Stoops gives his assistant vote of confidence

Updated: December 19, 2004, 3:24 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Oklahoma co-defensive coordinator Bo Pelini has interviewed with Pittsburgh athletic director Jeff Long for the Panthers' vacant head coaching job.

Pelini, a 37-year-old in his first year as an OU assistant, did not attend Saturday evening practice and did not return phone calls.

Long has also interviewed Pitt defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads and New York Giants defensive coordinator Tim Lewis in the search for a successor to Walt Harris, who became Stanford's head coach a week ago.

Some Panthers players are lobbying for Rhoads.

Long is scheduled to continue his road trip with an interview of Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh in Indianapolis. The Ravens will play the Colts on Sunday night.

Both Lewis and Cavanaugh are former Pittsburgh players. Cavanaugh -- who was the quarterback of the Tony Dorsett-led 1976 Pitt national championship team -- was a front-runner when Harris was hired in 1996, but he wanted more coaching experience before becoming a head coach.

Pelini, who is from Youngstown, Ohio, about 70 miles from Pittsburgh, has been on Long's short list since Harris' announcement.

Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said Saturday that he believes Pelini is ready for a head-coaching job.

"I think he would be excellent," Stoops said. "He has all the qualities it takes to be a great one. He's very bright. He's got a track record of success. A lot of people have a lot of experience, but he's got experience and success. He's been with a lot of excellent people.

"And on top of that, he's got the intensity and all that it takes."

Pelini has said that, if hired, he would not leave OU until after the Jan. 4 Orange Bowl.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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