BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Pitt officials met with Tulsa coach Todd Graham for a second time yesterday, according to sources, meaning he has emerged as a serious candidate to become Pitt's next head coach.
That meeting apparently marked the first time any candidate in the second round of the search for Dave Wannstedt's replacement as football coach has met with Pitt Chancellor Mark Nordenberg. Graham and Penn State defensive coordinator Tom Bradley appear to be the top two candidates at this point, but the search is scheduled to continue for at least one more day.
Pitt has at least two more interviews scheduled Sunday with former Pitt defensive back Teryl Austin, most recently the defensive coordinator at Florida, and Greg Roman, the assistant head coach at Stanford.
Pitt also interviewed Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster Friday night at an undisclosed location in Pittsburgh. The Hokies' Foster, 51, is one of the most well-respected defensive minds in college football but has never been a head coach and has turned down several jobs in recent years.
Meanwhile, Pitt assistant head coach and defensive line coach Greg Gattuso has landed a similar job on Randy Edsall's staff at Maryland, and Baylor officially announced the hiring of Pitt interim head coach Phil Bennett, who will serve as the Bears' defensive coordinator.
Austin, a Sharon native, is an intriguing candidate because of his mix of NFL and college experience and success as a recruiter.
He was an assistant coach at Michigan from 1999- 2002 and was a big reason the Wolverines recruited such local high school players as Woodland Hills stars Steve Breaston and Ryan Mundy.
Roman, a native of New Jersey and 1993 graduate of John Carroll University, was not the offensive coordinator at Stanford but had his role increased in the game-planning and play-calling this season and is considered one of the hot young assistant coaches.
He has spent the past two seasons at Stanford after working in the NFL with the Baltimore Ravens, Houston Texans and Carolina Panthers.
Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson prefers an offensive-minded coach and has told several people around him he is intrigued by Stanford's offense. Roman also fits the profile -- a young, up-and-comer with a bright football mind -- of the coach he would like to hire.
Graham was one of the original candidates in Pitt's first search and one of five coaches who met with Pederson in December. Pederson settled on Miami (Ohio) coach Michael Haywood, who was fired less than three weeks after he was hired because he was arrested for domestic battery.
Graham got back in the mix after Haywood was fired and has had three meetings with Pitt in the past five weeks.
The major sticking point with Graham likely would be salary. His total compensation is $1.3 million at Tulsa, which means Pitt likely would have to pay him at least $1.6 million to make it worth his while to leave. The price tag may have increased Friday -- for both Graham and Roman -- when Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh was named coach of the NFL's San Francisco 49ers, leaving the Cardinal with a coaching vacancy.
Graham and Roman likely will be candidates for the Stanford job, at least according to published reports, and, if that happens, Pitt would have to act fast to avoid a bidding war.
Meanwhile, they could soon find themselves in a bidding war for Bradley, as he is scheduled to meet with Connecticut officials tomorrow at an undisclosed location.
Bradley has been considered the leading candidate since he interviewed Tuesday with Pitt, but there appears to be some disagreement among the key members of the search committee about his viability. He still is considered the leading candidate, but, as of late afternoon, no one had been offered the job.
"I'm kind of disappointed with some members of your profession," Bradley told the Philadelphia Daily News when he was asked about the erroneous television report of his hiring Wednesday night. "Nothing is happening right now, OK? I've lost respect for people who were in such a hurry to get something first, rather than to get it right. It's done more harm than good."
Bradley was in State College yesterday and did some recruiting for the Nittany Lions as signing day is less than a month away.
Paul Zeise: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1720.