The three finalists Kennedy confirmed on Monday are:

By Allen Moff Record-Courier sports writer Published:

The three finalists Kennedy confirmed on Monday are: Bill Conley, recruiting coordinator/tight ends coach at Ohio State; Dean Pees, defensive coordinator/inside linebackers coach at Michigan State; and Charlie Molnar, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks/wide receivers coach at Kent State.

Kennedy said the other two candidates are head coaches that he has interviewed, but he had not officially received word that they were interested and therefore could not name them at this time.

"I should know the status of the other two candidates by Wednesday," said Kennedy. "If they decide they are not interested, I'm very comfortable with the three candidates I've already named."

Pees is currently in his third year as a Spartans assistant under head coach Nick Saban, who played on Kent State's 1972 Mid-American Conference championship team. A year ago, Pees' defense ranked 19th nationally, and this year, the Spartans are allowing just 299.9 yards and 17.2 points per game.

Pees, who graduated from Bowling Green in 1971, has extensive MAC ties. Before spending the 1994 season as the secondary coach at Notre Dame, he served a four-year stint as defensive coordinator at Toledo (under Saban in 1990). His 1992 unit led the MAC in scoring, rushing and total defense.

Pees also spent four years as defensive coordinator and secondary coach at Miami of Ohio (1983-86).

Conley, a Columbus native and 1972 OSU grad, is in his seventh year at Ohio State under head coach John Cooper. After coaching defensive ends the past five years, he switched to tight ends in '97 and continues to lead the Buckeyes' highly-successful recruiting efforts.

Conley was a reserve offensive lineman for the Buckeyes under Woody Hayes, then fashioned a 78-39 record as an Ohio high school coach at three different schools for 12 years. He then moved on to the collegiate level, coaching linebackers at Ohio State from 1984-87. During that time, he helped develop such players as Chris Spielman and Pepper Johnson.

Conley returned to the high school level from 1988-90, serving as head coach at Dublin before returning to Ohio State as the recruiting coordinator in 1991.

Molnar was a member of previous Kent State head coach Jim Corrigall's first staff in 1994. He served as quarterbacks coach for two years before taking over as offensive coordinator a year ago.

In two years under Molnar's tutelage, the Flashes have virtually rewritten the school's offensive record books. In his first year, Kent State nearly doubled its point production from the 1995 season (255 points). Then in 1997, the Flashes set a new school record for points in a season (337, 30.6 points per game) and finished third in the MAC and 12th nationally in total offense (442.4 yards per game).

Kennedy would not divulge the level the other two candidates are currently coaching at, but said that they were not at the same level.

One obvious possibility is Mount Union coach Larry Kehres (Southeast H.S.), whose Purple Raiders will play in the NCAA Division III semifinals this Saturday in Alliance. The Division I-AA and II playoffs are also still underway.

Kennedy said he will conduct thorough on-campus interviews with each candidate through this weekend.

"If things continue to progress as we think they will, I should have a final announcement by the middle of next week," said Kennedy.

Kennedy said approximately 50 individuals showed interest in the job, and that he has conducted 12 off-campus interviews during the past few weeks.

"So far, it's been primarily me screening, reviewing and interviewing candidates," said Kennedy. "I have used several individuals extensively as sounding boards. I'm the point person, but I've also used ADs, commissioners, head coaches and alumni that I hold in very high regard. They've been very helpful in narrowing the search."

Kennedy said that President Carol Cartwright and representatives from the Athletic Advisory Committee and the administrative and support staffs will be involved in the on-campus interview process.

"After the interviews have been conducted, I will call one back to campus and I will then make my recommendation to the President," said Kennedy.

Kennedy said he's looking to give the new coach "at least a four-year commitment," and that his salary will be competitive with others in the MAC.

"The salary range in the MAC is from the high 70s ($70,000) to slightly over $100,000, and we have the ability to be competitive with that," said Kennedy. "And one of our concerns is upgrading some of our assistant coaches financially. Salary has not deterred any of the candidates we've been interested in as of yet.

"They all view this as a tremendous opportunity. They see the stadium improvements we've made, the excellent facilities we have, the quality of this institution and the obvious administrative support that exists, and they realize we're serious about this football program."

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