PITTSBURGH — There’s a cliche in sports where you stand behind what you believe in until the very end.
The Pitt football team (7-5, 5-2 Big East) did that Tuesday night as current players filled a press conference set up to announce Dave Wannstedt’s resignation as head coach.
The room had a funeral-like feeling in the minutes leading up to Wannstedt’s appearance. Few people spoke and many players had their heads down, visibly discouraged by the impending news.
When Wannstedt walked in to the room, every player stood up, clapped and gathered behind him at the podium. Wannstedt was clearly moved by seeing his players and could utter only a few words.
“I had a few things to say, but this says it,” a choked up Wannstedt said. “I appreciate the opportunity that Mark Nordenberg and this university gave me to come here, win games and most importantly try and make a difference in these men’s lives.”
Wannstedt then ushered his team dowstairs to have a team meeting.
Athletic director Steven Pederson then took the podium and answered questions, adamant that he and Wannstedt came to this conclusion together.
“Dave and I have talked a number of times about the fact that he wasn’t gonna coach forever — that there was going to be a point in time which he might wanna 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 and it seemed to make sense. So he decided to step down and assume this new role in our athletic department.”
That new role will be a special assistant to the athletic director, but Wannstedt has the choice of coaching Jan. 8 in the BBVA Compass Bowl against Kentucky.
Pederson wouldn’t make it clear whether he pushed Wannstedt in to this new role or if it was clearly his initial choice.
“It just became the right time to think about all of this,” Pederson said. “I think it ended up at the point where it made the most sense to do it now. And if you’re gonna do it at the end of the season, you need to do it so you can get after the next phase of this program — new coach, recruiting and the kinds of things you need to have done.”
Pederson said the new coaching search will begin immediately and the athletic department will explore all opportunities. He said that internal and external options will be evaluated. He also said that candidates won’t necessarily have previous or current head coaching experience.
“We will immediately begin the search for a new head football coach, a national search,” Pederson said.
Here’s the photo of Wannstedt and his team at the press conference (click image for larger view):
Chris Gates | Area 4-1-Zoo Blog