Fazio Says Pitt On Right Track

PITTSBURGH -- Former University of Pittsburgh football coach Serafino "Foge'' Fazio finally appears to be slowing down as he nears 70 years old, and that gives him a chance to watch his beloved Panthers more often.

"This is the first year in my retirement that I haven't done a whole lot,'' Foge Fazio said. "I was a commentator for Fox Sports for Pitt's spring game, but that's about it. I retired in 2002, but I came back in 2005 with the Vikings.

"I also did some personnel work with the Redskins for a couple years and broadcasted for Westwood One for two years. Sometimes, I wonder what the heck I'm going to do in the mornings when I get up.''

Fazio initially retired from the Cleveland Browns in 2002 after his team lost to the Steelers in a playoff game at Heinz Field. But that didn't hold him back. Now, the former Pitt player (1959-60), assistant and eventually head coach from 1982-85, usually attends combines in the area to support friends and former players like Greg Meisner and Danny Raines who have children at the events.

And he also tries to keep an eye on the current team.

Panthers coach Dave Wannstedt and Fazio go way back. Fazio was coaching Pitt when Wannstedt played for the Panthers, and he was an assistant with Jackie Sherrill when Wannstedt was a graduate assistant on their staff. Pitt offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh was on that team as well. Fazio also has gotten to know other assistant coaches on Wannstedt's staff and has some ideas about the coach's current tenure at his alma mater.

"Any time you have a coaching change, when mostly a new staff is brought in, the philosophy changes a little bit,'' Fazio said. "I know he came here after an 8-3 season, but Pitt got blown out in their bowl game and lost some pretty good players. And it took them a little while to get back on track.

"But I think he's on the right track with recruiting. I watched some spring practices and did the game, and I think they're going to be a lot better this year. They played some very good teams and lost to them last year, but a couple other games they needed to win and lost. They'll win those this year.''

Fazio acknowledged that Wannstedt and the Panthers got off to a poor start in his first season with a blowout loss to Notre Dame, and a loss at Ohio University didn't help as well. Then, there was the loss to Connecticut this past season, that really hurt Wannstedt, Fazio said, "It was tough to overcome.'' Blowout losses to Louisville, Rutgers and West Virginia were tough to stomach, but easier to get past.

"And I think if they would have gone to a bowl game, things would have been a lot different,'' Fazio added. "But you go down to the stadium, and we don't fill it up. So, we have to get that turned around, too. But recruiting, I thought I did pretty well, but Dave must be great. They've pulled in several top kids.''

Fazio reeled off the names: Bostick, Byham, Dickerson, Fields, "5-6 blue-chippers, that's amazing,'' Fazio said. "Normally, you get one or two, but Dave and his staff have done a marvelous job. In the trenches, that's the key, and they're getting there. They have some big kids who are all young.

"They also have some tough Western PA kids like Byham, Pelusi, Fields and Malecki, Pinkston at offensive tackle with Otah. They're two giants out there. With C.J. Davis, the offensive and defensive lines will be better this year. I'm sure of that. The key will be the quarterback, I believe.

"That's going to be the difference between a good team and a real good one,'' Fazio added. "I think Pitt will be pretty good this year, but maybe not to that next level. But they could easily reach it next year. They have to win now and need to make a bowl game. That should get them going for the future.''

As far as Fazio's future goes, that's up in the air. Sure, he "always has a shingle out'' for a new job but he isn't likely to return to the field anytime soon. Of course, he's had that feeling before, actually retired, but came back. So, never say never, as far as Fazio is concerned.

"You know how it is,'' Fazio laughed. "Have clipboard, will travel.''

Panther More Top Stories