Wednesday, December 15, 2010

See ya later Pantherland

Well over the last few years we've had a great time doing this blog. We were there with the hope of 13-9 and the crashing of the last Backyard Brawl. We had always hoped that once Wanny was gone we'd take a step in the right direction. We were wrong.

We thought people who said "Pitt won't be able to get anyone" were out of their mind. We were wrong.

We believed that people who said "Steve Pederson and Mark Nordenberg would screw this up" didn't know what they were talking about. We were wrong.

We thought that the days of Pitt being cheap were over and that a new coach would be given market value. We were wrong.

We laughed at everyone who said that the Pitt administration does not care about football were out of touch. We were wrong.

It is clear that Pitt does not want to make the financial contribution to the program to ensure we will be successful. We will not over look things found in almost every person to find a guy to take us to the next level. We simply are an academic basketball school and nothing else.

We allowed WVU to steal our #1 candidate for the job. We are seeing Penn State start preparing a war chest to hire a top notch coach once JoePa passes. While at Pitt we see a school hiring a guy because he comes on the cheap.

I don't want to bash Mike Haywood just yet. He did turn around Miami (OH), but he was not dominant. He was a few plays away from a 7-5 record. He was known as an offensive guy, but his offense only ranked 83rd.

If Pitt wanted to make a splash we know that the top guys would command top dollar. We even had coaches begging for this job (Bradley/Austin) but did not listen to what they had to say.

This hire is not exciting. The people who threatened to not renew if Wannstedt was removed will most likely not renew now.

Pitt botched this search. It is time to realize that we are a MAC team in a BCS AQ conference. So in the next few years as Syracuse, Louisville, TCU, and our rival WVU are competing for BCS bids as top 20 teams, we will be there along with the Temple's and Rutgers of the world.

If I cared more at this point I would lead the charge to fire Steve Pederson, but I just don't care enough any more. Congrats Pitt. You have taken one of the most die hard passionate fans you've had and now have made me apathetic towards the team.

I will keep posting on the twitter page, but the days of fighting for news, attending press conferences, and having the same level of passion won't be there.

We're grateful for all of the support we've received over the past few years. It's been fun and we're certainly glad that we had some great company along for the ride.

Is it Haywood?

News is spreading all over the place that Mike Haywood will become the next head coach at the University of Pittsburgh. This story started gaining some legs on Tuesday night as Paul Zeise and some others started mentioning his name a bit more prominently. There are also some rumblings that Pitt will be having an official announcement tonight to introduce Haywood as the coach. I've contacted some sources about the topic but have not received a yes or no.

Another report had Todd Graham moving up the list. The main issue with him had money being the biggest issue as Graham was making quite a bit at Tulsa. The raise Pitt would have to give him might just be out of the price range. Graham had a very good offense this year. He also turned around a terrible Rice Owls team and then expanded the success that Steve Kragthorpe left him with at Tulsa.

Now back to Mike Haywood. For an offensive guy his numbers were very underwhelming. He isn't exactly the big splash we had expected Pitt to see either. The big thing about him though is that he is: 1. a family man 2. Has a squeaky clean background and 3. He is extremely affordable. He was only making a few hundred thousand at Miami (OH) and it isn't very likely he will be making much more than a million at Pitt if he does get the job.

Haywood is an extremely interesting candidate as he has been getting rave reviews from many people associated with him. With that said he also was fired from Notre Dame and doesn't have the world's most impressive resume. He did play UF close early on but we later found that isn't the same Gators squad we were used to seeing. They were blown out by Cincinnati and went winless in their non-conference schedule.

His turnaround of the Redhawks was impressive that it did take place in 1 year and that he was able to beat the next great coach (Golden) to win the MAC championship in year 2.

The problem with this hire (if true) is that it won't be one that fills the stadium. We also won't know for a while if it was truly successful. I do fear that if he does become successful that we won't have the money (or free up the money) to keep him here long term. Before you bash me, I'd be thrilled if we had 3 straight 10 win seasons and then saw someone move on to greener pastures. I just think there is too much risk with this hire that outweighs the potential rewards. I would hate to see us take a step back from where we are.

That's the problem with a coaching change, we are all afraid of uncertainty. I would feel more comfortable going for a guy considered to be a "can't miss", but Steve Pederson and Mark Nordenberg have made it clear they are not willing to spend the money to get that type of guy.

So if this is true, I can't say if it's a good hire or not based on early assumption because I'm not getting a strong feeling one way or another. If it is Haywood, let's check back in 3 or 4 years and see how we're doing.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

What we have come to know about the coaching search

In my years in the Oakland Zoo I have had the privilege of working with many great people in the athletic department. Through creating those relationships with the athletic department staff, coaches, players, and trainers we have been able to report things which may have gone unsaid. Sometimes the people giving the information want it to be released from a source other than an officially released athletic department announcement. Other times we are given info that we are asked not to share and we always request those wishes.

With that said, I have to fully agree with Paul Zeise that getting information about the coaching search is like getting information from the Kremlin. One of the reasons that the information is not coming out easily is because Steve Pederson and Mark Nordenberg are doing a great job of keeping the search between them. Typically with other things in the athletic department, some staffers are given information which they need to complete their jobs. This time, Steve Pederson is identifying the candidates (along with the search firm), using the 3rd party to initiate contact, and then completing the interview. If the person passes Steve's interview, they will move on to Chancellor Nordenberg. This is the main area of the hold up. He has given the thumbs down to Bo Pelini and Dana Holgorsen.

What I can tell you is that Dana Holgorsen and Al Golden were the top 2 on the search. My information leads me to believe it was Holgorsen as 1 and Golden in 2 spot despite what has been reported. I also believe Steve Pederson truly believed he was going to land one of those 2 guys. One thing to keep in mind when reading the released information is that sometimes reporters need to feed information at the request of athletic departments to help negotiations, stall other ones, or for any other purpose. This is a necessary thing because people who get paid to do the investigating need to make sure they keep their contacts and sources of information. That is why sometimes they are the first one on the report and sometimes why they don't give out bigger news items (remember Dion Lewis not practicing and not playing earlier in the year without any reports?). I do this just for fun, so I try to bring you what I can without getting any of my contacts in trouble.

So, right now, all I can tell you is that I have no idea where the next coach is going to come from. I would continue to follow guys like Paul Zeise and Chris Peak as they will probably be first on the scene given their connections. At this point you have to start figuring out who it could be by eliminating some potential guys first, just like PZ did in his redshirt diaries.

From what people have said here are a few names and notes for potential guys:

Mike Leach - if we're making a splash he is the guy. He won't be hired though because if Holgorsen couldn't pass the "purity" test, neither will leach.

Kevin Sumlin - Seems like a guy that would make a great fit, but for some reason his name just isn't popping up.

Mike Haywood - Turned a bad Miami OH program around quickly, but he isn't someone that would really "excite" everyone and the resume isn't exactly "complete" for what we should be looking for in a coach just yet.

Brady Hoke - Success at Ball State, success at San Diego State, but a new deal means he isn't very likely to be coming to Pittsburgh.

Paul Chryst - Another name that has popped up recently, but no information is being provided as to how interested both sides are with each other. The silence between the two is quite interesting.

Paul Pasqualoni - I think the reports of him being a candidate are bogus and don't buy for a second that he is truly being considered.

Teryl Austin/Frank Cignetti/Tom Bradley - Maybe as coordinators but surely not as head coach.

Chris Pederson - He was listed early on as the #1 guy but a great setup out west would probably only be left if the $$$ was above what he really should be paid.

Jay Norvell - He has a limited role in the Oklahoma offense, but has been the OC at places like UCLA and yes.....Nebraska. That right there will give him a huge advantage.

Mark Stoops - What he has is the name and the family tradition. What he doesn't have is all of the success ready to show he should be a serious candidate. The other thing going against him is that he is a defensive guy and Pitt appears to be headed to a guy with an interest in offense. He is a name though that would create a buzz.

Yes this is a lot of information. From this list Norvell and Haywood would be the two I would expect to get the biggest look. You can put me in the Leach, Sumlin, Pederson camp. Any of those 3 would be able to do a good job at Pitt, but as mentioned earlier there are strong reasons against them.

I will do my best to keep digging up information, but at this point it's hard to come by and much of what we are reading is inaccurate (intentionally and unintentionally).

1 week ago today

If you've followed this blog at all over the past few years, it should be clear to you that Jones and I were very much in the anti-Wannstedt camp. We were tired of losing to the Ohio's and Bowling Green's of the world. We had enough of too many excuses and not enough results. Finishing in 3rd place the last 3 years was unacceptable given the weakness of the conference the past few years.

As we reported on our twitter page on the day after the brawl, the plan was in place to have major changes made. It still remains unknown whether or not Wannstedt fell on the sword for his assistants or if he truly was fired after not achieving the goals laid out for him at the beginning of the season. You may have your assumptions, but regardless of what they are the point is that Dave Wannstedt is no longer the coach of the Pittsburgh Panthers.

I wanted to wait and write this article a full week after it had happened because immediately after the news broke (I will admit) I was very excited and felt that Christmas had come three weeks early. What happened after that was something I did not expect at all.

Seeing Dave Wannstedt visibly upset at the press conference really brought out something I never thought about in the 6 years he coached here. Dave Wannstedt and I both want Pitt to win national championships each year. We both want Pitt to be respected in the best light possible. I just never thought I would feel such an emotional attachment to a man that I wanted to see removed for the past few years now.

I suppose it was a combination of seeing someone who loved the University so much fail at the quest he laid out for himself, the team, and the fans. It certainly didn't help the way it was handled by the Pitt administration. For the first time since he was hired, I felt bad for Dave Wannstedt and felt he deserved better.

He will have the freedom in his new job to come and go as he pleases just like Johnny Majors, so he can be involved as much or as little as he wants to be. I hope that even though he is still removed from his role as head coach, he does not become too involved with the new coach. The new coach needs to have his space and needs to be able to mark the squad as his team now. How much involvement he will have won't be known until some time passes, but it will remain an interesting question until then.

As we stand now though, we have a man who failed at his job and was rightfully let go. He was unaware a change was coming and as a coach you need to be very sensitive to things such as that. The fact he remained unaware of the thought of a change was the last example of a regime that was defined by excuses and an attitude that made it appear as if he had a life time contract. Since it is all said and done, I hope he is able to do well in his new position and can leave Pitt on his own terms now with his head held high.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Pitt vs Cincy Preview

Typically by the end of the year you can get a pretty good feel as to where every team stands making these little previews and predictions a bit easier. For the 2010 version of the River City Rivalry, this is not the case.

The 4-7 Cincy Bearcats have only won 1 game in their last 5 including three losses by 20 or more points. Part of the reason for this has been the struggles of the Cincy offense. We all know junior quarterback Zach Collaros can sling the ball all over the field, but recently that has included the other team. He had 4 picks in his previous game which was a huge reason why the Bearcats earned their 7th loss instead of fighting for bowl eligibility this week. One thing which might be surprising to Pitt fans is Cincy's ability to run the ball. Isaiah Pead has only appeared in 9 of the 11 games this year, but is closing in on 1000 yards for the season. More impressive is his 6.8 yards per attempt. So while the common thought is that Cincy will pass all over Pitt like they did last year, we should expect to see a more balanced offense from the Bearcats this year.

As for Pitt, we all know where we stand. We've dropped 2 of the last 3 including a nail biter against USF along the way. With the exception of a phenomenal performance by Dion Lewis, Ray Graham, or Jonathan Baldwin, the Panthers should not expect to have a 1000 yard rusher/receiver this year which is surprising given the hype and expectations placed on two of those 3 players.

The defense has had their share of problems recently, especially in the passing game. That has been the one consistent mark of the Panthers over the past 6 years. Whether it's Paul Rhoads, Phil Bennett, Chris Ball, or Jeff Hafley, we can't stop the pass (except when you have Revis on one side of the field). Add in to the mix we're asking linebackers to cover receivers and we are asking for trouble.

Butch Jones has had success before the Cincy job and I expect him to have success with the Bearcats. This game is important for them because finishing 1 game away from bowl eligibility can be a much easier sell than finishing 4-7 while playing in the worst BCS conference.

As of now, the Bearcats are 2 point favorites against Pitt (that's embarrassing). To be honest, I don't even know how this game will play out because you don't know which Pitt team will show up and you don't know which Cincy team will show up. If we have the Pitt team that played Cuse and Louisville we will win regardless of how well Cincy plays. If we are average and the Cincy team that played Oklahoma shows up, well we are in trouble.

I would love to be able to have 2 guesses on this one. I would say if Cincy can pass we will lose and if they can't we win. I do believe that the first team to 30 will win the game. If the scores stay below 30 then Pitt will win.

My prediction is that Pitt will win 31 to 7, Wannstedt wins this one and the bowl game against some MAC team and my nightmare of Wanny on the sidelines continues for another year as this 8-5 disaster season comes to an end.