Pittsburgh finds itself at a seminal moment for its football program. The Panthers are in the more stable Atlantic Coast Conference, but are now in search of their fifth coach in five seasons.
Adding to the issue is Pittsburgh also needs a new athletic director after Steve Pederson, and finding one to work in unison with a football coach is paramount. In many instances, finding an athletic director after hiring a coach can cause issues, but there is another way to look at it …the football coach is the biggest person in the athletic department, so he needs to sign off on any new athletic director.
So Pittsburgh is moving forward with assembling a committee to hire the Panthers’ next football coach, according to a statement by chancellor Patrick Gallagher.
Because of that, Scout and PantherDigest put together a coaching hot board, which will be updated on a need-be basis. Here is the first installment:
Head coaching experience: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (NFL) 2 seasons (11-21), Rutgers 11 seasons (68-67
Why he fits: Schiano knows the northeast and can recruit it, and understands the power of the Pitt name. He is close friends with former Pitt cocah Dave Wannstedt and knows the lay of the land with the university, and how it fits into the community and the region.
Schiano has been out of the college game for three years, so getting back into it may not be his first choice. He basically ran the athletic department at Rutgers, so hiring him would also come with an agreement of who the athletic director would.
A return to the NFL is likely at the top of his list, so he Pittsburgh would have to make a sweet offer, and he would have to be assured an NFL gig was not going to happen. People look at his overall record at Rutgers and wonder about his ability, but he spent four seasons building the Scarlet Knights from what was, based on talent, a low-level I-AA program. After going 3-20 in his first two seasons, Rutgers went 65-47 during the rest of his tenure, and was 5-1 in bowl games.
Head coaching experience: 2 years (9-15)
Why he fits: Row the Boat! It may seem a bit corny, but Western Michigan is doing it in rhythm and is heading to a bowl game in Fleck’s second season. And it comes after he took over a program that went 4-8 in 2012 and had one win in his first season at the helm of the Broncos, and now they are 8-4 and playing in the Famous Idaho Bowl.
Fleck is charismatic and energetic, and the players love him. He also has a nice few pieces on his resume, including playing the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers and also being the receivers coach under Schiano for a season at Tampa Bay.
Fleck will give energy to the program, and he will make the fan base believe in him. He has good ties in recruiting in the Midwest and into western Pennsylvania from his days recruiting as an assistant at Northern Illinois, and he recruited Florida, which is a nice mix to have when recruiting in the ACC.
Head coaching experience: Penn State interim head coach (4 games)
Why he fits: It would be an interesting hire, and unlike some other candidates, this could be a destination job for Bradley. He was passed over for other head coaching positions, so it would be a tough sell, but he knows the region well, he understands who Pittsburgh is, and how to recruit western Pennsylvania.
Bradly has a ton of coaching experience, and his coaching tentacles reach a large number of place, and a plethora of coaches. Bradley also brings a variety of skills. He coached special teams, receivers, linebackers and the secondary, and he also served as a defensive coordinator.
Head coaching experience: None
Why he fits: Rudolph is from western Pennsylvania and has been at Pittsburgh since the 2012 season. He serves as the assistant head coach and offensive coordinator. That he holds the interim tag is a tough spot because it is often difficult for the interim coach to remain with a new staff, but the caveat is he could be the coach.
The danger is he, like Paul Chryst, is a Wisconsin graduate, and there could be a feeling that he could leave if something bigger opens. But Rudolph has roots in the region – he attended Bell Vernon Area High – and he understands what Pitt football once was, and could be. He knows the high school coaches in the area and, has worked at Ohio State, Nebraska and Wisconsin, which are three major programs.
Rudolph will undoubtedly get the support of the players in the program, and he could use the next few weeks to rally the program and the recruits to join him there, and a big showing in the bowl game could help.
Head coaching experience: 5 seasons (39-25)
Why he fits: Holliday is a long-time West Virginia assistant, so he knows about Pittsburgh through the rivalry. He also has Marshall atop Conference USA, and for a while was undefeated before finishing with a loss.
Holliday’s teams usually put up a lot of points, and his offensive style is exciting, and could excite the fan base. He knows how to evaluate talent and he knows how to put together a staff and recruit. He hovered around .500 for his first three seasons, and the last two seasons he went 22-5.
In Pittsburgh, he would be different than what the Panthers faithful are used to, and that could be a good thing. He would symbolize a fresh start, and possibly the right change of direction.
Head coaching experience: None
Why he fits: It’s a coaching opening in the Midwest or East at a Power 5 school, so Narduzzi’s name gets thrown into the mixer. He is a very good defensive coach, and is hard-nosed and intense. He plays the brand of football on associates with Pittsburgh; tough, gritty and physical.
Narduzzi is also a good recruiter, and he spends a lot of time in the East Region recruiting so he knows the area.