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AP source: Graham emerging as Pitt’s top choice
Question of the Day
The person spoke with The Associated Press on Monday on condition of anonymity because Pittsburgh has made no announcement about the search.
Tulsa’s players were called to an 8 p.m. EST team meeting at which Graham was expected to address his status.
Graham is the only coach known to have had two interviews with Pitt officials, and he has met with Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg _ a requirement for any finalist. Nordenberg became involved in the search after athletic director Steve Pederson’s hand-picked choice, Mike Haywood, was fired Jan. 1 following his arrest on a domestic violence charge.
Haywood was hired in mid-December, but his arrest became a national embarrassment for the university and led to a more thorough search for Pitt’s next coach.
Graham has a 36-17 record in four seasons at Tulsa, including a 10-3 record this season. He is making $1.3 million at Tulsa, about $300,000 more than Dave Wannstedt made per year as Pitt’s coach from 2005 until this season. Wannstedt was forced to resign last month.
Graham was believed to be seeking about $2 million a season to leave Tulsa. His salary could have been one reason he was bypassed during Pitt’s initial search, as Haywood was expected to make about what Wannstedt did.
While Graham grew up at Texas and was the head coach at Rice for one season, he is not unfamiliar with the Pittsburgh area. He was an assistant coach at nearby West Virginia in 2001-02, serving as co-defensive coordinator the second season.
Graham likely would drastically alter the system at Pitt, where Wannstedt employed a pro-style defense that featured a fullback and a traditional defense. Graham prefers a spread-type offense, and his defense borrows from the three-man stack employed by West Virginia.
Even if Graham takes over this week, it might be too late to salvage Pitt’s once-promising recruiting class. About two-thirds of the 18-man class recruited by Wannstedt has defected and, with only a couple of weeks remaining in this recruiting cycle, most of the top players already have committed.
Losing a recruiting class can be a setback because each of the next five Pitt teams will feel the effects not having a full class.
Even as Pitt was talking to Graham, three of the Panthers’ best players were announcing they were leaving for the NFL. Junior wide receiver Jon Baldwin, junior fullback Henry Hynoski and sophomore tailback Dion Lewis all announced Monday they would declare themselves eligible for the draft.
The 6-foot-5 Baldwin is a two-time all-Big East player who made 53 catches for 822 yards and five touchdowns this season. Lewis ran for a Pitt freshman record 1,799 yards last season and was chosen as a second-team All-American, but he had a major falloff to 1,061 yards this season.
Hynoski is leaving in part because he believes Pitt’s next coach will do away with the fullback role.
Penn State assistant coach Tom Bradley was among the first to be interviewed by Pitt, but he apparently did not have a second interview.
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