Let me be the first to endorse Frank Cignetti as the next head coach of my beloved Temple Owls.....Of course, I have no idea if he'd be interested in the job, but if he is, I'm all for it.
OK, now that the train has gotten off the track a bit and in case you missed it - Temple coach Al Golden is no longer a candidate for the Pitt job because he is now the head coach at the University of Miami.
In case you don't want to read the link, here is the statement from Miami AD Kirby Hocutt about the matter:
"From the beginning of this process, one candidate stood above the rest as the right fit for the University of Miami. We are proud to welcome Al Golden to The U. His desire, leadership, communications skills and preparedness stood above the rest and he is the right man to meet the championship expectations of this program."
That's significant because Golden was a legitimate candidate, had contact with Pitt and was really high on the wish list of Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson for obvious reasons - in some ways he was the perfect candidate for what they were looking for: Smart, tough, disciplinarian, excellent recruiter and demanding both on the field and in the classroom - plus "corporate" enough and saavy enough to put on a shirt and tie and go talk to donors and trustees and other key and influential people (the guy wears a tie on the sidelines for goodness sakes).
It was reported earlier today in several internet reports that Golden had been offered the Pitt job and magically, about 24 seconds after it was announced that Golden had accepted the Miami job an athletic department spokesman (E.J., in case you must know) issued a statement that read "Pitt hadn't offered its job to anyone."
So Golden is now officially off the board and the process can begin to move forward as it was clear that Pitt was at least interested enough in Golden to see what was going to happen at Miami.
** That brings us back to Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen, who, as I wrote earlier, has been interviewed and is, according to a number of people with knowledge of the situation, the top candidate on Pederson's board and has been since this process began. The next step for him is to be properly vetted and his background to be looked into and his references and all that good stuff. Some of that has already been taken care of by the search firm - Parker Executive Search in Atlanta - but Pitt will continue the process to make sure he is the right fit.
The last time we went through this process with Pitt - in 2004 - this was about the point that the search turned away from Nebraska coach Bo Pelini and focused on Matt Cavanaugh and Paul Rhoads. Jeff Long, who was the athletic director at Pitt, had Pelini at the top of his list going into the process but when he finally interviewed him and then began to check on him, decided he just wasn't the right fit for what Pitt chancellor Mark Nordenberg and the trustees would be looking for - which is why Dave Wannstedt (who had originally pulled out of the process) was brought back into the process and ultimately hired.
What does that mean? Well it means we should know rather quickly, over the next day or two, whether Holgorsen is going to be the guy or not. Obviously at that point there will still be some negotiations, but given that Holgorsen is making about $360,000 at Oklahoma State and Pitt is paying Wannstedt about $1.2 million (give or take a few dollars), it is clear that money is not going to be an issue (even if, as rumored, a school like Texas or Florida got involved and tried to hire him as an offensive coordinator. While those two schools have money, they aren't going to pay a coordinator $1 million a year). Holgorsen wants the job and if he is offered it, he will take it, so we should know something about his future at Pitt rather quickly - either way - and then the search will go on from there. It will either be over, or, well, it will move forward....
I'll say it again to be clear - this is not a "done deal" by any stretch but it is clear that things are moving, at least for now, in that direction.
** I told you I'd have a few more names which I have confirmed, at least as much as you can confirm in these things given the "information lockdown" over at the Kremlin Pitt athletic department. The information is out there, but Pederson has kept things so close to the vest it has been a very slow, long, tedious process and a lot of weeding through a lot of nonsense and silliness to get what little solid information that is actually out there.
So that being said, here some people who Pitt has had contact with based on what multiple credible sources have told me:
-- I'm told Pederson has had some contact with San Diego State coach Brady Hoke about the job and may have even interviewed him, at least over the phone. I know Hoke, who is from Ohio and coached at Ball State for a number of years before going to San Diego, just signed a contract extension but (a) a contract is meaningless in these discussions these days and (b) he still will only make about $800,000 (it can get up close to $1 million with bonuses) and Pitt can offer him more than that right now. It also should be pointed out that $1.1 million here in Pittsburgh is like $1.6 million in San Diego when you adjust for cost of living (mysalary.com cost of living calculator, in case you were wondering). Hoke - who interviewed for the Minnesota job according to reports - seems, however, to be interested in waiting to see what happens with Rich Rodriguez at Michigan as that is his dream job.
-- Another person who has had some degree of contact with Pederson (again, I've gotten conflicting reports as to whether it was an interview or not and may never know the truth) is Miami (Ohio) coach Mike Haywood, who spent time at Notre Dame, Texas and LSU among other places. He is obviously another hot name out there because, in just his second season with Miami, he led the RedHawks to a 9-4 record and the MAC championship (something Al Golden never did, by the way). He turned them around, though, as they were 1-11 in his first season. That being said, he's only been a head coach for two seasons. Again, there has definitely been some contact between Pitt and Haywood but how much and whether or not it was an actual interview is not know.
-- Pederson has had some contact with Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads but after a few hours of wild goose chases I am pretty confident it was more of a conversation - who knows, perhaps about Holgorsen - than anything else. From what I can tell based on all the conversations I've had, Rhoads is happy at Iowa State, he makes about $1.1 million, he is at home and able to look after his parents and he believes he has a good team coming back. So I don't expect him to emerge as a candidate, but again, you get so many erroneous reports about conversations, contacts and whatnot, you waste a lot of time chasing stuff that is either incomplete, not really true or in many cases, just utter nonsense.
-- A couple of names which have been given to me by at least one source as, well, we will call them, "coaches of interest" are St. Louis Rams offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, Oklahoma assistant offensive coordinator Jay Norvell and Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst. Now, I put them in this category because I have not talked to anyone credible who has told me there has been some - even just at the feeler stage -- legitimate contact between Pitt and them but all of them are somewhere on the radar if things don't get done with Holgorsen or Golden (obviously they won't get done with him now). And while we're on this list, here is an interesting name -- Connecticut coach Randy Edsall, who was one of the finalists for the Miami job -- who, I'm told by a number of people, has let it be known that he'd have some interest in at least talking to Pitt about the job. Again, these four names are all what I would call 'file in the back of your head' kind of names because as I've said, there is no evidence any has yet been contacted by Pitt or even reached out directly to Pitt to put their hat in the ring.
-- One person who is not likely to get a legitmate look - but certainly has a lot of the right people on his side pushing for him is Penn State defensive coordinator Tom Bradley. Again, from what I'm told the Penn State-Pitt thing is going to be too much for him to overcome but a number of people of influence have at least picked up the phone and called Pitt on his behalf.
-- And then the one "Pitt" guy who may still get an interview depending on what happens is Florida defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, though it doesn't sound like it is definitely going to happen and apparently he's involved to some degree in the search for Texas's next defensive coordinator. Austin, like Cignetti and Bradley, seems to have a lot of people of varying degree of influence backing him but I'm not sure if that is going to be enough to get him a sitdown with Pederson.
-- I think one other thing we can say with certainty is that the hire is not going to be an internal one, though Frank Cignetti may ultimately get some degree of an interview since he is the one guy on the current staff who has expressed interest in the job - and like Bradley some key, influential people have made a phone call or two on his behalf. It seems clear, though, that Pederson wants a new direction for the program and would like a fresh start.