I love Pitt. I would hope that would be obvious at this point. (Yes there is a “but…” coming.)
I know Coach Wannstedt loves Pitt. Having said that, he’s not at all accurate on this.
“When you see some of the things that are happening [with regards to coaches getting fired] around the country, if our chancellor would have responded like some of these other guys do, I’d either be back coaching the NFL by now or be golfing in Naples,” Wannstedt said with a smile, as he sat, drenched with Gatorade, and discussed the Panthers’ season-ending win at Connecticut in the visiting team interview room Dec. 6.
Wannstedt added, “That’s what separates our chancellor from others. … and that’s what makes [Pitt] special.”
Chancellor Nordenberg has been great for Pitt athletics. He has recognized the value of the major programs having a national presence to the university in terms of exposure and overall donations. He is engaged in the athletic department. Again, not in dispute.
He knows the value of good relationships with the coaches. That is the thing. He has a personal relationship with Wannstedt. Just as he has one with basketball coach Jamie Dixon. That is why Coach Wannstedt got an extension last season without any preconditions.
His relationship with the Chancellor. It also would be a significant factor that Coach Wannstedt has built strong relationships with top boosters and supporters of the program. That was as big a factor. There was no real financial risk to keeping and extending Wannstedt.
Imagine what the relationship would have been with the Chancellors and Athletic Directors in the 90s, if Coach Wannstedt had gotten the job in 1989.
“When we met, I said ‘Ed, what are you looking for in a head coach?’ ” Wannstedt said. “He said ‘Dave, I’m looking for a guy who can be on one side of the tracks and talk to the top CEO of U.S. Steel and walk on the other side of the tracks and relate to the guys working out in the steel mills.
“He told me that’s what he was looking for; that’s what, in his mind, was a ‘Pittsburgh guy’ and that’s what this program needed at that time.”
Wannstedt, the son of a steelworker, had long ago worked in a mill a few summers. He figured he’d be a shoo-in for the job.
“I thought when [Bozik] was talking, he was describing me,” Wannstedt said, then chuckled. “It was a nice visit, but then they called me a few days later and said they were hiring Paul Hackett — a California guy. So I guess you could call it an interview, but I’m not sure what was really going on.”
I’m willing to bet Coach Wannstedt would have been out at Pitt. Maybe not after only 3 years, but it would have been in the 90s. The school and athletic department had no will, drive or direction to make changes. It was being run as small-time and Wannstedt would not have been able to change that back then.