Well, after a little bit of speculation and more than a few calls for his head, Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt has resigned (or been 'forced out', depending on what you necessarily believe).
Look, I've made no bones about it - I think Wannstedt earned another season. Had the team won eight games the past two seasons before this one, I think it would have been fine to let him go. But he won 19 games during that stretch - the team's most success in about 30 years. The team has a chance to get to eight wins this season, and if that happens, to let go of a coach that averages nine wins over three seasons is a bit foolish to me.
But I'm not going to kick and scream over this move. I understand that Pitt wants more. That the fans want more. I know I do. But the fact is that Wannstedt very clearly had the program turned around. Yes, he started slowly, but he improved recruiting and a couple of seasons later had more success than any other coach at Pitt since it's golden era. Disagree with this statement all you wish, but Wannstedt was essentially fired for one mediocre season in the past three.
And let's remember, it was a mediocre season, not a bad one. If Pitt gets to eight wins, 8-5 is not a horrible year by any stretch. Problem is that Pitt's expectations far exceeded reality. And when that happens, look out. Earlier this season I tried to hint over at SB Nation Pittsburgh that Pitt would not have the breakout year people were looking for. The team had pretty good talent and a couple of very good pieces. But not enough to contend for a national championship. So when that happened, Wannstedt took the blame.
This is by no means an excuse-making article for Dave. The team clearly should have had enough to win a fairly week conference this season. But in the grand scheme of things, like I've mentioned on this site time and again, Wannstedt didn't give up the UConn punt return. If Pitt doesn't give up that play, they're likely headed to the BCS and we're not having this discussion. So that's why I disagree with this decision. If Pitt were headed in a different direction anyway, that's one thing. But you can argue this season essentially came down to one play, on special teams no less. Is that a reason to fire a coach? Eh, not really.
If you were one of the Dave bashers before this season, then you likely don't agree with any of this. But the fact is that if Pitt wins that game, they win the conference.
Another issue I have with this firing is the team is almost assuredly going to regress in some way. Whether that's the loss of a top recruit (or more than one), whether that's not taking a step forward over the next few seasons while a new coach comes in, replaces the system, and recruits his own way, the team is (whether you want to believe it or not) in somewhat of a rebuilding mode. And the problem is that if Pitt doesn't win right away, you can't get rid of a new coach for at least a few seasons because you've got to give him some time. It's essentially like drafting a QB - it can set your team back five seasons - one while he sits on the bench, two to see what you've got, and two to prepare another QB if that one doesn't work out.
I see the wheels churning in your heads - no, fear of missing is no reason not to make a coaching change. But the fact is that if you miss, it's going to take a few years to get back on track.
I wasn't for giving Wannstedt several more seasons, but I think that after two pretty good seasons (again, better than anyone had done in about 30 years), he deserved a little more than to be let go after a mediocre one.