Three days after a 28-10 win over Cincinnati, and finishing with his third winning season in a row, Pitt announced that Dave Wannstedt, after a six-year record of 42-31, coming off the school's third consecutive bowl bid for just the third time in the last 40 years, was stepping down.
A press conference was called for Wendesday afternoon at 5:30 pm, in which all members of the team were in attendance. When Dave Wannstedt, who was joined by his wife Jan, entered the room, all players stood and applauded for their head coach. They all walked to the front of the room, and stood behind Wannstedt. Wannstedt, emotional by the actions of his players, couldn't offer much more to say.
"You know what, I had a few things to say, but I think this says it," touched by the actions of his players.
He paused, and only had one more comment, before taking the team to the locker room for a team meeting.
"I appreciate the opportunity that Mark Nordenberg and this University gave me to come here, win games, and most importantly try to make a difference in these young men's lives," Wannstedt said. "Thank you."
The players applauded after that statement from Wannstedt, where he then led them to the locker room for the team meeting.
From there, athletic director Steve Pederson took the mic, to offer the reasoning behind Wannstedt's resignation. According to a University release, Wannstedt will remain in a role as special assistant to the athletic director. It is unknown what that role will entail, or even if and when it will begin. When Pederson took over as athletic director in 1996, former head coach John Majors resigned and remained on as a special liaison between the Chancellor and athletic director, and even had an office in the old Pitt Stadium.
Pederson said that Wannstedt's resignation was the result of an end of the season meeting that he had with the head coach, one that he's had after each of the last four seasons.
"Coach Wannstedt and I, we meet all the time," Pederson said. "I don't know if a week goes by where we don't meet. After the season, we sat down and talked, as we typically do, and talked about the whole season. Over the course of time, I know that Dave and I talked a number of times about the fact that he wasn't going to coach forever, and there was going to be a point in time in which he might want to do something else. In the discussions we had after this season, it just became the appropriate time to have that discussion. He and I talked about it. It seemed to make sense at this particular time, the timing was just right for that. He decided to step down and assume this new role in our athletic department."
While it was officially referred to as a resignation, Pederson was asked if he gave Wannstedt the option to return for another year. He answered it, keeping whatever was said confidential between him and the head coach.
"In terms of all the conversations we had, those are between Dave and I, and I would say only Dave and I are in those conversations," Pederson said. "I think we both arrived at that conclusion, and it made the most sense to do this this way."
Though players were made off limits to the media, a number expressed support of their coach through Twitter and other various social networks.
"These people don't know they made the biggest mistake ever letting OUR coach go," team co-captain Jason Pinkston said via his Twitter account. "He's more then just a coach he's a father to 96 kids on the team we come from many different backgrounds some of us wouldn't be in college or have the chance to experience college football we have players on our team who have been turned down at other D1 schools and he took them in and made them family... Thank you coach for everything you've done for me and my family I would never of had this chance if it weren't for you I know my mother greatly appreciates what you done for us.. He didn't deserve this from a guy who only came and switched us from ADIDAS to NIKE.. Thank you god bless hail to Pitt and coach wann and his family." Fellow co-captain Dom DeCicco offered similar support via his Facebook page.
"This school made a terrible mistake he's the best thing to ever happen to this program," DeCicco said. "no one cares more about their team more then coach Wannstedt he's a great coach on and off the field we are sticking by him no matter what and I ain't playing without him."
DeCicco's Facebook post spurns a few more questions; what will happen to the current coaching staff and will Wannstedt coach in the bowl game?
"That's (Wannstedt's) option to coach the bowl game," Pederson said. "I hope he will."
Pederson added as far as the search, which he is calling a nationwide search, he will not rule out any members of Pitt's current staff being candidates for the head coaching job. He also said that he will consider someone who has been successful as a head coach or as an assistant.
Stay tuned for further coverage on Wannstedt's resignation, as well as player and recruit reaction, as well as who might be on Pederson's short list in terms of replacements.