Rhoads has players' support as list evolves

Updated: December 17, 2004, 7:51 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads is emerging as a front-runner for the head coaching job at Pittsburgh, according to newspaper reports.

Rhoads, who has received strong support from the players, interviewed for the job Thursday morning, according to a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review report. Also Thursday, two much-discussed candidates left the list -- recent Miami Dolphins coach Dave Wannstedt and current Houston Texans assistant Jon Hoke.

Wannstedt, also a former Chicago Bears coach, decided not to seek the job at Pitt, the school where he played and once was an assistant coach. And, although Hoke is a longtime friend of athletic director Jeff Long and had been contacted, the school appears to be going in another direction, the Tribune-Review reported.

Oklahoma co-defensive coordinator Bo Pelini, who knows the Pitt AD from Long's tenure as the Sooners' senior associate AD, also is a strong candidate to succeed Walt Harris, but he said his focus right now is on the Orange Bowl.

Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh, a former Pitt quarterback, also has been contacted by Long, according to the Tribune-Review. Also, Carolina Panthers defensive line coach Sal Sunseri, a former All-American linebacker at Pitt and one-time assistant coach there, also is reported to be interested in the job.

"I'm not going anywhere," Pelini told reporters after practice Thursday night in Oklahoma. "I'll be on the sideline coaching against USC. I don't deal with hypotheticals."

The Sooners will face the Trojans in the national championship game on Jan. 4.

Pelini -- a former assistant coach with Nebraska as well as with the NFL's 49ers, Patriots and Packers -- did not say what he would do if Pitt wanted to interview him or offered him the job.

Information from ESPN.com senior NFL writer Len Pasquarelli and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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