RALEIGH - While Bill Cowher was holding top-secret discussions with officials from the Washington Redskins, Carolina Panthers and Cleveland Browns, a parallel battle for his services has been brewing. Cowher's agent has been involved in secret talks with the Vatican concerning the vacant Bishop's position at the Diocese of Pittsburgh. The agent then met with the Presbyterian Church (USA) regarding its top Pittsburgh post. Cowher also is under consideration by the conservative Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC), which is a new league being formed by players from the mainstream Presbyterian league.

Cowher's infallibility is the main attraction for the Catholics, while the rival Presbyterian organizations just want to make each other look bad.

Speculation that Cowher is leaning toward the Archbishop position was fueled by his recent appearance on the Mother Angelica program. This has raised the hopes of local Catholics, including the Rooney family. However the Presbyterians have not finalized their offer and the Browns are betting that football, as well as the opportunity to point out to the Rooneys just how valuable his services are, will prove to be more alluring to the coach than eternal salvation.