Giants differ on Lewis report

Updated: December 20, 2004, 1:42 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Former Pitt All-American Sal Sunseri is latest and likely the last candidate to interview with Pittsburgh athletic director Jeff Long for the Panthers' vacant head coaching job, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Sunseri is the defensive line coach for the Carolina Panthers and was an assistant coach at Pitt from 1985 to 1992 under three different head coaches. He has the support of many alumni and boosters because of his reputation of being a top recruiter and a loyal Pitt guy.

He often has referred to the Pitt job as his dream job.

After Long meets with Sunseri he is expected to return to Pitt and meet with Chancellor Mark Nordenberg and make a recommendation. If everything goes according to plan, a new coach could be introduced at a news conference by the middle of the week.

The front-runner for the job is Oklahoma co-defensive coordinator Bo Pelini, who already has interviewed.

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, Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh 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.

The Giants disagree with Pitt on what took place with Lewis, characterizing it as more a gauge of interest rather than an interview.

Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi said that if anyone asked to interview Lewis, it would be up to coach Tom Coughlin to grant permission before the end of the season.

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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