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Lofton interviews for Raiders job

ALAMEDA, Calif. (Jan. 12, 2006) -- Hall of Fame receiver James Lofton interviewed with the Oakland Raiders, the second person in as many days brought in to discuss the team's head-coaching vacancy.

The Raiders also were working to set up a meeting with Fresno State coach Pat Hill, who on Jan. 11 issued a statement through the school giving NFL teams a 10-day window in which to interview him but didn't specify when it began or would end.

Lofton, who has been the San Diego Chargers' receivers coach for four seasons, is the first minority candidate to meet with owner Al Davis and his top personnel man, Michael Lombardi.

Oakland officials interviewed Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Al Saunders at team headquarters Jan. 11 as a potential successor to Norv Turner, who was fired Jan. 3 after back-to-back losing seasons. The Raiders lost their final six games this season and failed to beat an AFC West opponent for the first time since Davis came aboard in 1963 to coach and eventually own the team.

The 49-year-old Lofton, a native Californian, was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2003.

Lofton played 17 NFL seasons, including 1987-88 for the Los Angeles Raiders. He was an eight-time Pro Bowl selection and caught 764 passes for 14,004 yards and 75 touchdowns in his career.

Under NFL rules, teams must interview at least one minority candidate.

Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney, chairman of the NFL's diversity committee, was critical when the Detroit Lions hired coach Steve Mariucci before the 2003 season without interviewing any minority candidates. Lions president Matt Millen was subsequently fined $200,000 by the league.

The interviews must be face-to-face, not by telephone.

Hill, a former assistant under Bill Belichick in Cleveland, was interviewed by the Houston Texans on Jan. 9 and the New Orleans Saints and St. Louis Rams reportedly also have contacted him. He wouldn't say which teams are courting him.

"Because of the success we've had at Fresno State, I have been contacted by several NFL teams regarding their head coaching openings," he said. "I'm not going to name the teams, out of respect, but only to say there is genuine interest."

The 54-year-old Hill, who recently finished his ninth season leading the Bulldogs, worked with Lombardi in Cleveland. Hill joined the Browns in 1992 and stayed five seasons, coaching tight ends and offensive line along with working in the personnel department evaluating players.

Hill has gone 72-43 with seven bowl berths during his tenure at Fresno State. The Bulldogs (8-5) lost their final four games this season, blowing the chance for Hill's first outright WAC championship and later losing to underdog Tulsa in the Liberty Bowl.

The Associated Press News Service

Copyright 2006, The Associated Press, All Rights Reserved

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