Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson recently addressed the state of Pitt's football program. His comments per the Trib were fairly generic, but still worth noting:
Pederson said he is pleased with the state of the program, which is 18-19 under coach Paul Chryst since he was hired after the 2011 season.
"Everybody would like to win every game," he said. "Building a program takes time, especially if you do it the right way.
"That's what I asked (Chryst) to do, build a solid program. We are in the process of doing that."
Pederson is correct in that building a program takes time. Teams have often experienced quick turnarounds in terms of success with the hiring of a new coach (i.e. see Todd Graham at Arizona State, for example). But in terms of building a program and sustaining it, it's generally not something quickly achieved.
The problem for many is that the Panthers' program appears to be no better off in three seasons. The ACC has provided a financial boost to the athletics department as a whole, and the football program is reaping some of the benefits with improved facilities. In terms of actual winning on the field, though, things have been at a standstill ever since the hiring of Todd Graham and later, Paul Chryst.
Fans have been voicing their opinion via attendance. Per that Trib article, the Syracuse game last weekend had the lowest attendance mark since Dave Wannstedt was still on the sidelines.
The Panthers have landed some big-time recruits, but the classes overall have still had a bit of a meh feel. The team will either finish this year's regular season at 6-6 or 5-7 and this will mark the fourth consecutive season the Panthers haven't topped .500 prior to a bowl game. Part of the reason Dave Wannstedt was dismissed was his inability to win a conference title. Not only has Pitt failed to do so since he left, they've not even been close.
If we're being realistic here, you can actually make an easy argument that the football program is worse off now than it was four years ago. At least when Graham and Chryst were hired, optimism is something that can be peddled to fans as a reason to care. Three years into the Chryst reign, however, that gets harder and harder to sell to not only fans, but also recruits who see the direction of the program. After all, how long can he continue to sell recruits on Pitt's bright future when the team hasn't taken even a small step forward by achieving a single year (regular season) over .500? On the surface, this is starting to have the appearance of a program stuck in quicksand.
To be fair to Chryst, I continue to stand by the statement that he needs four years. This year's team was still obscenely young and despite a weak schedule, Chryst still should be given another season. But time is surely not on his side and without seeing any results next year, calls for his job will get even louder.
Pederson's job by default is to sell optimism for the athletics programs. His statements, which are essentially preaching more patience, are understandable given his job description. But until Pitt takes even a small step forward in terms of having a regular season above .500, it's difficult to feel all that certain about the future.
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