A quick thanks to fellow SB Nation Pittsburgh writer Jeff for pointing this out, but the first shot has officially been fired in the recruiting/decommitment war. LB Ben Kline, who had committed to Pitt, but desired by Penn State and Michigan is the first to switch sides.
As reported by Lions247.com, Kline says Wannstedt's departure was the final reason for him switching his commitment to Penn State:
My parents and I sat down today and I talked to my coach and I'm going to go to Penn State," he said Wednesday evening. "I really enjoyed my visit this weekend, I was up there, I really liked everything and all the coaches and the whole situation.
"I was weighing my options and everything and trying to figure out everything that I wanted to do. Obviously with Coach Wannstedt being let go, I love those guys out there and everything and I really feel for them, but once that all happened it just kind of solidified that Penn State was the place for me."
And as I wrote over at the SB Nation Pittsburgh site earlier today, others are wavering in their commitment to Pitt.
Look, we all knew this could/would happen. But as I mentioned in that post, this situation could be worse than a typical one when a coach leaves a team. Wannstedt has always been an incredible recruiter and he builds good relationships with kids. Even when Pitt was having zero success, he was still able to magically lure five-star recruits to the school. So he's always been a big reason why recruits come to Pitt.
Recruiting losses are obviously not the only reason you should avoid firing a coach. If that were so, no one would ever get canned. But the problem with this situation is that Pitt had finally gotten to the point where they were having a little bit of on-field success and had started to move east into recruiting territory strictly considered Penn State's. They landed kids in that area and just when they're starting to make progress, they fire the coach. So now, Pitt is, in a way, starting over in that sense.
That's not to say Pitt can't/won't get more kids in that territory. It still (for now) has secondary coach Jeff Hafley who reeled in many of those commitments. But this year's recruiting class is looking like it could take some big losses and Wannstedt's departure will be a big reason for that.