PITTSBURGH -- Former Miami Dolphins and Chicago Bears coach Dave Wannstedt decided Thursday not to seek the coaching job at Pittsburgh, the school
where he played and once was an assistant coach.
Wannstedt, who resigned as the Dolphins' coach Nov. 9 after a 1-8 start, was believed to be the front-runner to succeed Walt Harris at Pitt. But
Wannstedt called Pittsburgh athletic director Jeff Long on Thursday morning and pulled his name out of consideration.
"As much as I appreciate everything that Jeff and Mark (Nordenberg, Pitt's chancellor) are doing and the opportunity there -- everybody knows how I
believe in Pitt and love the city -- the timing just wasn't right," Wannstedt told the Associated Press in a telephone interview.
Pitt wants to hire a coach as soon as possible to replace Harris, and Wannstedt wasn't prepared to make a decision so quickly. The key weeks of the
recruiting season follow the holidays, and Pitt wants a coach in place by then.
Wannstedt said that despite reports he wants to take a year off from football, he has not decided against coaching next fall, but isn't ready to
accept a job right now.
"I'm not ruling anything out, and my mind-set has not changed, it's the timing," said Wannstedt, who will work at least two games as a Fox NFL
analyst. "I'm going to keep my football options open. NFL or college, I'm really not closing the door on anything."
Asked if he would assist Pitt in its search, Wannstedt said he planned to talk to Long again Thursday to make some suggestions. Wannstedt is a
longtime friend of Nordenberg, and their relationship was believed to be one of the reasons Wannstedt was such a strong candidate at Pitt.
"The program is heading in the right direction, but they need to get moving forward and capitalize on the year they've had and take advantage of that,
and I just couldn't make it fit right now," he said.
Long is serving as a one-member search committee as Pitt seeks to replace Harris, who was allowed to leave for Stanford with two years left on his
contract despite a 25-12 record the past three seasons.
The No. 19 Panthers (8-3) play No. 5 Utah (11-0) in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 1 after unexpectedly earning the Big East Conference's guaranteed BCS bowl
slot by winning six of their final seven games.
Even with Wannstedt out of the mix, Long is still expected to interview at least three candidates.
Houston Texans assistant Jon Hoke and Oklahoma co-defensive coordinator Bo Pelini are expected to talk with Long, while Pitt defensive coordinator
Paul Rhoads also is interested in the job.
Hoke is a lifelong friend of Long's and the two played football together at Fairmont East High School in Kettering, Ohio. Hoke was the assistant head
coach and defensive coordinator at Florida under Steve Spurrier and now coaches the Texans' defensive backs. He turned down a chance to rejoin
Spurrier at South Carolina.
Pelini is a former assistant coach with the 49ers, Patriots and Packers and was a Nebraska assistant last year before moving to Oklahoma, where Long
was the senior associate AD before being hired by Pitt in May 2003.
Long said he will make no comments on the search until Pitt introduces its next coach.