December 16, 2010

What do the hirings of Jamie Dixon, Dave Wannstedt and Mike Haywood have in common?

It obviously isn’t the success rate.

Believe it or not, it isn’t the AD, as each was hired with a different AD ostensibly in charge.

It’s not even the money.

It’s that in all of the moves to make the hire, there was a clear #1 target and then only a cheap fallback.

One of the advantages for doing this Pitt blog for so long are archives that lend itsself to more easily reviewing past events. While the hiring of Jamie Dixon predates this blog, I deeply followed that saga and coupled with the ACC raid on the Big East, made me want to start this blog. At the time I was just general interest blogging anything that had my attention.

Over seven years ago I wrote this:

Prosser or bust is the feeling I have. This is like a low level Roy Williams deciding on Kansas or UNC thing a few years ago (I know it’s happening again). When Roy decided to stay at Kansas, there was a sense of desperation and “settling” for Doherty. It appears Pitt is heading down that same path, if Prosser says no. To date, the only other person interviewed was Pitt’s associate coach James Dixon. This zeroing in on Prosser is only a smart strategy for Pitt if he takes the job. If not, there is scrambling, second guessing, desperation, and another demoralizing blow to alumni and fans of Pitt, who will once again feel like they (we) are never going to be considered a top sports program.

Sound familiar?

How about less than two years later?

I know the interviews haven’t even started yet, but I think it should be clear that Dave Wannstedt is (and perhaps should be) Pitt’s primary target. This isn’t because he represents Pitt’s most “serious” choice. The other guys contacted so far — Pelini and Hoke — and mentioned for consideration — Rhoads, Sunseri and Bradley — are all assistants. They are lower profile and cheaper possibilities.

I’m not saying that they may not be better choices, but with all of Pitt’s talk about believing that Harris lacked the vision to take Pitt higher, they shifted the pressure to themselves to back it up. Wannstedt would be a high profile hire. He is friendly with lots of national media types — Pardon the Interruption yesterday (12/15) even brought the topic up in their “big finish” segment and both Kornheiser and Wilbon seemed to like the idea. Wannstedt would also be the most expensive hire. Something Pitt has said it would be willing to do, but has never actually done. Not just the money needed for Wannstedt, but what it would cost for the top-flight assistants a coach who hasn’t been in the college game since 1987 would need.

And of course, we know that this time Pitt got Wannstedt. Paying more than they would have for any of the other assistants. What we’ve learned since is that while Pelini was high on then AD Long’s list, he was nixed after the interviews. The top choice after Wannstedt actually and disturbingly was Paul Rhoads.

This time, it seems that Al Golden was the top target by Pitt, with the school willing to pony up the money for him. Holgorsen may have been high on AD Pederson’s list but he got nixed by someone higher-up. Very few interviews appear to have actually been conducted. That led to a second choice — Haywood — that was significantly cheaper than the first choice.

The one common thread is Chancellor Nordenberg. I’m not trying to absolve AD Pederson for his part in all of this, but there has been a familiarity in the poor process and way the search for the next coach has been conducted regardless of who has been the AD.

It is no secret that Nordenberg has a lot of input/control in the coaching searches. He also has close relationships with both Jamie Dixon and Dave Wannstedt. To be fair, the close relationship with Dixon has been beneficial in helping keep Dixon at Pitt.

Nordenberg seems to value these close relationships with the high profile coaches and seems to make that a particularly important component in the hiring process. That seems to explain why coaches like Bo Pelini and Dana Holgorsen still got nixed after the AD appeared to push and back them.

It seems that Nordenberg concludes that if the high profile, top choice is off the board, then it is better to go after someone who is a better “value.”

It undermines the AD, obviously. It also undermines the hire if it isn’t the top choice. To fans and alumni, it looks like the school was looking for the cheapest hire rather than the best hire.

As we have seen with Coach Dixon, Pitt will pay competitive (not necessarily top, but competitive) money to keep a good coach who produces. But if it is not the top choice, then Pitt under Nordenberg would prefer a hire that can start out on the lower end of the salary scale. Furthering the perception/reality that Pitt won’t pay top dollar for a coach and is not serious about competing in 1-A football or even the Big East.

Look Nordenberg is a tremendous Chancellor at Pitt. The school is in great shape. It’s reputation in academics is outstanding. Nordenberg should also get a lot of credit for caring about the athletics and recognizing the importance their role plays in promoting a school. All you have to do is think back to the state of athletics when the short-time schmuck Dennis O’Connor was running things in the early-90s.

The one thing he hasn’t learned to do, stay out of the way in hiring decisions. I want to be supportive of the Haywood hiring, since there is a lot to like in the guy. The way the decision was reached. The way it has come about, though, did more damage than anything on Haywood’s resume.

I answered your question at 10:03, Dan.

“And, to answer your question: WVU may get to a BCS game and higher ranking first, but I think Haywood gets Pitt there more often. I also think Holgorsen’s gone to the next highest bidder before he ever finishes his contract at WVU. Just my opinion.”

Comment by TampaT 12.17.10 @ 12:42 am

Why pursue the very best when you can go after excellence in mediocreity!
Pederson gets my vote as the grinch who stole Pitt football!!
@Dan I like that angle also, but when it comes down to it stevo will lose his job and career way before Nordy will and who will look like the Idiot?

Comment by POLE 12.17.10 @ 12:47 am

“Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but it is for five years.”

The reason why the amount is undisclosed is because it is embarrassingly low.

We know the salary range of EVERY other Coach hired in the last couple of weeks but one, ours.

While this does NOT speak to Coach Haywood’s ability to do his job it certainly speaks what Pitt’s AD was willing to spend a year on a new coach.

When Steve says “we got exactly who we wanted” I absolutely believe that to be a true statement.

They were not willing to pay ANYONE more then what they were paying Wanny and they got exactly what they wanted.

Comment by Tony In Harrisburg 12.17.10 @ 12:47 am

This is frightening. Not everyone is in love with Haywood….From a post over on NBC Sports

link to

The sock you want to put in Ben’s mouth would be the matching pair to the sock Haywood holds. These two guys are one in the same. While Ben finds them in the bathroom of a bar, Haywood finds them on the campus of the University who employs him. He has and continues to have sex with former students from every school he has coached at. He even had a sexual harassment complaint filed against him at Lsu during his time as a coach there. So while you judge the character of Saban, realize that Haywood was taking lessons and implamenting them into his personal life.
Ask any coach that he has worked for, along with the secretaries of the football offices and you will find that they all share one common link. Mike Haywood is a lying, cheating, scum-bag!
If that doesn’t sway you, reach out to his relators who he sleeps with or the local restaraunts/bars and you shall find a woman with whom he has had sexual relations with. The staff at Pitt will soon realize what type of man they hired. The AD…”he is the type of man we were looking for”… if that man is a disgusting PIG, I think he is at the wrong school. I thought your mascot was a Panther? You can put lipstick on a PIG, but it’s still a PIG!!!

Comment by Tony In Harrisburg 12.17.10 @ 12:55 am

^^^ Tony, two things jump out with your quote…

One – You do realize Haywood is single, right? Sleeping with women? Horrors. the fact that he sleeps with Realtors is rather strange given there is no need with today’s low interest rates, but hey – to each his own.

Second – you are quoting a “post” and not an established media report. Hell, I can get on a message board and post that I’m the greatest Military Officer that ever lived and it sure as hell would be true.

Did you somehow miss the tone of the posters last sentence… “if that man is a disgusting PIG, I think he is at the wrong school. I thought your mascot was a Panther? You can put lipstick on a PIG, but it’s still a PIG!!!”

That right there tells me the poster has a huge personal axe to grind with this man… I’m no Rush Limbaugh fan but the word “FemiNazi” comes to mind.

Man, you got to do way better than this if you want to enter into an adult conversation on this guy’s merits.

Comment by Reed 12.17.10 @ 4:11 am

Guys, everyday there has been more and more come out about what went into PITT’s decision making in removing Dave Wannstedt and, I have to say that those posters who are surprised that PITT had major problems off the field just were not following PITT football very closely.

Read both Paul Zeise’s Chat of 12/16, his Redshirt Diaries Blog of 12/17 and Kevin Gorman’s commentary of 12/17. The program was in a shambles if the field… which led directly to their poor performances on the field…which led to losing football games also. Don’t get me wrong, Wannstedt obviously had fired himself with his inability over the years to close the deal and win with the talent he had… but when this team fell apart (since preseason) and he lost control over the players, and he did, it sealed his fate.

There will be more about this as time goes on I’m sure, but understand this – we fans only heard about what was “official” news – either public arrest reports or formal internal PITT discipline that was released by the SID. Believe me, there was a lot more going on in the locker room (and Zeise has mentioned this also) than we read about.

It was absolutely no coincidence that PITT hired a guy who is know for his disciplinary approach.

Comment by Reed 12.17.10 @ 4:21 am

^^^ Links for those references…

Gorman at the Trib:

link to

Zeise’s Friday Blog:

link to

Comment by Reed 12.17.10 @ 4:31 am

Reed, I think that inane poster used the term “relator,” not “realtor.”

Someone who relates I guess is a relator, not a relater.

Otherwise the very idea of our new Coach having a housing fetish makes ones mind boggle.

Comment by steve 12.17.10 @ 7:15 am

Nice that hoops were off this week,so we could concentrate on football hire. Maryland Eastern shore in town on sat.

Comment by alcofan 12.17.10 @ 8:02 am

Looking at this hire after 24-hours to digest it, what a sack of shit Nordenberg and Pederson have sold us. Sorry, guys, been around this stinky Pitt program with its pompous chancellors and idiot athletic directors for a long time. Nothing about Haywood – and anyone can give a rousing speech – impresses. The new motto should be “It’s Carl DePasqua time again!”
You younsters on here have all the optimism you want. Enjoy another pro set offense and close games (WTF – didn’t he win a number of games by seven or fewer points?)with Rutgers and Buffalo at the off campus stadium. Following Pitt football for 43 years as taught me my initial impressions are usually right-on. We get Paul Hackett’s discipline (that worked out so well) and Wannstedt’s game plan….Cheap is the operative word. Cheap hire, cheap tickets, bowl bids with cheap payouts. Hey, sign me up now!

Comment by TonyinHouston 12.17.10 @ 8:20 am

ESPN college fb live really loved the hire, also Mel Kiper liked it much better than the Holgorsen hire at WVU

Comment by Henry Hynoceros 12.17.10 @ 8:20 am

Pitt fails when there is hype.. and not a big name coach… the hype is much less… maybe Pitt actually turns around…but here’s hoping.

Comment by Snala The Panther 12.17.10 @ 9:17 am

Sorry if this has already been posted but I have actually been doing work at work.

My thoughts around Pederson are he is earning his paycheck and not rocking the boat. During his first tenure, he came in and shook things up. The athletic dept desperately needed some house cleaning and a new direction. However, in the back of his mind he was building his resume for his dream job at Nebraska. Now that his dream has gone up in flames he returns to Pitt with his tail between his legs. His career outside of Pitt is limited. I doubt any big D1 school would hire him. Now there is no reward for taking risks so why take them? Keep the boss happy and do just enough to keep your job.

The one thing I was pleased to see with the hiring process was that they were actually looking for a football coach. Normally the selection process involves detailing the amount of pierogies you have eaten and finding Millvale on map while blindfolded. Coaching football was a bonus!

I’ll give Haywood a shot, he deserves it until proven otherwise.

Comment by Yeti 12.17.10 @ 9:43 am

Tony in Houston,
I’ve missed one home football game since 1971, and that feeling of cheap is all over this move. Your sentiments are mine. We have witnessed this all before, the more things change in Pitt football the more they remain the same. This hiring is fishy, to hire a coach with name recognition would have cost money. I’m tired of the Pitt mailings asking for funds to add to their billion dollar endowment. The buck stops here .

Comment by Marty 12.17.10 @ 9:45 am

@ TampaT. True, but won’t Haywood be gone to the highest bidder also???

@ Pole. I was being totally sincere too, and for me to show any sympathy towards Steve is really saying something. But if Nordy told him, no pros, no coords, no one that has been out of football, that eliminates half. You know no top 20 head coaches are coming, middle of the pack lateral move, really left Steve with only a few choices. I really don’t know if Steve will be the scapegoat though, I’m just wondering if Nordy has it right where he wants it. I mean, I always heard Nordy was big on athletics, but, what do I know, that’s just from reading things.

@ Reed “established media report” , ha ha, I don’t know, think I’d trust some posters more!!!

Comment by pantherhead 12.17.10 @ 9:47 am

Hey, I know it’s Friday, around the holidays, but, if anyone gets a chance, the FSD or Div 1-AA, still can’t figure why they changed that and what it means, anyhow, the playoffs games tonight and tomorrow. I don’t watch the whole games or anything, but, not bad to flip on for 5 or 10 minutes. Very intense crowds, allthough small, really into it. The crowds remind me of a lot of the smaller basketball conferences championship games, when an NCAA bid is on the line.

Comment by Dan 12.17.10 @ 9:55 am

Oh, Friday and Holidays, just meant I know everyone is busy and flying around. If you get a chance though, better than dancing with the stars!!

Comment by Dan 12.17.10 @ 9:56 am

One obvious and critical issue confronting Heywood and his soon-to-be assembled (hopefully) staff is retaining recruits. A quick check in Chris Peak reveals a list of 2011 recruits that is shrinking fast. Only one four star remains out of the nine that are listed. There used to be about 20 on that list.

Comment by Jerome Lane 12.17.10 @ 9:59 am

I like that Haywood plans to expand our recruiting footprint:

“Haywood, a native of Houston, Texas, has recruited extensively in the Midwest and South. He said Pitt will focus its recruiting efforts in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C.; Virginia, Maryland, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan as well as Texas, Louisiana and Florida.”

Comment by Pittastic 12.17.10 @ 10:15 am

he better recruit well, all the big names are gone and the list is only 8 people…

this sucks…

Comment by mike 12.17.10 @ 10:19 am


It’s not my post. I just ran across via a web search and I didn’t say there was anything to it. I just said not everyone likes him and yes it sounds as if that person has an axe to grind.

Comment by Tony in Harrisburg 12.17.10 @ 10:20 am

Totally agree that the process they (Pederson and Nordegren) followed was flawed and did do some damage to the program. However, there are two mitigating factors.

1) It is a results oriented business. No matter what the process, as long the team wins early and often, no one will care.
2) No matter what the process, they were going to come away with the same result.

If you’re looking for someone to blame, look no further than Jamie Dixon. The success of the Pitt basketball program had to be a huge factor. We do it in our business, we find a profile or a formula that works, we try to replicate it. Cleary that’s what happened here.

Comment by Boubacar Aw 12.17.10 @ 10:22 am

Jerome Lane and mike: I think Peak only kept the guys who said they remained committed after Wanny “resigned” on his list. Most of the others are not lost, just not 100% committed to Pitt. I’m guessing Haywood will be focusing on them pretty quickly.

Comment by TampaT 12.17.10 @ 10:25 am

What if Pederson thinks he’s actually the best coach available for the Pitt job? What if he is the best coach available for the Pitt job? People who wrote about hiring Chris Pedersen and Mike Leach are smoking the same crack with different hookers. The best big time coaches want to go to big time programs for big time money. Just because we would throw lots of money out there wouldn’t make us one of those programs.

Chris Pederson would never come to Pitt for any amount of money. It would be a lateral career move for him at best. And not only would we not want anything to do with Mike Leach, he would charge an obscene amount of money to use the job as a one or two year stepping stone into one of the bigger jobs available. Not to mention he wouldn’t have the same success and ability to recruit the overflowing athletic talent pool of Texas.

And every coach thinking about the Pitt job will see video of Pitt games and notice 25,000 seats open against rival opponents. The fan support is not there and the recruiting well in Pennsylvania is not there anymore to attract those kind of coaches just on school name recognition. What we can do is try to find a great, hungry, and motivated young coach who is interested in building the program up. Excite the fan base, raise the program standards, and then reward the coach if he’s successful and make it worth his while to stay. Of the six or seven names that were realistically being mentioned, Haywood is by far my favorite pick. It’s just my opinion of course, he just seems like the best choice to me.

This might seem like a crass analogy, but we don’t need to be the good looking kid at the dance who sits in his chair all night because he only wants to dance with the hottest girl in school. Let’s dance with that cute girl from math class whose breast size just doubled over the summer. And also I heard from a buddy she is a really really dirty screw.

Hail to Pitt! Hail to dirty big breasted college algebra classmates!

Comment by Glen Frankenfield 12.17.10 @ 10:36 am

Well Wannys great recruiting classes lead us to an ass kicking by Miami and West Virginia (and no BE titles) in six years so I don’t put much stock into what happens with this class. Hopefully they can keep some of the better ones but I dont see this as critical. Wannys recruits didnt play until their third year anyway so we wouldnt have seen these guys until 2014 – at the earliest.

Plus, who knows, maybe Haywood can pick off a few other recruits from some of these other geographic areas he’s got ties to? It is nice to know that he has some in-roads to texas with TCU joining in 2012.

At this point I am more curious as to how he will round out his staff?

Comment by Coach Ditka 12.17.10 @ 10:37 am

Tony in H’burg – We have plenty of women at Pitt, what’s the problem?

Comment by Dan 72 12.17.10 @ 10:38 am

pantherhead: I’m not saying Haywood, if he’s successful, will remain at Pitt as Jamie has. But, I do think he’ll stay longer than Holgorsen will at WVU if he’s equally successful. It’s just a gut feeling after reading each guy’s comments about their respective situations.

Comment by TampaT 12.17.10 @ 11:01 am

I have no problem with a guy catting.

I was pulling for Mike Leach so I’m looking around to see where the crack and whores got to….

Comment by Tony in Harrisburg 12.17.10 @ 12:27 pm

If you’re in Harrisburg you shouldn’t have to look too far. Hey-O! I kid.

I’m not saying it’s wrong to want a guy of Leech’s stature to take over your favorite college football program. But why not say that you want Bill Cowher or Tony Dungee or Joe Paterno, because those are people only slightly less likely to be offered and take the Pitt job. Pitt has an academic and more importantly with UPMC a corporate image to maintain and Leech is a nightmare candidate right now. He’s practically radioactive.

While it’s not a PR homerun or a move that’s going to sell a lot of tickets right now like Dave’s hiring did, it looks like it could be a really great long term hire. If he starts winning BE championships and winning 9 and 10 games a season he’s probably only going to leave Pitt for ND. If he gets hired by a school like LSU, Auburn, or Texas it’s because he had a couple of undefeated seasons at Pitt.

Or he’s putrid and he runs the team in to the ground. I don’t think anyone sees that happening though. But if he does, then we’ll bring back Dave, he’ll coach the team to 7 seven win seasons until he’s 82 and go down as the all- time winningest coach in Pitt history. Either way I’ll still be here. I’m a Pitt football fan. Great fans learn to take the good with the bad. I watched every home game for six years from 93-99. Anyone want to add up how many quality wins I got to see? But the good ones sure did feel sweet.

Comment by Glen Frankenfield 12.17.10 @ 1:05 pm

Agree, Glen. The reactions we’re seeing here are a lot of SOP – no not “same old Pitt” as some have said, but Same Old Pittsburghers – never satisfied, mostly negative and assured that doom and gloom is to come.

My old business partner used to say it was because we had to deal with grey skies that seemed to be within arms’ reach for 9 months of the year. That’s why he and I moved to Tampa! 🙂

But, I still love Pittsburgh, the people and Pitt. That’s why I keep coming back as often as I can. Hopefully Haywood and his team give me reason to come back even more often.

Comment by TampaT 12.17.10 @ 2:12 pm

[…] the firing and hiring on the football side, Dixon’s hire has gotten a bit of a second look. It has paid off in a way I know I never […]

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