Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen has emerged as the leading candidate to replace Dave Wannstedt as Pitt's next head football coach, according to sources with knowledge of the search.
Holgorsen, who was near the top of athletic director Steve Pederson's short list before the search began because of his history of producing high-powered and entertaining offenses, was contacted by Pitt late last week and interviewed with Pederson at an undisclosed location over the weekend, sources said.
He was one of the known candidates for the job -- the other being Temple coach Al Golden -- going into the weekend. However, Golden accepted the head coaching position at the University of Miami, the Florida school said in a statement released Sunday.
There had been Internet reports Sunday that Golden was offered the Pitt job. Responding to those rumors, athletic department spokesman E.J. Borghetti said Pitt had "not offered the job to anybody,"
Holgorsen is one of the hottest names among college coaching coordinators. His high-powered spread offense is productive and fun to watch.
Holgorsen, who has coached at Texas Tech and Houston, just finished his first season at Oklahoma State and the Cowboys' offense averaged 538 yards per game, the best in Division I-A. The Cowboys were also second in the NCAA national rankings in passing (355 yards per game and third in scoring (44.9 points per game).
The offense featured the Big 12 offensive player of the year and Biletnikoff award winner, wide receiver Justin Blackmon, who caught 102 passes for 1,665 yards and 18 touchdowns.
Pederson has said he would prefer the next head coach to have had head-coaching experience but he also said he was open-minded about hiring someone who has never been a head coach.
Pederson also has spoken with San Diego State coach Brady Hoke about the Panthers' coaching job and Iowa State coach and former Pitt assistant Paul Rhoads. Rhoads is not considered to be a candidate at this point.
Hoke, who has said publicly his dream job is with Michigan, recently signed a two-year extension with San Diego State but he has been a candidate for several other jobs, most recently Minnesota.
He is in his second year at San Diego State. This season he led the Aztecs to an 8-4 record and their first bowl berth since 1998. They will play Navy Dec. 23 in the Poinsettia Bowl. Prior to San Diego State, Hoke led Ball State to bowl games in 2007 and '08 and in '08 his team won the MAC West Division and finished 12-1.
Former Pitt player Teryl Austin, who is currently the defensive coordinator at Florida and, according to some reports, is a candidate for a similar position at Texas, also might receive an interview, according to sources.
And current Pitt offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti, who has expressed interest in the job, is also expected to be interviewed. Penn State defensive coordinator Tom Bradley has expressed interest in the job and has had several people contact Pederson on his behalf.
Pitt (7-5) will play Kentucky (6-6) Jan. 8 in the BBVA Compass Bowl and Wannstedt has still not decided whether he will coach the Panthers in that game.
Paul Zeise: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1720