I’m only now home and with some time to sit down and post on what is old news: Pitt will have the same coach from the regular season coach the team in Birmingham. Something that is actually unique for the program.
The buzz last night and at the start of the morning was that it looked like Chryst wasn’t leaving Pitt. The message he and his assistants were getting out to the 2013 recruits was much more forceful than it would be if he was even torn on the idea. By comparison, Louisville Coach Charlie Strong told his players that he was deciding about what was best for his family before deciding to stay with the Cards.
Still, it was his alma mater. It was his home state. There are a lot of reasons he could change his mind. And, frankly, until there was something more tangible, the possibility he could decide to go back to Madison would be hanging over everything.
Enter Wisconsin AD and interim HC Barry Alvarez in a press conference today.
Question: Barry, you know how popular Paul Chryst is around here, and his name is going to be out there until proven otherwise. Is he a viable option to be the next head coach here?
Alvarez: I asked some very good friends of mine to help Paul get that job. I think Paul has already come out and said that he’s committed to Pitt. I think he should be committed to Pitt. I wouldn’t think it would be right for him to leave after one year. I wouldn’t feel right, and I don’t think it would be appropriate for me to hire him back after I asked someone to do me a favor and help him get that job.
So Paul’s going to stay at Pitt.
And there was much rejoicing.
The relief from Pitt fans was tangible. The praise for Barry Alvarez was sung.
The one thing that nags at me — just a little — is it really that simple?
Is it simply that Barry Alvarez didn’t want to try and persuade Chryst to go back on his word to Pitt and the incoming recruits? That he didn’t want to betray the trust of old (and rich) friends to whom he sang the praises of Chryst?
There’s a lot of reason to believe it. After all, Alvarez has a history of not only shooting straight, but not shutting up. So that he reveals more than others. Way back in 2010 when before Nebraska was brought into the Big 10, you had all the Big 10 honchos and the member schools power players denying any active searching for a 12th member and expanding the conference. But along comes Barry Alvarez to just share plenty. And when he said the Big 10 wasn’t doing any expansion in 2011, it was accurate.
In a business where everyone lies. Everyone spins. Alvarez seems the exception. Old school as a former coach that transitioned to the athletic director. Blunt and honest with people. Secure in his position and beloved by the fans and the school so he has no real reason to be afraid of the politics.
Maybe Chryst simply turned him down, and Alvarez was the one spinning. Chryst doesn’t seem to care too much about a lot of the politics, but a large part of Alvarez’s job is dealing with the politics. Fans don’t take it well when a top choice says no to them. Hurts their psyche to think others don’t perceive their program’s job to be the jewel that it obviously is. Since Chryst does owe Alvarez a little, it wouldn’t be much skin off of Chryst’s back to let Alvarez put it out there that Wisconsin wasn’t going to pursue him.
If you read a lot more of the press conference you can pick up quite a bit of how self-aggrandizing, cocky and arrogant Alvarez can be. (Which might help to explain why he hand-picked Bielema to be his successor.) Heck, his statement on Chryst can easily be read as, “I could have brought Chryst here if I wanted, but I’m such a good and honorable guy — which you should all know — I deigned it just and wise to leave Chryst in Pittsburgh.”
Maybe it was a bit of ass-covering because Alvarez — in his position at Wisconsin — realized it just didn’t make financial sense to hire Chryst. Consider that the salary he would have to offer Chryst would be at around $2 million per year. Then there is the $6 million buyout. So just to keep the numbers simple (and not worry about present values versus future values of the money) pretend the contract would be for 6 years. That $2 million annual salary is actually a $3 million cost. Chryst has a lot of promise as a coach, but he is not worth $3 million per year.
Chryst’s popularity with the fans and even the players would make trying to put forth the fiscal prudent argument difficult. Especially in light of Bret Bielema taking shots at Wisconsin for not paying his assistants.
Ultimately, it really doesn’t matter. I’m still basking in the sense of relief. The joy of knowing I won’t have to get all worked up over another coaching search for this year. And more importantly, the smallest sense of stability starting to return to the football program. Actually seeing a signing day class with the same coach who initially recruited the kids.