and then he quickly disappeared.

He told several people he is staying in Dallas overnight but here is where things get interesting - he may have actually left Dallas for a few hours to come here on a private jet and then returned to Dallas as it would have been very easy to pull off - and airport hotel interviews are SOP in these instances. And it could be just a coincidence but a private jet took off from Dallas Love Field Airport and came to Pittsburgh. It left at about 3  p.m. Central time arrived here just before 6 p.m.  and then took off again from Pittsburgh International just before 10 p.m. and was due back in Dallas at about 11:20 local time. And he would have had plenty of time to get to a private jet from Love Field airport from Ford Stadium as they are less than five minutes apart.

Again, none of it is a smoking gun --- yet -- but there is clearly smoke and it could be turning to fire very soon. And of course, Holgorsen has now stopped returning calls and texts as well to people around him.

So again, stay tuned this could get very interesting. There is no question that Holgorsen is a candidate who is interested in the job and who will be interviewed - assuming that already hasn't happened.

It will be interesting to see if Holgorsen gets past the interview process because don't forget, in 2004, when Pitt was looking for a coach, Bo Pelini was considered the front runner and was -- until he interviewed with Jeff Long and they started doing some looking into his background and determined he wasn't the right fit.

That's why this process can be frustrating to try and follow because it is an actual interview process and the situation can change from day to day.

Stay tuned things will begin to move forward shortly.

** The other known candidate, Al Golden, was at a team banquet in Philadelphia. He was asked by a reporter about the Miami job - which he is a candidate for -- and he blew it off and then a member of the Temple sports information office informed all reporters that Golden wouldn't be speaking to them the rest of the day. We'll keep checking into it and keep trying to nail this one down as well. Now, in reading the blog comments over the past few days, I keep reading the same silly rant about Golden's record and how it not so special - which is ludicrous. What he has done is nothing short of a miracle.

And if you are going to continue to post the same rant over and over and over and it was posted at last three times, at least get the facts right - Temple is 5-3 in the MAC this year, not 4-4.

More importantly, I'm not sure if people realize how awful my alma mater's football program was before he arrived - both on and off the field. Temple was 3-31 in the three years before he arrived  and before you start screaming that the schedule was tougher because they were in the Big East - remember two things (a) Temple was an independent in 2005 (the year before he arrived) and went 0-11 that season and (b) Temple was an eight-game losing streak to MAC programs when he lost (I mean, Pitt fans often recite the Panthers under Johnny Majors II getting smoked by Notre Dame, Miami and Ohio State by a combined 177-6 in 1996 - imagine getting beaten by Bowling Green in back-to-back years by a combined 140-23, which is what happened to Temple the two years leading up to when Golden arrived. THAT is how bad the program was.

But guess what - fixing the football stuff was the easy part (even though it is not exactly easy to recruit to an urban university which plays in an off-campus the stadium seats about 68,000 but struggles to get 6,800 in the door on a given day)  because as bad as Temple was on the field it was in deep trouble off the field because of poor academic performance and horrible APR scores, had lost some scholarships.

A very sound case could be made that Temple's program was the worst overall program in the country when he arrived. And now, just five years later it is at least respectable on the field again and off the field he has cleaned up an absolute mess in terms of the kinds of players he's recruited, the fact that Temple has made a huge improvement in graduation rates, APR, the team GPA and everything else. It is the best academic turnaround (in terms of raw data) since the APR numbers were first calculated and used as a standard by the NCAA.

And one other thing - Temple has won 17 of its past 23 games marking only the second time in school history the Owls have won 17 games in a two-year stretch. Last season Temple also made it to a bowl game for the first time since 1979 (and only second time in school history). This would have been the second year in a row but there wasn't a spot for the Owls (even at 8-4) and mostly because nobody wants to take them seeing as they may have about 100 people show up for the game if they are lucky. They are a really good quarterback away from taking the next step now.

Yes, he is a pro-style coach and yes, his teams are not always fun to watch, but the guy has worked a miracle at a place that is a graveyard for football coaches. I'm not saying he is the right coach for Pitt -- though he has a lot of the qualities they are looking for as he is tough, disciplined, pays attention to detail and demands excellence from his players both on and off the field - and I'm not saying he'd be the best candidate, but this revision of history that has been going on for the past few days is ridiculous.

The guy can coach.

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