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Fickell interested in Pitt job

| Saturday, Dec. 17, 2011

Ohio State interim football coach Luke Fickell said Friday he has spoken to a Pitt official about the school's head coaching vacancy and is interested in the job.

"Hey, it's a dream of mine (to be a head coach)," he told the Tribune-Review. "Someday, when it's right."

Fickell, 38, is one of three known candidates expected to speak to Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson this weekend. The others are Florida International coach Mario Cristobal and Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst. Both were considered last year before Pitt hired Todd Graham.

Fickell said he was contacted by Pitt through mutual acquaintances, but he did not describe the conversation as an interview. A formal interview has not been scheduled, he said, and he has not been offered the job.

"Some people you know, know some people there," he said. "I don't know how serious they are."

But Fickell does have knowledge of Pitt's program and its recruiting base in Western Pennsylvania.

"They have great history," he said. "They have great tradition. They have a great high school state for football."

Fickell attended the PIAA Class AAA championship game in Hershey with new Ohio State coach Urban Meyer and linebackers coach Mike Vrabel to see five-star defensive end Noah Spence of Bishop McDevitt.

Fickell was named interim coach at Ohio State, his alma mater, after Jim Tressel resigned in the wake of Buckeyes players' receiving improper benefits. He led Ohio State to a 6-6 record -- its first nonwinning season since 1999 -- and a berth in the Gator Bowl on Jan. 2 against Florida. He will remain interim coach through the bowl game and has been offered a job as co-defensive coordinator on Meyer's staff.

Fickell said he wasn't sure when he would next speak with Pitt officials.

"I really don't know how this whole thing works," he said. "Obviously, it's a touchy subject over there how it (Graham's resignation) happened. Things happen fast."

Graham resigned as Pitt coach Tuesday night to accept the same job at Arizona State.

Cristobal, 41, could open recruiting avenues for Pitt stretching from Western Pennsylvania to Miami. His defensive coordinator is former Central Catholic linebacker and assistant coach Todd Orlando, whose family lives in Squirrel Hill.

"He is a very, very, very dedicated coach and recruiter," Central Catholic coach Terry Totten said of Orlando.

Cristobal has been the head coach at Florida International, a Sun Belt Conference school in Miami, since 2007. FIU started its football program in 2002 and began Division I play two years later.

Florida International (8-4) has a 24-37 record in five seasons under Christobal and play Marshall on Tuesday in the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl.

Chryst, 46, has been Big Ten-champion Wisconsin's offensive coordinator since 2006, leading the Badgers' running game to top-15 national rankings each of the past four seasons. He served Oregon State in the same capacity from 2003-05. The Beavers were the first school to have a 4,000-yard quarterback, 1,500-yard rusher and two 1,000-yard receivers in the same season (2003).

Paul Rhoads, who was considered a candidate, signed a 10-year contract extension at Iowa State, school officials announced yesterday. Rhoads, an Iowa native, was Pitt's defensive coordinator under Walt Harris.

Pederson, who was out of town yesterday, has said there is no timetable for naming a new coach but is expected to do so before the Panthers play SMU in the BBVA Compass Bowl on Jan. 7.

Note: Dennis Erickson -- not Graham -- will coach the Sun Devils when they play Boise State on Thursday in the Las Vegas Bowl. Arizona State fired Erickson last month.

Additional Information:

Voytik remains committed

Pitt quarterback recruit Chad Voytik of Cleveland (Tenn.) High has reaffirmed his commitment to Pitt, and he said several others remain on board.

'We have a powerful class, and we felt that if we stuck together we would do what we want to do under any coaching staff,' he said.

Voytik said he has spoken to Hopewell's Rushel Shell, Fox Chapel's Adam Bisnowaty, Adam Pankey of Hamilton (Ohio), and Chris and Demitrious Davis of Austintown Fitch (Ohio).

Voytik also tweeted the following: 'Todd Graham can take Penni to ASU, but he can't take my teammates or my future with him too. Coach, you will regret this.'

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