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UPDATED: Pitt denies report that Bradley is new head coach
January 5, 2011 - Cory Giger
Tom Bradley has waited 32 years to be a head coach, and for about an hour Wednesday night, it appeared the longtime Penn State assistant's wait was over.
Bradley is, by all indications, a strong candidate to be Pitt's next head coach. The Panthers have not made a decision yet, however, despite a report by Pittsburgh TV station WTAE Wednesday night that said Bradley already had the job.
"The University of Pittsburgh has not offered its head coaching position to anyone, and no decisions about an offer have been made," Pitt released in a statement at 8:40 p.m., ending about an hour's worth of rampant Internet speculation over what losing Bradley would mean to Penn State.
Bradley interviewed Wednesday at Pitt and is seen as one of the frontrunners for the job. Alabama assistant head coach Sal Sunseri, a Pitt product and father of Panther starting quarterback Tino Sunseri, and Tulsa head coach Todd Graham also are leading candidates.
The Bradley rumors filtered down to the Pitt players in Birmingham, Ala., where they are preparing for their bowl game. A source close to the Panther program told the Mirror on Wednesday that the players had been talking about Bradley possibly being the new coach.
"Not official. The team has been told nothing," the Mirror's source said late Wednesday night.
Bradley did not return text messages sent by the Mirror on Wednesday.
Former PSU linebacker Navorro Bowman said Pitt would be "excited to have him" when asked about Bradley possibly taking over.
"I think he'll be a hell of a head coach," Bowman, now with the San Francisco 49ers, said by phone Wednesday night. "Tom's a really player-coach guy. The players will love him.
"He's been at Penn State forever," Bowman added. "We know that he's a Nittany Lion, and he's always gonna be that" even if he leaves.
Bradley has garnered widespread support in recent days from media, fans and Joe Paterno. Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney has lobbied on his behalf with Pitt, and well-known Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnists Ron Cook and Bob Smizik endorsed him for the job Wednesday.
More importantly, Pitt Chancellor Mark Nordenberg is said to be high on Bradley, and Nordenberg is heavily involved in the hiring process.
The fact that Bradley is perceived to be a "Penn State guy" hasn't hurt him so far. Pitt Athletic Director Steve Pederson said earlier this week that aspect wouldn't be a factor.
Bradley, who played at Penn State, just finished his 32nd season on the coaching staff and 11th as defensive coordinator.
"I'm sure he loves Penn State and it feels like his home," linebacker Nate Stupar said at bowl media day last month. "But if he chooses to leave to Pitt or somewhere else, it's on his terms, it's better for himself."
Bradley was interested in the Pitt opening three weeks ago but did not receive an interview before the school hired Miami of Ohio's Michael Haywood. Pederson is on record saying, at that point, he was looking for someone with head coaching experience, and Bradley has none.
Haywood was promptly fired Saturday after being arrested for domestic battery in Indiana, and because it was in front of a minor, he faces six months to three years in prison if convicted of the felony.
Bradley is widely respected for his background and character, attributes that make him an attractive choice given the embarrassment Pitt just endured.
"I think Tommy should be a strong candidate," Paterno said Sunday.
Cory Giger can be reached at 949-7031 and firstname.lastname@example.org.