Pitt's candidate list expands quickly
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — In the five days since Pitt fired Mike Haywood, the university's coaching search has evolved into something akin to a horse race, with likely candidates jockeying for position.
Penn State defensive coordinator Tom Bradley became an unavoidable candidate when Panthers fans and Nittany Lions coach Joe Paterno lobbied for his consideration after Penn State's Outback Bowl loss on New Year's Day.
Bradley interviewed with Pitt administrators Tuesday, but other names have been tossed into the mix this week — including Tulsa coach Todd Graham, Alabama assistant and former Pitt player Sal Sunseri, Florida International coach Mario Cristobal, Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst and Florida defensive coordinator Teryl Austin.
Athletic director Steve Pederson on Thursday declined to identify candidates.
Bradley, who was not interviewed before Pitt hired Haywood, started thinking about the vacancy Saturday shortly after the Nittany Lions lost to Florida, when reporters told him Haywood had been fired.
Bradley has spent the past 32 years at Penn State. He refuted a local television report Wednesday night that he was set to sign a deal and repeated that denial yesterday, although his future remains uncertain. He was scheduled to meet with UConn administrators today about their opening, according to the Hartford Courant, but the newspaper reported last night that the meeting was put on hold.
Graham led the Golden Hurricanes to a 10-3 mark this season and a win over No. 24 Hawaii in the Hawaii Bowl. Tulsa's offense scored more than 40 points seven times in 2010 — and more than 50 four times.
Online blogs and posts to the social-networking site Twitter reported differing opinions of Graham's candidacy yesterday. His wife, though, tweeted that her husband had not traveled to Atlanta to interview with Pitt officials.
Sunseri, a former All-America linebacker at Pitt, is the father of Panthers quarterback Tino Sunseri. He has spent the past two seasons as the associate head coach/linebackers under Nick Saban.
Cristobal, who helped Miami win national championships in 1989 and 1991, is 16-33 in four seasons at FIU. But he led the Golden Panthers to a 7-6 record in 2010, including a 34-32 win over Toledo in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl.
Chryst, who just completed his sixth season at Wisconsin, helped the Badgers to the Rose Bowl. He was credited with putting together an offense that has averaged 30.5 points per game the past five seasons. Chryst, like Bradley, is considered a solid recruiter. He also is in the mix for the offensive coordinator job at Texas.
Teryl Austin, 45, a four-year letterman and three-year starter in the secondary at Pitt from 1984-87, spent the past season as defensive coordinator at Florida. The Gators ranked 10th nationally in total defense, allowing 306.5 yards per game, and among the top 20 in pass defense, pass efficiency defense, interceptions and turnovers.
Austin spent the previous six seasons in the NFL as a secondary coach, with the Seattle Seahawks (2003-06) and Arizona Cardinals (2007-09).
Prior to that Austin was the defensive backs coach under Lloyd Carr at Michigan from 1999 to '02, where the Sharon native earned a reputation as a savvy recruiter by helping the Wolverines sign coveted Western Pennsylvania standouts Steve Breaston and Ryan Mundy of Woodland Hills, Scott McClintock of Belle Vernon and Marlin Jackson of Sharon.