Without Wannstedt...What's Next?

Aside from actually hiring the next coach, there's a talented recruiting class waiting in the wings, with no one to oversee them now. In addition to that, there's a coaching staff on hold--both in recruiting, and in working, waiting to see what their next move is too.

The result of Tuesday's decision to let Dave Wannstedt go won't be decided for at least a few years, but the effects of the decision could be felt in the near future.

- There were so many factors that came to mind around 2 pm yesterday afternoon, as the emminent decision about Dave Wannstedt's future with the Pitt program was winding down. I've been around the program during its last three coaching changes. Of the three of them, this was by far the most rushed decision, in terms of when the announcement was being made to part ways with the head coach. With John Majors, coming off a fourth consecutive losing season, it was a more amicable parting of ways. That move was made the last week of the regular season, as Majors was able to close his career with a win over Rutgers at the end of the week.

Walt Harris wasn't even given the luxury to speak, as Wannstedt was Tuesday, even though Wannstedt shared just a few words from the heart. Nine days after clinching the BCS berth on December 13, Harris was named head coach at Stanford. He would remain the head coach at Pitt through the bowl game, even though Wannstedt was named head coach 10 days after Harris was named head coach at Stanford.

Then, it brings us to Tuesday. According to the official press release announcing the press conference, both Steve Pederson and Dave Wannstedt were both going to speak. I was puzzled as to how both were going to sit at the same table, after seeing and hearing news buzzing throughout the day, with the warning signs pointing to a possible dismissal. Then, the press conference started. Wannstedt did not make eye contact with Pederson, who was in the room. All the players immediately stood up when Wannstedt entered the room, and applauded. Wannstedt's never been short of words at any time in his dealings with the media. Tuesday, he kept it surprisingly short.

"You know what, I had a few things to say, but I think (the players in attendance) says it," Wannstedt said. "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. Thank you."

- As has typically happened in the Wannstedt era, there might be a few players who will graduate and move on--particularly the fourth-year juniors, some who might not be in range on the depth chart. That won't be figured out until a new head coach is brought in, and that number can go up based on a coaching change. There will be an impact on the incoming recruits, some of whom are coming to campus as soon as this weekend. As of right now, here are the players slated to come in:

Quinton Alston
Deonte Gibson
Justin Olack
Kyshoen Jarrett
Marquise Wright
Zenel Demhasaj

A couple others such as Desimon Green and Gary Nova were on the fence about coming in. It's still possible for Nova to come in this weekend. Green has publicly re-opened his recruitment, though he hasn't ruled Pitt out completely. All of them are waiting to see what steps will be taken to reel in the next coach, let alone who that next coach may be.

- Perhaps the most disturbing moment, comes in regards to recruiting. At the press conference, Pederson was asked if Wannstedt would be given the opportunity to coach in the bowl game. He responded with this:

"That's (Wannstedt's) option to coach the bowl game," Pederson said. "I hope he will."

Okay, fine. It's his decision to coach in a January 8 bowl game. What about the recruits coming in this weekend, and the practices leading up to that bowl game? Who's in charge of that? Is that Wannstedt's choice too? If it was, then he wouldn't have been pushed out the door, the way he was. Keeping a hold of the recruits coming to campus, and at least getting the team prepared properly for the bowl game is the most important part of the whole postseason process, from a team standpoint.

With some important names due in this weekend--and still expected to come in--clearly, someone has to be in charge of that ship. Then there's the possibility that other schools can swoop in and lure current assistants away to other schools. These assistants can't sit around and give tours for free, waiting for the next coach to hire them back at Pitt. Whoever the new coach is, there's certainly good reason to bring back at least one, hopefully more of the current assistants to the Pitt staff--for recruiting purposes, and other reasons. Another good thing Wannstedt was able to do in his time, was have some continuity on his staffs. That's not always an easy thing, especially when you improve as a program. The fact that he got this team to nine and 10-win seasons in consecutive years, with the staff intact for the most part, is a rare thing in college football. He also took former graduate assistants like Brian Angelichio, Scott Turner and Jeff Hafley--brought them in as graduate assistants, and watched them develop into solid position coaches and very talented recruiters. Surely, there's some school out there taking notice. Of anything pertaining to Wannstedt's departure, this area will be the biggest to dance around, over the next month.

- In regards to the current staff, current assistants Frank Cignetti, Jr. and Greg Gattuso deserve at least a chance to interview for the head coaching position. If there's one position that's been a strong suit of this team, it's been the defensive line. That's been Gattuso's position since 2006, at about the time the position started to turn things around. It's been a strength ever since 2007. In addition to that, Gattuso has been a head coach before, starting a program from scratch at Duquesne, and having a much lesser pool to draw from in building a team. I'm not saying he deserves the job now, but he certainly has a lot of the traits that Pitt seems to want--someone who can coach players up, as he did with his defensive line, in addition to his game day coaching abilities, albeit at the smaller Duquesne.

Panther Digest Top Stories