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Thursday News, Notes - Some New Developments

Written by Paul Zeise on .

** Tom Bradley I am told is still a leading candidate but he clearly isn't the "done deal" some people reported him to be as there is still a little bit of an internal disagreement about him between members of the committee.

He also apparently either did not have an interview scheduled with Connecticut for Friday or did and isn't going to go there to talk to Connecticut depending on which source you believe. At any rate, he is not interviewing with Connecticut and is now in a holding pattern waiting to see how this process plays out.

There were also some rumors floating that he eliminated himself by asking for too much money for his assistant coaches but from what I am told by several reliable sources, that was just internet rumors and it never got to that point in the discussions yet. That would seem to make sense considering Steve Pederson talked to Bob Cohn from the Tribune Review and I tonight on a conference call and outlined the way the search is being conducted and said that nobody is going to get a job offer without first sitting in front of the Nordenberg and to the best of our knowledge, Bradley has yet to get in front of the chancellor.

** Earlier today a source told me that Tulsa coach Todd Graham was fading into the background as a candidate. Given the source, it was believable at the time - it also now seems like it may have been a smoke screen to throw me and any other media member chasing this story off the scent. (I could be paranoid but forgive me as I'm right now like Frank Leone - Sylvester Stallone's character in the movie "Lock Up" -- as I live by this rule -- D.T.A., which stands for Don't Trust Anyone. I know, a terrible flick but you get the picture....)

And I say that because Graham is apparently a lot more involved in the search than it was believed even 12 hours ago seeing as he is expected to interview in the morning with the Pitt search committee - and get this - Chancellor Mark Nordenberg is reportedly expected to be a part of that crew.

If true - and the sourcing on this one is pretty good though I will continue to work through it to make sure it actually transpires as it was told to me -- That means two things - (1) Graham is indeed still a serious candidate and (2) Graham is likely the first of the known finalists to get a second interview and an audience with Nordenberg.

Now, as we reported the sticking point the first time around with Graham - he was one of five coaches interviewed by Steve Pederson during the first part of the search that led to the hiring of Michael Haywood - was money as his compensation package is about $1.3 million according to the USA Today.

This is something I will obviously revisit in the morning but like I said, it is a very interesting development and something worth monitoring - and it really adds up from this standpoint - Graham is the one candidate who has been all over the map in terms of what sources have told me his level of involvement has been.

I'm told that Graham would take the job if offered and IF - and it is a big IF - the money is right. I know what he said about his family life in Tulsa and he has it good there, but I'm told he is still very interested in the job. I'm not saying this means he is going to get the job or even an offer, just that he is still hanging around in all of this.

Stay tuned on that one, it is something worth watching develop.

** Another candidate emerged, at least in terms of someone who will get an interview - Sunday, from what I am told -- and that is Stanford Associate Head Coach-Assistant Head coach for Offense Greg Roman and he seems to fit the profile of what Steve Pederson is looking for -- young, up-and-coming, offensive minded, etc., etc. Pederson is reportedly enamored with Stanford's offense and while Roman isn't the offensive coordinator, he has a big hand in the game planning and play calling and is considered a strong candidate to replace Jim Harbaugh as head coach if he takes the 49ers job. So Roman may be off the market before he actually gets to talk to Pitt, but at any rate he is an interesting name just because he is new to this.

** Former Florida defensive coordinator Teryl Austin has also interviewed with Pitt about the head coaching position but remains what I would call a long shot candidate despite his Pitt ties. Austin has only one year's experience as a coordinator. Austin also has a number of other job offers to consider and so it is doubtful he'd settle for the defensive coordinator position at Pitt because it wouldn't pay him nearly as much money as he will make elsewhere. That is unless, of course, Bradley gets the job as that reportedly would make it much more attractive to Austin. It really feels like Austin is a lot like Alabama assistant head coach Sal Sunseri, a Pitt guy who has a lot of people pulling for him and thus was granted an interview which is a shame because from everything I've heard about him, he'd be a great choice.

** Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst was told by Pitt he is no longer being considered. Cross him off the list. End of that discussion.

** Like I wrote earlier, Florida International coach Mario Cristobal remains a "third source" kind of guy at this point. It sounds like he did interview with Pitt but I will keep working hard to find out if that is absolutely true because I still don't have it good enough from a good enough person to say he definitely did or did not. I do know that he is working on a contract extension with FIU but given that his salary is about $400,000, money would clearly not be an issue if Pitt legitimately wanted to hire him.

** Here is something remotely interesting -- according to a pretty good source, one other candidate that Pitt reached out to but never really got very far down the road with is Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster. It could have been an interesting name to toss around but by the same token, if Pitt is really going to pick a 50+ year old career assistant, why not just make it Tom Bradley.

** As I reported tonight, multiple sources have told me that sophomore tailback Dion Lewis is expected to declare himself eligible for the NFL draft as soon as the season is over - meaning sometime next week. Lewis, with the help of Dave Wannstedt, looked into his draft status and was told by the NFL he'd be about a third round pick and that, along with the fact that Wannstedt (and his power running offense) are gone apparently have convinced him that the time is right. Lewis could, I suppose, change his mind but based on the information I was given tonight, I can't really see that happening. It sounds like he is more than leaning in that direction and has already made up his mind he's gone. We know the same can be said about junior receiver Jon Baldwin, who has made it pretty clear to anyone who is paying attention that he is out the door. And the other underclassmen who is, at least considering, a jump to the NFL is fullback Henry Hynoski

and while he hasn't made up his mind, it is understandable why he is considering it given the position he plays. That's because Wannstedt's offense utilized a fullback, many college offenses don't these days and that could mean Hynoski would spend his senior season on the bench. I think his decision could come down to who is selected as coach and how they utilize a fullback.

** On a more positive note, a number of the assistant coaches have begun to land on their feet. I am told at least three of them have jobs lined up and then tonight I found out that the interim coach, Phil Bennett, will take a job as the defensive coordinator at Baylor. It will be announced either tomorrow or over the weekend after the BBVA Compass Bowl. That is a great spot for Bennett because it is close to his home - he has a house near College Station, Texas, about 50 minutes from Baylor's campus  -- and he can live at his recently built house for the first time in five years. And who knows, if a few spots open up, it could happen that a couple of the other defensive assistants end up on his staff. I say this is a positive development because the worst part of coaching changes is that people lose their jobs and it is good to see most of these guys are catching on elsewhere. Incidentally, when it all shakes out, don't be surprised to see a third Pitt assistant end up on the Rutgers staff before it is all said and done.

** I will have a lot more details about our conversation with Steve Pederson but right now I am just too tired to even try and hit all the high points.I will write about it tomorrow in an early morning blog entry.

I will say this, however, the conversation lasted about 35 minutes - we were on the phone for 38 minutes exactly - and no topic was off limits. Again, we talked for 35 minutes and left very few, if any, stones unturned, so this wasn't a quick conversation, nor was it particularly comfortable.

Bob and I grilled him about the hiring of Michael Haywood, the background checking of Haywood, the firing of Haywood, the firing of Dave Wannstedt, the new search committee, his job security - you  name it, we asked him about it.

He gave us some very honest answers, he gave us some cryptic answers and he also gave us some non-answers, but he at least was available to talk.

The one key thing he said was that there will be two rounds of interviews this time around - a first wave of candidates narrowed to a group of a couple of finalists. A lot of people have taken that to mean the search is going to drag on but I don't - I think they could do a second round of interviews at any point and have a decision by the end of that day.

I will have much more tomorrow as I continue to try and sift through all of this nonsense once again to try and determine what is real, what is fake, what is rumor mill stuff, what is imagined and, well, you get the picture.....Tongue out

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