Wannstedt, Pelini, Hoke to be interviewed

Updated: December 16, 2004, 12:16 PM ET
Associated Press

PITTSBURGH -- Pittsburgh athletic director Jeff Long plans to interview at least three candidates to replace football coach Walt Harris.

Former Miami Dolphins coach Dave Wannstedt, Houston Texans assistant Jon Hoke and Oklahoma co-defensive coordinator Bo Pelini are expected to talk with Long, while Pitt defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads also is interested in the job.

"I'm excited about the limited opportunity I've had to see the kind of people expressing interest in the program," Long said, "so I'm very confident we will land a leader that will bring our program to greater heights."

Rhoads is being pushed by some of the Panthers' players before they leave for the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 1 against No. 5 Utah.

Wannstedt, a former Pitt player and assistant, is the best known of the group but has not said if he wants to coach again so soon. He is currently working as an analyst on Fox's NFL games after stepping down as Miami's coach last month.

Wannstedt has not returned phone calls from The Associated Press regarding the Pitt job.

Hoke is a lifelong friend of Long's and the two played football together at Fairmont East High School in Kettering, Ohio. Hoke was the assistant head coach and defensive coordinator at Florida under Steve Spurrier and now coaches the Texans' defensive backs. He turned down a chance to rejoin Spurrier at South Carolina.

"I've just had conversations with them. I spoke with Jeff twice, and I think I'll have to leave it at that," Hoke said Wednesday. "Obviously, it's flattering, but there's a process they have to go through. There's not a lot more I can say. It is exciting and it's real nice to be considered."

Pelini is a former assistant coach with the 49ers, Patriots and Packers before moving to Oklahoma, where Long was the senior associate AD before being hired by Pitt in May 2003.

"I will not comment on the search while the search is going on," Long said. "The next time you will hear from me on the search is when we introduce the next football coach here at Pitt."

Harris left Pitt after eight seasons to become Stanford's coach. Harris made the move after the school failed to extend his contract, which ran through the 2006 season.

Pitt will appear in a bowl for the fifth consecutive season under Harris and the sixth time in eight seasons. The Panthers are 25-12 the last three seasons, their best such stretch since they were 33-3 from 1979-81 under coach Jackie Sherrill.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press