Football: Wannstedt offers emotional goodbye

By Staff Report

In three short months, head football coach Dave Wannstedt fell from his position as the Big… In three short months, head football coach Dave Wannstedt fell from his position as the Big East’s predicted champion to its latest coaching casualty, announcing his resignation under pressure at the South Side yesterday.

“It just seemed to be the right time,” Athletic Director Steve Pederson said at an emotional press conference, providing no clear details about why Wannstedt decided to resign now in particular.

Rumors that Wannstedt would resign or had been fired circulated throughout the day on Facebook, Twitter and several news outlets. After the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Pederson would meet with Wannstedt, conversation erupted on social media sites and “Wannstedt” became one of the top trending topics on Twitter.

Pitt remained mum until an evening press conference, at which it announced that Wannstedt will “remain at Pitt in the capacity of special assistant to the athletic director.”

When Wannstedt walked into the room, much of the football team applauded the six-year coach and walked to stand by his side.

“I had a few things to say,” Wannstedt said, “but I think that says it all.”

Wannstedt reflected on his years at the program.

“I appreciate the opportunity from Mark Nordenberg and this University to come here and win games and most importantly try and make a difference in these young men’s lives,” he said.

He then took the team for a private meeting.

Pederson addressed the media.

“It made the most sense to do it now,” he said of replacing Wannstedt as coach. “If you’re going to do it at the end of the season, then you need to do it so you can get after the next phase of the program: new coach, recruiting and the kinds of things you need to have done.”

If Pitt had waited until after the Jan. 8 BBVA Compass Bowl to begin the search for a new coach, it would not have had sufficient time to establish a staff that could recruit new athletes before the Feb. 2 signing day.

“We’ll find the right coach, and we’ll find somebody to pick up where Dave left off and help us achieve a championship level here,” Pederson said. He said Wannstedt will have the option to coach the bowl game against Kentucky in Birmingham, Ala.

Pederson did not provide any details about Wannstedt’s contract, which runs through 2014. Normally, a school would have to buy out a coach who left before his contact ended, but Wannstedt’s continued work with the Athletic Department blurs the situation.

“I am very pleased that coach Wannstedt will be staying with us and working with me and the athletic department,” Pederson said. “He’s the ultimate Pitt man and the consummate gentleman.”

Wannstedt compiled a 42-31 record throughout his time at Pitt, and last year he led the Panthers to their first 10-win season since 1981.

But with high expectations entering this season, the team underachieved, struggling on and off the field and finishing with a 7-5 record in a year where it was expected to go to a BCS Bowl game and saw four players arrested on various charges.

Pitt will immediately begin to search for a replacement for Wannstedt, who led the Panthers to three straight bowl appearances including last year’s win in the Meineke Car Care Bowl. Pederson said Pitt won’t rule out any candidates, including ones already on the coaching staff.