January 8, 2014

The Unqualified Hire

Filed under: Assistants,Coaches,Football,Hire/Fire — Chas @ 10:00 pm

It is permissible to like Paul Chryst as a coach at Pitt and still hate hiring decisions. That is the state I find myself once again this offseason.

Ross Kolodziej, who played seven years in the National Football League following a distinguished collegiate career at Wisconsin, has been named head football strength and conditioning coach at Pitt, it was announced by Coach Paul Chryst today.

Kolodziej (pronounced ka-la-gee) was promoted to the post after serving the Panthers as an assistant strength and conditioning coach this past season.

I said it on Monday that this would be a bad hire, based purely on his resume.

I stand by that, as even the press release couldn’t do much to buttress his experience or credentials.

Kolodziej still holds Wisconsin weight room records for a defensive player in the squat and clean. He also holds defensive lineman records in the 40-yard dash, vertical jump and pro-agility drill.

“The 2014 season starts on Thursday when we begin our offseason training program and I’m excited that Ross will be leading this very important area,” Chryst said. “This is a well-earned opportunity for him and I know he is going to make a significant impact. Our players are equally enthusiastic about getting back to work. We’re looking forward to a highly productive offseason.”

A two-sport athlete in college, Kolodziej was a shot putter at Wisconsin and a member of the Badgers’ 2000 and 2001 indoor and outdoor track and field Big Ten championship teams.

A seventh-round draft pick of the New York Giants in 2001, Kolodziej played seven seasons in the NFL and two more in the United Football League (UFL). In addition to the Giants, he spent time with the Minnesota Vikings, San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals. His most productive NFL season came in 2005 when he started 14 games for Arizona’s top-10 defensive unit.
He played with the UFL’s Las Vegas Locomotives in 2009 and 2010. A team captain, he helped the franchise to two league championships.

During the 2009 offseason, Kolodziej was a full-time strength and conditioning intern at Wisconsin. The following offseason, he worked with the Badgers as a defensive graduate assistant.

He owns a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Wisconsin and also has a certification in USA weightlifting, level 1.

So the “offseason internship” is a new addition. Obviously very important considering his old Wisconsin GA bio didn’t bother mentioning either internship stint.

Here were a couple other S&C Coaches from lower-level D-1 programs I pulled as comparisons. Let’s make this an open challenge. There are 120+ other 1A football programs. Can anyone find a S&C Coach less qualified?

This is why this is even different — and a worse hire than Matt House as DC. At least House had a resume and some experience. He wasn’t hiring for a position that requires more than coaching experience.

Kolodziej has one year as an assistant for a position that usually calls for certifications, education, knowledge and experience. Despite becoming an assistant last year he has added none beyond his weekend course in beginner level weightlifting coaching. He has not gotten CSCS ceritification — which is a basic prerequisite for athletic trainers (because, given how thin that bio is, you know it would have been mentioined). He hasn’t been taking any courses at Pitt related to training or kinesiology. At any other program, he wouldn’t even get an interview because of his lack of qualifications. At Wisconsin, because you know, Wisconsin — even the assistants have more experience and education.

This isn’t an inexperienced hire. This is a thoroughly unqualified hire. I find it reckless and dangerous for the players. They may like him a lot, but his job is much more than motivating and getting players to like him. He has to know what they can do. Know their limits.

Kolodziej may have been fantastic in the weight room as a player at Wisconsin. He may have understood exactly how far he could take his own body. But that doesn’t mean he knows what to do with the limits — mental and physical — of others.

This is not about Pitt being cheap. This is a honking huge neon sign showing one of the biggest flaw in Coach Chryst as head coach. His preference to only hire from within his known circle. To promote a very unified staff, and not wanting to risk anything to disrupt it to the point of absurdity. This is so clearly his hire. His guy.

We know he’s not wild about recruiting in terms of selling. But it is also apparent he has no stomach for networking. Of reaching out and working too far beyond a small circle.

pitt2cali, I agree that his efforts in his first stint are partly responsible for us being in the ACC right now.

However, what is unforgiveable is what he had turned the FB program into …. by making 2 horrific hires within a one month period.

Even more exasperating, is the fact that he repeated history. He fired a coach who was winnning (but maybe justified in both cases) and replaced that coach with a worse candidate.

I don’t know why people have a problem with this but when you take the action to fire a somewhat successful coach, you better ave a plan already in place to replace him. In both instances (at Neb and Pitt) he was clueless.

Comment by wbb 01.09.14 @ 1:41 pm

So if basketball had something to do with it, SP deserves at least a little credit, right? After all, he had the vision and oversaw the revitalization of BB. He certainly did not “destroy” anything. (Pitt Stadium doesn’t count!) lol

Comment by Pitt2Cali 01.09.14 @ 1:41 pm

“Horrific hires”? a bit dramatic, don’t you think?

We’ll never know if Haywood would have been a good coach or not, and obviously there’s no way anyone could have known he would fly off the handles and force us to let him go… How was that man’s stupidity in anyway Pederson’s fault?

And who would have know that complete jackass Fraud would leave after one year?… Again that’s on Fraud, not Pederson. In my opinion.

Anyway, that’s yesterday’s news…. Let’s move on 🙂

Comment by Pitt2Cali 01.09.14 @ 1:53 pm


I am with you on this one. I respect Chas and I realize that he has more insight to what happens on the practice field and in the locker/weight room. But, I like the fact that Chryst is loyal to the guys who are loyal to him. At the same time, I don’t think that he is stupid and that he would hire someone who did not truly believe could do the job. So, I am very willing to let him make his choice for a S&C coach.

If anyone has any thoughts about where we stand with some of the recruits who we still want to get to commit, let’s hear about that.

H2P and H2S&C

Comment by pmdH2P 01.09.14 @ 1:53 pm


Glad to have you commenting today. Welcome to our little den of panic.


Comment by pmdH2P 01.09.14 @ 1:55 pm

While I am in no way a fan of Steve, you have to take the good with the bad. Putting money into our Olympic sporting sites and Baseball helped get us in to the ACC as well. Wbb while you are right that UConn was first pick, at least we were second, there is no reason to discount Pedersen’s contributions.

While most here long for Pitt Stadium, at the time Pete’s decision made sound business sense. It got us the Pete, which saved basketball as much as Howland and Dixon.

Most don’t remember or conveniently forget the public outrage over building Heinz and PNC.

It took a smooth political operator to accomplish what happened.

While the hiring of Heywood was a travesty most thought at the time Graham was a good thing. He obviously can recruit and coach.

Other than the most Pitt-centric, few in this town give a tinker’s damn about an on-campus stadium or Pitt Script, or long for the days of Dave Wannstedt.

Don’t sell Heinz Field and the City short, visiting fans have told me how great it is to have all the amenities and will come back.

None have mentioned missing walking around the Cathedral lawn. Oakland congestion is a nightmare,the Pete is bad enough, I can’t imagine the traffic with 60,000 these days.

Comment by gc 01.09.14 @ 2:02 pm

“It is not his team, it is our team. I have been a season ticket holder for several years now (as as many as 5 sideline tickets for 3 years ina row). While I don’t expect to be part of the decision making process, I reserve the right to raise concerns as to how the leadership is handling things”

wbb, the above quote is yours. You Sir are quite confused. Until Coach Chryst receives his pink slip from the Pitt Athletic Department, the football team is HIS! It also belongs in part to each and every paid employee on the staff that has direct ties to the program from Chryst all the way down to the equipment manager. But most of all, it belongs to the players currently on the team, because it is their sweat, blood, and overall commitment of their time and effort that creates the essence of what a team is in the first place.

Because you have a vested financial stake in multiple season tickets to attend Pitt football games, that makes you a FAN of that team. For the time period it takes to play the game, you are the temporary owner of the seats that you’ve paid for, that’s it.

So HCPC can, and probably will, continue (based on his track record so far) to do exactly what he wants to do regarding his coaching, management and recruiting of HIS team without much regard to what outsiders like all of us think about it.

We don’t necessarily have to like what he’s doing with HIS team and we have the right to bitch about those issues that we take umbrage with, but HCPC is THE GUY responsible for the program, he owns it. He owns the praise when things go right, he owns the criticism when things go wrong. The buck stops with him, as will this S&C coach hire that he has decided on.

I hope that he knows what he is doing in this case because it will definitely impact the outcomes of future games as well as having an impact on the health of the palyers on this team.

I have to believe that Chryst thinks that this is the right guy for the job or else he wouldn’t have hired him. Coach Chryst is neither STUPID or uncaring about this Pitt team. Conversely, I believe that he cares very much about this team and its players.

Does that mean that this hire couldn’t possibly be proven down the road to be a disaster, ABSOLUTELY NOT! But can anyone of us determine at this point that it’s already a disaster as of today, once again,absolutely not!

We are all going to have to wait and see, PERIOD. Myself, I don’t like the look of the hire from the outside for many of the reasons that have previously been eluded to already, but I hope that HCPC proves us all to be a bunch of worried blowhards a year or two down the road.

In the meantime bitch if you prefer, but the guy whose team it is, will continue to follow his own plan without giving much regard to the oppressive chatter that constantly surrounds him and the program from all those other outsiders that supposedly know better than him, and that includes the likes of all of us.

Comment by Dr. Tom 01.09.14 @ 2:21 pm

Dr. Tom, I don’t think anyone thinks Chryst is stupid or uncaring. I think some of us think he promotes his buddies over seeking out more qualified staff. It’s his team so he has the right to do that. But as fans we have the right to bitch. By the way in the case, the oppressive cahtter was caused directly by Chryst. Chryst could have hired a S&C coach from any small school and no one would have said anything. It’s only an issue because he hired such an unqualified candidate. I just think that Chryst could really help himself out by hiring more qualified assistants instead of constantly hiring his buddies.

Comment by Wardapalooza 01.09.14 @ 2:38 pm

Maybe Chryst thinks he is an up and comer and didn’t want to lose him.

We always reserve and protect our god given right to bitch. For many of us it is all we got.

Comment by gc 01.09.14 @ 2:43 pm

Maybe Chryst has put in a system and does not want to change it. If it is what they use at Wisconsin it might be good and it is what he knows.

Comment by gc 01.09.14 @ 2:45 pm

pitt2cali, there is no excuse for Pedersen not to know that Haywood had a child out of wedlock, especially since he was pushing the disciplinary/ethical issue so hard. This information was out there.

Any HR rep will tell you that if you hire a guy, pay him handsomely and he leaves within a year, it is a horrifc hire … unless he leaves the place much better than he found it, which he did not. Anytime you hire someone (FB coach or otherwise) from across country, one the first things you need to do is get a good understanding just how committed the guy is to moving to this area … of course, in this case, you had to look thru all of the BS.

I guess I’m a bit biased in this case … I am proud to say that I was the first to term this guy as a snake oil salesmen on this site the very day of his hiring press conference. I heard it on the radio and wondered just how you could throw so much money to this windbag .. he just seemed so insincere to me.

Of course , the other warning sign is how quick he left his first HC job (1 year) to go to Tulsa and how anxious he was to leave there after justa few years.

Comment by wbb 01.09.14 @ 3:10 pm

Dr Tom, I don’t necessarily disagree with what you wrote but remember … we were committed to Pitt long before we ever heard of Paul Chryst, and most likely, long after he leaves.

Comment by wbb 01.09.14 @ 3:15 pm

Emel, no worries my man. No offense taken. Appreciate your comments as well. I hear you with the concerns over groupthink and not expanding our horizons. I think it was Wardapalooza on this thread who said that Engram was really the only coach he hired without Wisconsin connections. (Who is also one of the best coaches/recruiters on the staff if not the best) I agree with that completely.

I am generally supporting PC and his plan, but I agree that this is of concern. Was completely disappointed with the hiring of House which I think many of us were, and for good reason.

I have a question that I don’t know the answer to. How do we know that all these coaches connected to PC are ‘yes’ men? Isn’t it possible that he hired them because their familiarity, trust level, and communication is such that he can/does expect them to call him out when they think he is wrong. Usually it’s the people closest to me that tell it to me straight so to say. I don’t know. It is an important question to ask though. Is there group think on this staff and is learning on the job staff seriously hindering the plan PC has in place. I’m a bit wary in some sense and trusting of PC in others. In other words confused and just wishing it was Spring.

Comment by Gordo 01.09.14 @ 3:36 pm

I think the S&C coach was hired to get the program closer to what Chryst knew at Wisconsin. The guy did grad assistant coach a full winter program at Wisconsin. Maybe this guy butted heads with the former S&C coach also.

Comment by notrocketscience 01.09.14 @ 4:05 pm

That being said, there still needs to be some changes made with the D staff. I doubt House is leaving but the coaching assignments are bizarre with the sharing of duties.

Comment by notrocketscience 01.09.14 @ 4:07 pm

Cali – Everyone and their mother who looked at Todd Graham’s resume knew he was a 1-2 year max coach. If Pederson did more homework and knew what a Southern Texan / Southern Baptist and his family would feel long term about the Burg. I think he should of slowed down and looked bigger picture. I don’t like Pederson, he presented to our teams a few times. He wasn’t genuine in my opinion. Lastly, Athletics has had some success mostly in basketball but I wonder where we would be worse, better, etc we would be with a better overall AD. No one will know more sure but to just compare him to the previous AD isn’t fair. Didn’t Jeff Long hire Jaime? I’m not positive but thought so. Take care.

Comment by Upittbaseball 01.09.14 @ 4:40 pm

wbb, Kudos again for your early call on Fraud, but as it turns out he has made it through two years at Arizona and seems to be doing ok. Obviously Pedersen was under considerable duress when he made the call after the first fiasco.

He had a very bad month all his decisions three of them bit him hard in the ass but if you look at each individually they weren’t that bad. When you put them all together it was a disaster.

Firing Wanny only looks bad in retrospect because of what happened afterward. You can blame Pedersen for poor planning and should have had his ducks in a row as they say.

I don’t know that having a non-traditional relationship in today’s world is a deal breaker.
No one could have predicted Heywood’s poor behavior, just ask Ken Melani.

Graham was an up an comer, it is hindsight that tells you he was not worth the risk, otherwise why did ASU hire him.

All of this seems to have made us a critical paranoid bunch.

Comment by gc 01.09.14 @ 4:59 pm

you know i did not like graham i said so not long after Wbb did but i still think are AD did something
lied to graham or would not let him hire who he wanted i think there was some noise in the paper abought a hire that he said no to.
as much as graham is a ass hole i think he graham said he would not work for are AD one more day
becuse he was a pain in the ass

Comment by Frankcan 01.09.14 @ 6:03 pm

gc, not knowing about the SI article, I thought Wanny’s firing was premature considering he had the best 3 year run in 30 years of the program. I thought he was providing stability, something this program sorely needed. Even after the SI article, I thought a coach who was an alum and was even giving a salary discount to the school should have been given time to clean tings up. I still feel that way.

But to expound on my claim that Pedersen was clueless, the same thing happened here that had happened at Nebraska. He had to settle on the 4th or 5th choice. I believe he originally targeted Golden and then Holgerson, only to find they were all but hired by others. He then approached both Graham and Sumlin only to find he couldn’t afford them. He may have even approached someone else before Haywood — can’t recall. And of course, he had no idea what the market bore and what a discount he was getting from Wanny.

Again, if you’re going to fire someone, you better have a plan in mind on whom you can get for replacement.

Comment by wbb 01.09.14 @ 6:07 pm

Just in case anyone disputed the fact that he gave an alma mater discount … and more evidence how dedicated he was here

link to

Comment by wbb 01.09.14 @ 6:10 pm

I don’t disagree with any of that wbb.

I do think that in addition to the SI article the fact that Wanny lost most of the big games especially the Cinci game got Pedersen thinking we could do better. Easier said than done.

No doubt he was a Pitt guy and gave the University a huge discount. In hind sight, I bet Pedersen wishes he gave him that additional year, I think we all do.

Comment by gc 01.09.14 @ 6:22 pm

That should be a lesson to anyone that wants to fire a coach at the drop of a hat. How many times do you get a better one, just look at the NFL.

Comment by gc 01.09.14 @ 6:25 pm

Right on, gc.

Comment by Pitt2Cali 01.09.14 @ 6:46 pm

I get a kick out of all the comments/opinions in this forum but one on this thread made me laugh out loud….
Steve Pederson is a “program destroyer”.

I’m sorry, how many years was it since we made it to a bowl before he brought Walt in? Eight?

How many years had it been since we won a NCAA Tournament game before he brought Ben in? Nine?

Before calling someone a “program destroyer” you need to look at the facts and ask yourselves… Were we better the 10 years before SP arrived, or the 10 years after?

I don’t think most of us had a problem with Cornhole the first time around, other than taking away Pitt script, asking the Networks to refer to PITT as PITTSBURGH and of course blowing up our on Campus Stadium.

Hey wait a minute,,,let me xxxxxx out “I don’t think most of us had a problem with Cornhole the first time……


Comment by Emel 01.09.14 @ 7:56 pm

@ gordo.

Concur with your assessments. My experience with ppl that were on my payroll is; they always went along with whatever my agenda was. I can’t remember many times or any times, someone said anything different.

And I went along 99.5% of the time of what the National Marketing Director wanted to do.
The .5% was when I moved everyone to a different company. lol

Comment by Emel 01.09.14 @ 8:06 pm

I have had an opportunity to speak with three athletic directors about Pederson. Two are at institutions with consensus top 20 programs in football and basketball. One is at a program on par with Pitt. All three believe he should not be leading an Athletic Department. This is telling. One used the term paranoid and unwilling to change when something isn’t working. Not my words!

I look at how our womens bball team had to go winless in the conference for nearly two years because he couldn’t pull the trigger on Agnes. Nice lady, wrong person for Pitt. He tries to shove square pegs into round holes. He has been trying to cover for himself in mens bball and baseball by having some of the easiest schedules in the entire country. Noone respects his work. Pitt bball is perhaps rightly or wrongly feeling the heat because of scheduling.

The ACC move was not his doing. He was here. Pitt was going to be left out because other AD’s don’t like him or trust.

The Peterson Events Center was not his doing. Pitt had a wealthy donor that predicated that building. Pederson was in charge when that building came to being. This is done in spite of him, not because of him.

College AD’s think he completely missed the boat when he took the football team off campus. That is part of the higher education experience that we can never provide a young athlete. There will never be traditions at your stadium when it is shared with the most successful football franchises in the US.

Sorry about the rant, but any mention of that man, gets my blood boiling to the point that I need to vent.

One last note, Gateways Armstead Williams just transferred back from Purdue to …..Duquesne! The grass ain’t always greener away from home. The grass is greener where you take care of it. It is easier to take care of it when you have the support of friends and family on a local level. Perhaps that is another reason I don’t care for Pedersons work. He just ain’t one of us and never will be.

Comment by dhuffdaddy 01.09.14 @ 10:10 pm

this will happen if penn state hires franklin some tv station or news paper will do a story true or not they wont care.
it will read like this penn state hires coach franklin who is involved with a rape cover up at old school vandy etc etc
then it will say something like this penn state did not do there do delgence after there own rape scandel etc etc
this is a prediction they will do it for the rateings

Comment by Frankcan 01.09.14 @ 10:28 pm

4 pitt players make all ACC bowl team

Comment by Frankcan 01.09.14 @ 10:52 pm

Glad the comments have finally moved on from the sky is falling panic. So far I like the way Paul Chryst’s program is proceeding, from what I can observe in terms of player commitment, the team coming together, player quality both in terms of character off the field and individual ability/progress on it as well as overall team progress on the field. The CEO has to make his own judgements about his hires. Based on the progress so far I anticipate good results over time. Call me a goofy optimist but I am willing to wait and see and expect some satisfying results in the years to come. I also refuse to be worried about Penn State regardless of who they manage to hire as their coach. I’m old enough to remember when Pitt would beat PSU 3 of 5 times on a regular basis. We may not get back to exactly that but 6 of 11 isn’t bad. When we get there and win 7 to 10 games almost every year I’m sure some of us will still find somethings to worry and bitch about. Hey, that’s why its called Blather. Enjoy the ride! HTP!

Comment by OPFIM 01.10.14 @ 12:00 am

Still don’t know why everyone is shocked. HCPC is quiet and I really think he doesn’t have much…..confidence. I have no idea how this guy will turn out but what this hire does show without a doubt is PC will not bring in experienced assistant coaches who are not yes men. I know some on here will say I’m crazy but the guy lacks confidence and dare I say experience and he can’t be bringing guys who will show him up or not agree with him.

Comment by Shawn 01.10.14 @ 6:18 am

if franklin is hired penn state coach larry johnson said he will leave pitt should make him asst head coach and co DC TO GET HIM TO COME TO PITT HE IS THE ACE RECRUITER THERE

Comment by Frankcan 01.10.14 @ 10:05 am

Everyone calm down. I heard from a reliable source that Ross K once stayed at a Holiday Inn Express.

Comment by maguro 01.10.14 @ 10:10 am

I johnson wants respect and he thinks penn state has disrespected him bye hireing franklin just saying give him some titles and he might come great recruiter

Comment by Frankcan 01.10.14 @ 10:14 am

I’m happy with Pitt’s football coaching staff. We’ve come to some stabilization in staffing, now it’s time to get better as a football team. Paul will get Pitt to be more competitive but it takes time. Let’s be thankful that our program it turning in the right direction. Pitt easily could have won three more games but didn’t because of poor execution or mistakes in judgment. In the off-season, Paul has the opportunity to work on the intangibles that may help Pitt win without too much “surgery.” Hail to Pitt and Paul Chryst!

Comment by MariettaMike 01.10.14 @ 10:50 am

Your sources don’t sound very credible. Not just speaking negatively about a colleague but speaking negatively to a person that will post the information on the internet. Nice.
To say Pederson had nothing to do with anything good that has happened at Pitt while he was employed is a joke. He is responsible for the good and the bad.

Comment by notrocketscience 01.10.14 @ 11:01 am

They aren’t friends of athletic directors. They are the athletic director’s. I have known them all for years so the conversations aren’t generalities. I trust what they say because they have no reason not to speak what they feel.

I wouldn’t put their name to what they say as that would be violative of a trust. I don’t tell them to give me info so I can go add to a blog. Most of the time we talk about litigation between university and athletes. I go over protocols with administrations and the respective medical staffs. Conversations cover a myriad of topics.

Each worries often about disposable income of patrons at the gate as well as donors and endowments. They worry about the gameday experience at 100k stadiums and how to keep selling tickets when many would prefer to stay home and watch the game on the 60 inch tv. Think what you want, I respect that rocket.

They do not consider themselves colleagues with Steve P. Acquaintances yes and collegial, yes. I never said he didn’t have anything to do with anything good that has occurred at Pitt. I do struggle with creating a long list of good. At the end of the day, it is his legacy at Pitt. If it was your legacy, how would you feel about what has been accomplished? What did he do so good for instance.

Now remove yourself from the Pitt program. What did he do good at Nebraska? So has it been more bad than good? Most people get fired when they do their respective jobs poorly. Poor would be my grade for him, not fail. I would give him a 6 out of 10. What is your score?

Comment by dhuffdaddy 01.10.14 @ 11:04 pm

I would give him a 7 out of ten.

The Pete
Olympic facilities
Great basketball program
Heinz Field and South Side facilities
Sorry. I was not a Pitt Stadium fan. It was an embarrassment.

Comment by notrocketscience 01.11.14 @ 10:13 am

Not too different. I can respect a 7.

I was not a great fan of Pitt Stadium either, but I do think an on campus stadium trumps what we have now. The game experience is used against Pitt in recruiting. They should be strategic in their thinking and real estate deals to make room for an on campus facility. At that point, they can bring some lasting traditions to the ball yard.

Comment by dhuffdaddy 01.11.14 @ 3:08 pm

I went to the University of Pittsburgh between 1971 and 1975. Came back many times during my freshman dental school days to watch Pitt win their national championship. I cherish my memories of Pitt stadium & being on campus. The place was a dump.

Petersen Events Center is a fabulous facility that stands on its footprint. Heinz Field is a modern facility as well. It is easy to get to, lots of parking and things to do around it on the north shore (including the casino which is a favorite of mine), and it’s a venue that has a beautiful view of the city. Heinz Field may not be the perfect venue for Pitt football but it sure is a much better stadium then Pitt stadium ever was.

Comment by Dr. Tom 01.12.14 @ 7:54 am

Off topic. Dr. Tom where did you go to Dental school?

Comment by Oklahomeboy 01.12.14 @ 9:28 am

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