By ARNIE STAPLETON
AP Pro Football Writer
DENVER — The Broncos confirmed Sunday that interim coach Jack Del Rio interviewed for the head coaching job at Southern California during Denver’s bye week.
Fox Sports first reported Del Rio’s interview with his alma mater.
USC Athletic Director Pat Haden reached out to Broncos executive vice president John Elway for permission to speak with Denver’s defensive coordinator at a time that was convenient for the Broncos.
The Broncos were impressed by Haden’s approach because college administrators are under no obligation to seek permission from NFL teams before reaching out to their coaches.
Del Rio interviewed for the Trojans’ job Nov. 1.
The next day, Broncos coach John Fox fell ill while golfing in North Carolina and his doctors determined he needed to move up his scheduled heart surgery.
Del Rio, who went 69-73 in eight-plus seasons as head coach in Jacksonville from 2003-11, was promoted to the interim role with the Broncos and won his debut last week at San Diego, 28-20.
He could be busy coaching the Broncos into February. Cardiologists and heart surgeons say recovery from aortic valve replacement and its arduous cardio rehab can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.
Del Rio has steadfastly declined to publicly discuss any possible interest he might have in returning to USC, where he starred as a linebacker in the early 1980s, earned consensus All-America honors as a senior and was named co-MVP of the 1985 Rose Bowl.
USC fired Lane Kiffin earlier this season and Ed Orgeron immediately returned fun to a dour program — and wins, none bigger than a 20-17 win over powerful Stanford on Saturday night. It was Orgeron’s fifth win since stepping in for Kiffin in late September.
One thing’s for sure: Del Rio isn’t going anywhere before the Broncos’ season is over.
If the Trojans and Del Rio want each other — and neither party has indicated that, at least publicly, so far — USC would have to wait for him to fulfill his contractual obligations to the Broncos, which expire after the Super Bowl.
Universities have hired professional coaches before and allowed them to fulfill their NFL responsibilities, such as Notre Dame did with Charlie Weis when he was the New England Patriots’ offensive coordinator.
It’s also important to remember that Del Rio has spent 17 seasons as a coach in the NFL following 11 seasons as an NFL linebacker.
And if the Broncos do well under his watch, there’s no shortage of NFL owners that surely will be jockeying to interview him for their own vacancies.