Heart-breaking. Rage. Sadness. Confusion.
All these emotions pretty much sum up the Pitt fanbase now, as Pitt is once again trying to move on after a somewhat surprising coaching move.
Sure, last season, the removal of Dave Wannstedt was somewhat foreseeable. Wanny, despite being a Pitt man and liked by virtually everyone, had yet to win a Big East title and had numerous let-downs as Head Coach of the Panthers.
But this. I don't think anyone saw this coming.I keep going back to Todd Graham's press conference after he was hired. He seemed so genuine. Someone who really wanted to help bring Pitt back to how they were in the late 70's, early 80's. Every recruit who had visited Pitt spoke of how the team had a family-like atmosphere to it.
Family doesn't do this to one another.
Family doesn't leave abruptly. Family doesn't say their good-byes through text message. Family doesn't leave after only being around for 1 year.
At this point, what can Pitt do? The focus is now squarely focused on Steve Pederson. He has to get this next hire right - if he is even given the opportunity to do so. In his past few football coach hires, he:
- Fired Johnny Majors and replaced him with Walt Harris.
- Fired a very well-liked Frank Solich at Nebraska and replaced him with Bill Callahan, who proceeded to win only 1 Big 12 North title and had two losing seasons in Lincoln
- Fired Dave Wannstedt, who, despite not ever winning a conference title at Pitt, was still very liked throughout the community and had led Pitt to three consecutive bowl games and a 10-win season just one season prior
- Hired Mike Haywood, who proceeded to get arrested for felony battery charge 16 days later and, for the most part, was not liked by many of the players.
- Hired Todd Graham, who proceeded to lead Pitt to a 6-6 season before bailing out for Arizona State.
My opinion? Pederson should be fired, no question. This is the 3rd head coach hire he has seen fail while under his watch. He passed up the more desirable option last season in Penn State DC Tom Bradley (although now it's probably a good thing that Pitt didn't hire Bradley) for Graham, who, while he led Tulsa to 3 division titles in Conference USA, had not done much else.
Who should Pitt hire now to replace Graham? I would love to see Teryl Austin, the Baltimore Ravens DB coach, as the head coach. Austin grew up in Pennsylvania, played for Pitt, and is known as an excellent recruiter, with stops at Penn State, Syracuse, Wake Forest, Michigan, and Florida, as well as stops in the NFL with the Arizona Cardinals and Baltimore. Other people I think Pitt should look at are long-time DC at Virginia Tech Bud Foster and former Ohio State coach Luke Fickell. Foster is a well-respected coach who has done great things for the Hokies while Fickell, despite going 6-6 with the Buckeyes, is a young, up-and-coming head coach who has spent a lot of time recruiting Ohio and could do great things for Pitt.
You have to feel for the players, who had to go through this whole mess last season. Now, they must go through it again. The recruiting class, which was regarded as one of the top 25 in the nation, will once again be in trouble. Again, Pitt has to try and salvage this class and they have to do so quickly. Luckily, a dead period is coming up from the 19th until January 3rd. Pitt, you have until then to find someone.