** According to several sources there was contact made between Pitt and Tom Bradley yesterday. The sources indicated it was chancellor Mark Nordenberg and not Steve Pederson who reached out to Bradley. It is not a surprise given the report from Ed Bouchette about the Steelers backing Bradley and being upset that Pederson didn't even call him the first time. That relationship with the Rooneys and the Steelers is a very important one to Pitt so I'm sure they will offer plenty of olive branches to the Steelers in order to make sure they undo any damage which has been done. As for what this means for Bradley, it is too early to tell and I'm sure we will get more details on this as the process moves forward. But the fact that the two sides have at least talked means that perhaps the idea of Bradley as Pitt's coach is not nearly as far fetched as it was even a month ago. One thing I know will excite Pitt fans is this -- if Bradley is indeed hired one guy who would have a good shot to be on his staff, presumably as defensive coordinator, would be former Florida defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, a former Pitt player who is considered one of the hottest young coaching candidates out there. He is also an excellent recruiter and the combination of Bradley and him would certainly make Pitt a formidable force in recruiting.
** You know you have been around for a long time when you can't remember certain details of your own career and that's what happened with interim coach Phil Bennett today when I asked him if he had ever been an interim coach before. "No I haven't been," Bennett said, "but then again, I was thinking about it and I think I have been. I think I was the interim coach at LSU, I think we won the last game against Arkansas, so I think I have been but I can't even remember." Bennett and the assembled media shared some laughs about it and then he joked "well, I was fired with four games left at SMU so technically I was the interim there for four games!" Bennett really has done an excellent job of trying to assume the role of the face of the program in a very tough time. He looked pretty relaxed today when he met the media (the Panthers arrived in Birmingham today) but he made it clear he was taken his role seriously.
** Bennett talked about some of the logistics of the game: He will call the defenses still but in some running situations and at different points in the game it will be defensive line coach Greg Gattuso making the calls. Gattuso is normally on the sidelines but he will be up in the booth for this game. Graduate assistant Luke Getsy will work with the quarterbacks (a duty normally reserved for Frank Cignetti) and tight ends coach Brian Angelichio will call the plays. Bennett said he is going to be involved in the offense and game plan because "if it is going to have my name on it, I want to make sure it is right. We are going to do everything in our power to win this game."
** The players spoke today - selected few did -- and three things were clear:
1) They were disappointed that Dave Wannstedt decided not to make the trip with them but they support his decision.
2) They are really glad to get back to playing football, even if it is for a week and they are going to play hard Saturday.
3) They've been coached very well on what to say, which makes for very boring interview sessions but at this point - considering all that has happened -- boring is good, boring is what the doctor ordered for Pitt.
One other thing which was clear was that Pitt's former coach, Michael Haywood, didn't make much of an impression on the players as the three we talked to today - Dom DeCicco, Henry Hynoski and Devin Street - all said they didn't have any opinion on that whole episode because they had not really met Haywood and didn't know him or even much about him.
** One thing which made a very good impression on the players - and in some ways began the healing process - was Nordenberg's speech to the team on Sunday. The most important part of the speech, according to Street, was when Nordenberg said "the buck stops with me, it is up to me to make it right." Street said that went a long way towards earning the players trust and trust is something there isn't enough of over at Pitt right now. And I think that statement by Nordenberg also reinforces this fact that seems to be getting missed:
Although it is fashionable to blame Pederson for everything that has gone wrong in this search process, remember this -- Pederson can't even cross the street on behalf of Pitt without permission from the chancellor and trustees, who have to sign off on every move he makes.