ON THE RISE:
MIKE HAYWOOD, Miami (OH) head coach
The last time that Steve Pederson did a coaching search, it came down to his fourth choice, that being Bill Callahan at Nebraska. The first time he did a search for Pitt in 1996, he came away hiring Walt Harris--a position coach. As that particular process went along, Harris was that unknown name that came out of the blue to win the job. Callahan, coming off a stint as head coach with the Oakland Raiders, was more than an unknown, but far from the Pederson's first choice when that coaching search began.
Miami of Ohio head coach Mike Haywood seems like this search's respective unknown candidate; a third-choice, in a best-case scenario. Sources have informed Panther Digest that Haywood has interviewed, or has at least had contact. How serious that interest is, is anyone's guess. Phone calls placed to Haywood's agent were not immediately returned Monday.
On the surface, Haywood looks like a good fit, and looks like he has the qualifications that Pitt is looking for. He has two years experience as a head coach, taking a Miami team that went 1-11 last year, to an 8-4 team that captured a conference championship, and is heading to the GoDaddy.com bowl in Mobile, Alabama on January 6.
Haywood is a good recruiter, is known as a motivator and has been around some big-time programs working his way up through the ranks. He spent eight seasons (1995-2002) as running backs and special teams coach at LSU, then went to Texas for two seasons (2003-04), before spending the next four seasons (2005-08) as offensive coordinator and running backs coach at Notre Dame.
Financially, it looks like Pitt could easily pay him what he wants. Geographically, it looks like an easy move for him and his family.
FRANK CIGNETTI, JR., Pitt offensive coordinator
It is unknown one way or the other if Cignetti is going to get an interview. The more this process goes on--with names disappearing off the list every day, taking other jobs--Cignetti looks like all the stronger of a candidate. At the same time, even though Steve Pederson said at last week's press conference that he would consider all candidates--even in-house candidates--we're not getting a sense that's going to happen.
Cignetti has the support of a lot of the Pitt recruits, former players as well as several high school coaches in western Pennsylvania. That's certainly great to have. The big question is how much will Steve Pederson take that into account? This is an athletic director who has an ability to turn off all the outside noise (support), and make his own call. He'll only hire Cignetti based on one person's opinion, and that's his own.
BRADY HOKE, San Diego State head coach
Hoke appears to be the less serious candidate. Again, as reported in yesterday's Big Board, Hoke is scheduled to have some sort of contact with Pitt regarding the coaching job. Hoke is signed through 2015 with incentives that take him to $1 million a year, with a $1.5 million buyout.
Hoke has also gone on the record--or at least school officials at San Diego State have gone on the record--and admitted that Hoke's dream job is Michigan. Hoke's a great candidate for whatever the job is, based on the fact that he turned two programs--Ball State and now San Diego State--into winners. Additionally, he didn't get Ball State its first winning season until his fifth season, where he took the Cardinals to a 7-6 record and the International Bowl in 2007. In just his second year in San Diego, he turned a team that went 2-10 in 2008, into an 8-4 team in just two seasons of work. Phone calls placed to his agent were not immediately returned on Monday.
On paper, Hoke's contract is a lot to make up for, which probably takes him out of the running. If he is to have contact with Pitt this week, it looks more like it would be more of an informational meeting between him and Pitt--to get his thoughts and perspectives on who would be a good hire, or just an outsider‘s opinion of what would be good for Pitt.
JAY NORVELL, Oklahoma co-offensive coordinator
Norvell was an offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach under Bill Callahan from 2004-2006, when Pederson was at Nebraska. Norvell was recently "re-named" the co-offensive coordinator at Oklahoma. He shared those same duties with Kevin Wilson, who left to take over as head coach at Indiana. Instead of solely being given the play calling duties at Oklahoma, he remains co-offensive coordinator, now with Josh Heupel.
It's unknown how serious a candidate Norvell is.
ON THE WAY DOWN:
DANA HOLGORSEN, Oklahoma State offensive coordinator
Are there any more schools that Holgorsen's name can be tied to? Monday, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Paul Zeise reported that Holgorsen was off the list. That, combined with Colin Dunlap's report that Holgorsen could now be a candidate for a position at West Virginia, prove that it‘s time to move away from all the Holgorsen talk.
Sources have informed Panther Digest that Holgorsen's chances of moving over to Texas as their offensive coordinator grow slimmer by the day. He is still being mentioned as a candidate for Florida's offensive coordinator. On a similar note, Texas running backs coach Major Applewhite--according to those same sources--is said to be the leading candidate for that position.
Yes, I managed to tie in Pitt with Texas and Florida, two teams that have won national titles in the last five years. For Pitt fans hoping for the Panthers to get to that next level, it should at least be reassuring that a candidate like Holgorsen was in the mix. After reports from Monday, chances of landing Holgorsen are non-existent. Then again, I don't think anyone could have seen him appearing as a candidate at West Virginia on Monday. Tomorrow, the way this coaching search has gone, he could be back in the hunt for Pitt.
TERYL AUSTIN, Florida defensive coordinator
This one is the biggest shocker. Panther Digest has confirmed that Teryl Austin's agent has tried to get in contact with Pitt, to see if he can get Austin at least an interview. He has gotten little to no response. Instead, as Scout.com's Greg Powers reported on Monday night, Austin is expected to be named the defensive coordinator at Texas--again, another interesting tie between Pitt, Florida and Texas.
This isn't the first time Austin's name has been connected with the Pitt job. The timing has not worked out for whatever reason. If Austin takes the Texas job, he now has Texas, Michigan and Florida on his resume. Not too many coaches at any level--college or pro--can say the same. Despite all the places he's been, according to those sources close to him, he is still interested in that Pitt job. Once again, it looks like that ship is going to pass.
TOM BRADLEY, Penn State defensive coordinator
Bradley's name is still here, but there has been no concrete evidence either way--that Bradley is interested or that Pitt is even willing to interview him at this point. Forget about the fact that he's at Penn State--the big in-state rival, that he's been there for 32 years and it might be tough for him to head to a place like Pitt after having been in State College for so long. Neither side appears to be moving. Additionally, with a New Year's Day bowl looming, it's hard to imagine Pitt wanting to wait that long to make a hire. It's also hard to imagine Bradley missing out on that bowl game.