There had been some previous rumbles about a potential Jamie Dixon departure that we mostly ignored around here. But on Sunday, according to CBS Sports' Gary Parrish, the idea that Dixon could leave after this year is a real possibility.
According to his report, TCU (his alma mater for the few people out there that might not know the connection) has not only made an offer, but the Pitt head coach is considering it for a couple of reasons:
There are several reasons, sources said, for Dixon to make the move -- the most obvious of which is that Dixon has reached the point where some Pitt fans don't appreciate the fact that he's made 11 NCAA Tournaments in 13 seasons as much as they focus on the fact that he's only guided the Panthers to the Sweet 16 twice. Beyond that, the chancellor and athletic director who hired Dixon are no longer in place. Beyond that, the Pitt job became a much tougher job when the school moved out of the Big East and into the ACC.
TCU fired its head coach a Trent Johnson a week ago.
We'll see where this goes. Dixon has been approached so many times in the past and it's never led anywhere. Dixon back on the sidelines at Pitt is still beyond a real possibility and this is the ultimate wait and see scenario. But to Parrish's point, there is a contingent of fans that have been vocal here and on social media that aren't happy with the job he's done and that demoralizing loss against Wisconsin in the NCAA Tournament didn't help matters.
But TCU? As in the Horned Frogs?
Leaving for TCU, while a fresh start, is hardly a great job in the grand scheme of things. It would be like starting completely over in trying to compete in the Big 12. The school did win 18 games two years ago, but has had losing seasons in three of the past four seasons. This year, they won only two conference games. The Parrish article cites the difficulty of competing in the ACC but while Dixon's current conference is better, building TCU in the midst of Kansas, Texas, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Iowa State, etc., would be no cakewalk. Should Dixon take the job, it wouldn't be an easy one.
Dixon's stock may be lower now with Pitt's program having taken a step back but it still is somewhat intact. However, it would be a very tough sell if he can't turn around the Horned Frogs in three or four years. Leaving to take that job would be a big risk and one that could ultimately relegate him to an even worse job if he doesn't win there.
But here's the thing. At this point, with so many early NCAA Tournament exits, I'm also not sure how many upper-tier jobs would be clamoring for a guy like Dixon, anyway. If he's to leave Pitt at all, unless he turns things around gets back to reaching Sweet 16s, it's not as if he'll have his pick of jobs. Overall, he's done a fantastic job at Pitt, but there's no doubt that the program has regressed in the past several years. I'm not saying he's leaving or should leave - but on some level if he is going, a move there makes some degree of sense given the drop off in the Pitt program lately. It certainly makes more sense now than, say, five years ago.
In the midst of all of this is athletic director Scott Barnes. He recently said while some tweaks may need to be made at the program, it didn't appear he was talking about the head coaching job. Barnes also called Dixon one of the best coaches in the country, so to think he wouldn't want him anymore would be surprising. Supporting your coach is one thing but a statement like that is another. If Pitt does decide to let Dixon go, it wouldn't appear in the slightest to be a forced situation. Sure, maybe Dixon anticipates his future classes aren't great and sees handwriting on the wall, but for now, Barnes doesn't appear to want him out.
Dixon's long-term contract is what a lot of people have talked about as a sticking point. However, in the Parrish report, it is said that TCU would be willing to take care of that situation. If the offer is true, this is Dixon's out and the contract may not be a factor.
For Dixon, this may be happening a year too soon. Pitt returns much of its core and next year, they should be in the Top 25 and have the potential to win some games in the NCAA Tournament. Next year is one that he could prove to fans that the program is again heading in the right direction. The problem for Dixon, however, would be if things don't get better? He would lose more of the fan base and the TCU job would likely off the table.
Ideally, Dixon might love to have next year's team and see what he can do with them before giving more consideration to an exit. Unfortunately, if the Parrish stuff is true, it's a decision he'll have to make now.
Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.