Nobody knows anything
By Chris Dokish
I've been asked why I haven't written anything about the search for Pitt's new football coach and the reason is because I don't know anything. Neither does anybody else. As Pitt often does, they keep very quiet about what they are doing. Why do you think I stopped writing about Pitt football full-time? It's because dealing with them is impossible. In fact, I've had better luck with every other basketball and football program I've ever dealt with.
I continue to get panicked emails from Pitt fans who say Pitt lost out on Al Golden and Dana Holgorsen, and that may very well be true. Or it may not be true. The truth is, there are no facts about who Steve Pederson is looking at. None.
Just using common sense, I assume Golden is somebody that Pederson talked to and I wouldn't be surprised if Pitt offered him the job. If they did, and they lost him to Miami then there is no reason to be ashamed. Miami has higher potential, period, end of story.
Why Pitt would want Golden is something completely different. Not everybody in Miami is enamored with the hiring of Golden, and I'm not sure how well he will do either. He has the rep of a great recruiter, a solid defensive minded coach, and a guy who will lead the program with class. In other words, Randy Shannon, who they just fired.
But at least at Miami Golden can win with his pro style. At Pitt, his chances were much less. Only the truly elite programs can win in a pro style because you need superior talent for that- Alabama, USC, Ohio State, etc. The non-elite programs who have won big over the last few years include WVU with Rich Rodriguez, Cincinnati with Brian Kelly, Oklahoma State, Oregon, TCU, and Boise State. All have run some form of spread offense. Programs like Florida and Auburn had the luxury of having elite talent and a pro style offense, and the result is apparent.
Back to class, that brings us to Dana Holgorsen. There have been published reports that Holgorsen was at one point meeting with Pitt, and maybe even the top choice. Or at least the co-top choice. Then all of a sudden, West Virginia swoops in and steals Holgorsen.
To me this seems obvious. Pitt clearly had problems with something about Holgorsen, a guy who lives in a Residence Inn and never signed a contract at Oklahoma State. Not that West Virginia still may not have gotten him over Pitt. If push came to shove, they may have shoved Bill Stewart right out the door immediately so that Holgorsen becomes head coach right away. But the fact that Holgorsen took the coach in waiting job from West Virginia tells me that he had no other head coaching offers. While West Virginia has proven that they are at least the equal of Pitt as a program, they aren't so scary good that Holgorsen would choose them with a years wait, over becoming the Pitt head coach immediately.
This brings us to one of my criticisms of Pitt over the years. And that's that they care way too much about a figurehead as a coach, instead of just hiring a great head coach. Obviously the ideal situation is to get a great head coach who is also a great person. But how many Jamie Dixons are there in the coaching world?
Of course nobody wants a bad guy to represent them, and truthfully if Holgorsen has some shameful skeletons in his closet, then good for Pitt and shame on West Virginia. But if he just seemed a little too "sleazy" for them then they are missing the boat. Sadly in college athletics today there are a lot more sleazeballs than Dixons. In fact, if you name the top ten most successful college football coaches currently you will see that a majority of them are't people you would want to hold your wallet for you.
The best case scenario is if Pederson lands a great coach who happens to fit their high moral standards, but to do that they have to pay since everybody else wants those guys, too. If you want a Chris Petersen or a Bronco Mendenhall then pay for them. If you can't pay for them then you are going to get a mediocre coach who represents the university well. Quality costs and it's time to decide how bad you want it. If Pitt isn't careful with this hire then it will be just be one more ride on the merry-go-round of mediocrity.
But maybe Pederson has targeted the man who he thinks is Pitt's next Jamie Dixon. And maybe he has had him all along. Bottom line, despite cries from fans that Pederson has failed, he hasn't yet. Maybe Pitt will come up with he money to get the perfect fit both on and off the field. But they better. Firing Dave Wannstedt was the right choice if they wanted to have more success on the field. But if Pitt can't find a better coach, and are more concerned with morals, then it was pointless to get rid of Wannstedt. Tom Bradley? Mike Haywood? Frank Cignetti, Jr.? I fail to see how they are any better than Wannstedt and consequently I don't see how the result could be any better. Right now the job of turning Pitt into a great program is only half done.