Posted by Adam Jacobi
Pittsburgh may not have a head coach to replace Todd Graham yet, but if two recent confirmed interviews are any indication, the Panthers are looking for a Big Ten influence as they transition from the Big East to the ACC.
According to the Columbus Dispatch on Sunday, Ohio State head coach Luke Fickell confirmed that he has interviewed with Pittsburgh in recent days, but that he has not been offered the Pitt job.
Fickell said that regardless of whether he goes to Pittsburgh, he will coach the Buckeyes in their January 2 Gator Bowl matchup against Florida before ceding the program to Urban Meyer. If Fickell does not take another job elsewhere -- he has not interviewed with any other programs -- he will take a spot on Meyer's defensive staff, though the formal title has not been announced.
Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst has also been mentioned as a candidate for some relatively high-profile head coaching gigs, including Kansas and Illinois, and Pitt has shown enough interest in Chryst to bring him in for an interview as well. As the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports, Chryst is ready to be a head coach, but he's not ready to talk about the Pittsburgh job:
Asked if he would talk about the Pittsburgh job, Chryst politely declined to comment.
Chryst, in his sixth season as UW's offensive coordinator / quarterbacks coach, has acknowledged he feels prepared to run a program.
UW athletic director Barry Alvarez has recommended Chryst to Pittsburgh officials.
A source reiterated Sunday that although Chryst is ready to be a head coach he would prefer to stay in the Midwest and will leave UW only for a perfect fit.
Still, even though Pitt has interviewed coaches from Ohio State and Wisconsin, it's every bit as possible that it goes in an entirely different direction when it comes time for the final hire. Some reports are emerging that Pitt's top candidate is actually Mario Cristobal of Florida International (whom CBSSports.com's Bruce Feldman has endorsed as a possibility for the Penn State head coaching role). Cristobal has already interviewed with Pitt as well, and the Journal-Sentinel report on Chryst also indicated that Cristobal was offered the Pitt job on Sunday. Cristobal will lead his 8-4 Golden Panthers to their second straight (and second ever) bowl game with a game against Marshall in the Beef O'Brady's Bowl on Tuesday.
Still, Pittsburgh is adamant that any reports of job offers are premature, as the athletic department released this statement on Sunday afternoon: “Contrary to Internet reports, the Pitt football head coaching position has not been offered to anyone, nor have any decisions on an offer been made. The search is still an ongoing process.”
To keep up with the Pittsburgh job search and all the other coaching hires of this offseason, check out CBSSports.com's Coaching Carousel Tracker.
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