As we turn the page to 2011, I present my top 5 moments in Pitt sports for 2010. In my mind, these events are the most notable of the year, both positive and negative. Enjoy.
Defensive end Jabaal Sheard started the 2010 Pitt football season with a bang--literally--when he sent 27 year old Edward Parker flying threw a glass door in a South Side fight on July 18. After shattering the door with Parker's body, Sheard continued to inexorably pummel his victim, even once police arrived and attempted to forcibly remove Sheard from the brawl. After pleading guilty to disorderly conduct and being subjected to "internal discipline and accountability", he was reinstated before the season began. Sheard went on to have a monster year, compiling 52 tackles, nine sacks, and four forced fumbles. He was named an All-American and Big East Defensive Player of the Year.
4. Ashton Gibbs Buzzer Beater vs. Providence
On March 4, with the Panthers trailing Providence by one point at home, Ashton Gibbs got the ball with 3.5 seconds remaining and lasered a magical half-court shot to win the game 73-71 at the buzzer. The Oakland Zoo exploded with excitement as the win clinched a double-bye for Pitt in the Big East Tournament. Despite being picked to finish ninth in the Big East, Pitt went on to finish the season at 25-9 and second in the conference.
3. Dave Wannstedt Fired
After six seasons at the helm and far too many embarrassing losses, head coach Dave Wannstedt was shown the door on December 7 by athletic director Steve Pederson. In a year where Pitt was the overwhelming favorite to win the weak Big East, Wannstedt's team was plagued by off-the-field incidents and sloppy, undisciplined play, and suffered humiliating national TV losses to Miami, Notre Dame, Connecticut, and WVU. The combination of it all was just too much to save Wannstedt. During his six years at Pitt, he compiled a 42-31 record and failed to ever advance to a BCS bowl. For the time being, he will remain in Pitt's athletic department in the nebulous role of "Special Assistant to the Athletic Director".
2. Jamie Dixon Gets 200th Win
On December 22, Pitt defeated American 61-46 to get head coach Jamie Dixon his 200th career victory. Only 11 other coaches in NCAA history have achieved the 200-win mark faster. In eight seasons as head coach, Dixon has led Pitt to a 201-55 record, seven straight NCAA tournament appearances, and two Big East championships. He was named the Naismith College Coach of the Year in 2009 and the Jim Phelan National Coach of the Year in 2010. Dixon and the Panthers are off to a 13-1 start this year.
1. Mike Haywood Hired as Head Football Coach
MAC Coach of the Year, Mike Haywood, was hired as Pitt's new head football coach on December 16. In two seasons at Miami University, he compiled a 10-15 record, but oversaw the transformation of the program from 1-11 in 2009 to 9-4 in 2010. Haywood, known as a strong disciplinarian, spent time at Texas, LSU, and his alma mater, Notre Dame, before taking over at Miami. At his introductory press conference, Haywood boldly referenced Freddy Krueger, and said his Pitt teams would be like the deranged killer: "dangerous and relentless."
Here's to a successful and happy year in 2011. Happy New Year, and Hail to Pitt!