December 25, 2014

Our new Head Coach has been hired after what was a short and poorly kept secret search.  The PITT Search Committee floated some misdirection out by leaks here and there but since late last week it was narrowed down to Pat Narduzzi, the ex-defensive Coordinator for Big Ten’s Michigan State and basically no one else.

Love it or hate it,  in my opinion it smacks as same old, same old for PITT’s run of head coaches.  Not that I disagree or even dislike the choice, I’m OK with it actually, but it runs counter to what  PITT’s stated goal was after Chryst left.  That was to open the purses strings and make a “splash hire” by getting a successful guy who had already held a head coaching position in college and who knew how to handle to rigors of both on and off the field requirements of a large university’s football program.

The only variation, and it is a big one, is that the incoming HC won’t have to deal with the previous AD in Steve Pederson.  That right there gives Narduzzi a bump in the right direction.

But in essence it feels like we replicated almost exactly what we did three years ago when we hired Wisconsin’s Offensive Coordinator Paul Chryst, taking the gamble that he’d have a successful transition to the Big Job.  A coordinator turned Head Coach who had stronger loyalties for another school other than PITT as we have just seen. Now we are doing it again with Narduzzi so I’ll keep my fingers crossed that times change as the personnel do and that the last three years are bettered under the new HC.

That said, PITT has had some relatively success with college Assistant Coaches in their hiring of Walt Harris and Dave Wannstedt.  Both had never been a college HC but were successful staff coaches previously. Both of them, after rocky starts, put together later winning seasons that raised PITT’s football visibility for a short period.

Yes, Wannstedt was a NFL head coach but to me that is a very different animal than being a college head coach in that he didn’t have to answer to an Athletic Director or to the Chancellor, Donors, Boosters and Player Alumni.  That is a huge drain of energy for a college HC. On top of all that the HC has to steer and corral 100+ young men into positive behaviors and academic actions.  Not an easy thing to do consistently, effectively and well.

NFL head coaches don’t really have to deal with amount of personnel problems on the level that college head coaches do.  So there is a lot more autonomy and less overall responsibility in the NFL than there is at a university where the football tail doesn’t wag the university’s body.

While we are saying hello and welcoming Pat Narduzzi let’s also take a moment to reflect on Paul Chryst’s tenure at PITT and to say a proper goodbye to him.

Chryst’s departure has given rise to some negative feelings out there that I wasn’t reading about the week before the Wisconsin job opened up.  It was almost like now that the guy has left the room we can talk badly about him.  That’s OK in that not only does everyone have an opinion there are also some things that he could have done better while he was at PITT.

First off would be winning the close games that we tended to lose. Even if we use the 2014 season as an example we can point directly to the Duke game that we blew in two overtimes and which should have been our win in regulation time with a successful field goal attempt at the buzzer.  Hindsight is 20/20 but when you really look at the circumstance of the end of that game you see that the kicker missed the FG but also that the HC didn’t put that kicker in the best possible place to make that rather short attempt either.

Win that Duke game and we are 7-5 right now looking at a winning season and a chance to get to 8-5 with a bowl win which would have been a fine season… although it still wouldn’t have kept Chryst from leaving.

The last three seasons are riddled with examples of poor game day management and head scratching decision making by Chryst.  He had multiple brain freezes when it came to clock management and made some strange red zone calls.  He made good decisions also but those just don’t stick out like his bad ones do.

We won some nice games over the past three years beating ranked schools such as ND, VT and Rutgers and our last game, a win over Miami was satisfying also.  But in all honesty those don’t offset the bad feelings we had with the losses to YSU and Syracuse in ’12, then a poor Navy team and North Carolina last year and then the real kick in our collective asses being the loss to Akron this season.

He just never got us to the level of ‘beating the teams we should’ and that left a lousy taste in the mouth which wasn’t offset by the better winning games he did have.  Always left us wanting a little bit more Paul did.  I don’t really begrudge a 19-19 record as I think he really did have to rebuild the team and the roster.

Had we won all the games we should have,  lost games to the clearly better teams and split with the teams on our same level and still ended up at .500 then I think we’d all feel a bit better about how it went down.  The true hallmark of Chryst’s time as the HC is the utter inconsistency of the way we played the football games.  Not just who we beat when but how we executed when out on the field.  Not just game to game but sometimes half to half.

A good example of this was the first half of this season when we ripped off three straight wins beating a decent Boston College while doing so then turning around and losing a close game to Iowa where we just fell flat on our faces in the 2nd half. Then, to rub salt in the wound, we played horribly and with no spirit whatsoever in a 21-10 shellacking by Akron on our home field.

It seemed apparent to me that overall football-wise Chryst felt that his main, and sometimes only, goal was to get his offense established and clicking well enough so that it would relieve him of the tough in-game decisions a HC has to make. He also relied on that stronger offense to compensate for what was a very suspect defense over the last two years.  What he should have done was leave that offense, once established, to his OC and then really cracked down on bettering the defense.  Hiring his buddy Matt House in the important DC position wasn’t the way to do that.

So I wonder if Barry Alvarez, the AD over at Wisconsin, actually looked at the in-game coaching Chryst did over the time here was here.  Does he think that aspect of Chryst’s skills will automatically get better just because Chryst is now at Wisconsin?  Chryst is the Golden Child there and I wish him well but he comes with some serious football question marks.  Perhaps Alvarez thinks “It’s PITT, so really, how well could Paul actually do there?”

Where there are no question marks, in my mind anyway, is in the way Paul Chryst handled all the other aspects of the PITT football program and his superb filling the Loco Parentis (‘in the place of the parent’) role that a HC has to master so as to benefit every aspect of his contract with the University.  There is no doubt that he changed our past recruiting stance and targeted better students and players of high character rather than just looking at their football skills alone.

Like it or hate it, and some fans hate it for sure, that was what PITT wanted to do after the 2010 season and Graham’s midnight crawl.  PITT’s admin wanted any news the program generated to be because of the games we played and not because of negative off-field issues and in that aspect Chryst gave them exactly what they wanted and what we needed.

Of course those exacting standards impacted the overall talent we had on our roster over the past two years, especially on the defensive side of the ball.  To me it’s kind of a ‘chicken or the egg’ situation there.  Were our player’s not talented enough to execute the DC’s game plans or was our DC so poorly skilled that our talented players were not put in the best possible position to succeed?

Either way it does fall directly on Chryst’s shoulders for not recruiting better defenders and for elevating and keeping Matt House in that DC position.  Again, it seemed as if he didn’t think the defense was all  that important.  His decisions baked the chicken and scrambled the egg.  Not a recipe for success by any means.

On the other hand we can’t find much fault in Chryst’s offensive systems and his recruiting of offensive players when we jumped from 24.2 points per game under Todd Graham and his ‘Pedal to the Metal’ offense in ’11 to this season’s 31.7 ppg.  That scoring average is the highest we have had since DW’s 32.1 ppg in our 10 & 3 season in 2009.

Over his recruiting classes, with his first class being a HC-change class which is almost always sketchy, Chryst snagged one of the best WR’s in college in Tyler Boyd, one of the best RBs in James Conner and completely rebuilt the Offensive Line to his power run game specs. That last note may be the most important going forward under Narduzzi as his inherited OL is young and talented and  has the depth necessary to get through a whole season without dipping too much in play due to injury.

Along with those standout kids Chryst worked magic with our QB position by getting way more out of Sunseri than fans thought possible in ’10, then his reaching out for a SR transfer in Tom Savage and coaching him to his best year also in ’11.  Chryst then took Chad Voytik, who was recruited for a different offense altogether by Graham and had limited skills coming in, and worked with him to make his passing a positive aspect of Voytik’s game as opposed to being a knee-jerk ‘run-first’ QB.

Chryst took his time with Voytik and in turn Voytik studied hard, asked the right questions and turned into a QB who now understands both the college game and his own strengths and weaknesses.  Voytik played well enough over the 2nd half of the season to make us feel that he’ll be a firm strength at QB moving forward and I attribute that directly to Chryst’s handling of him.

Chryst has left PITT with other very talent skill position players also; let’s not forget true FRs RBs Chris James and Qadree Ollison and WR Adonis Jennings. They will form a nucleus that will serve us well for the next few years, unless Narduzzi and his new OC screw around and change things too much that is.  The best thing would be to play the offensive cards Chryst left you and make any changes gradually recognizing the type of offensive talent they have on hand.  Defensively they can blow the joint up for all I care.

I firmly believe that Paul Chryst left this program in a much better shape all around then it was when he was hired.  We have the type of student-athletes that every university should aspire to have and we have a program that is back in the good graces with the local high school coaches after DW’s firing and after Todd Graham’s arrogance alienated most of them.  Narduzzi seems like the no-nonsense guy who won’t have to rebuild any bridges with WPA football and who will be received well by the same type of serious, tough coaches who play the same type of football Narduzzi does that they like so much in the tri-state area.  Chryst was very well received by those guys.

One last point to consider with Chryst is the way he ran his practices, camps and scrimmages in a very open and transparent manner.  He and EJ Borghetti made is so very easy for Chas, Justin and myself to be there in person and ask the tough questions.  That type of courtesy can’t be overstated especially for us writers and readers of The Pitt Blather.  We have no guarantee whatsoever that the next regime will be that generous.

As a side note, there are a myriad of reasons I want EJ Borghetti to stay in either his current position or move into one of more responsibility but his dealings with us at The Blather have been truly excellent and very much appreciated.  I can’t stress enough how different this Blog would be if Borghetti hadn’t taken a fancy to us and given us media credentials.

I wish Paul Chryst all the best with his new position and understand exactly why he chose to do what he did.  I also appreciate the real caring he had for the University of Pittsburgh and its football program.  He’s one of the ‘Good Guys’ that college football needs to stay as great it is. I don’t necessarily wish he’d continue on at PITT but sure do wish him well at Wisconsin.

P/S: Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all. Remember to swallow that pride and get a sober driver if you have any doubt whatsoever if you should be on the road.  We need all the PITT fans we can get.

Reed, wonderful write-up, thanks and Happy Holidays.

You mentioned it, as have others, but I think overall it’s under-emphasized how much the AD firing, and the timing thereof, affected this process.

I know it had to be done, and I’m very glad it was, but the timing sucked. Leaving that gaping hole at AD undoubtedly affected the way Pitt went about this search.

It may have even precluded a real “splash” hire. Big-time, experienced head coaches may have said “screw that” to walking into such an unknown environment, not knowing how a yet-to-be-named AD would affect their program.

Actually, I’m grateful that Narduzzi chose to look past that little wrinkle and take the job anyway. He’s just about the best we could have hoped for, and let’s hope he knocks it out of the park.

Comment by BATR 12.25.14 @ 7:15 am

Great recap of the Chryst era, Reed.

I don’t think anyone could accuse Paul Chryst of being a good man who wanted to ensure his team represented the school in a classy manner. To me, this is important and is the price of entry for a team and coach.

But, you can represent the university well and still win enough games to make supporters of the program be proud of the success of the team. Paul Chryst finished 19-19, and as you pointed out that record could have and should have been much better. When I look at games “given away” vs games “taken away” I estimate that Chryst teams were at least a -6 in that regard. So, they could have easily gone 25-13 in the last. 3 yrs. And, that may be generous to him. I always got the feeling Pitt would find a way to lose games that were up for grabs down the stretch, and I feel that was the case far more often than not. So, from my standpoint, if Narduzzi & staff just improve their decision-making & strategy late in close games they can win 2/3 of their games with all else being equal vs the Chryst era .

As for UWM, I think they are getting a good man who has not really learned how to manage late game situations very well. I see a lot of 7-6 & 8-5 seasons in their future. I see more 9 win seasons for Pitt. I, too, wish they had chosen an existing successful head coach. But, I think they chose a solid man to lead the program. I just hope he adjusts to head coaching better than PC did .

Comment by Jim 12.25.14 @ 7:44 am

*Oops! Meant no one could accuse Paul Chryst of NOT being a good man.

Comment by Jim 12.25.14 @ 7:46 am


Merry Christmas everyone!

Net net PC did us a huge favor. Wish him well. Hiring
is risky business. Next year at this time we will have the answer. Nevertheless hoping Pitt got it right this time. Awaken
the sleeping giant of Pitt FB!!!!!!!

Comment by JR 12.25.14 @ 7:59 am

Reed, Thank you for very good retrospective of Paul Chryst’s tenure at Pitt. I think, despite his on the field shortcomings, that he did stabilize the program and left things in better shape with a young team, a strong offensive line and formidable offense. However with Pat Narduzzi coming in, I expect more and better all around. Unlike Chryst, Narduzzi comes in with a reputation as an excellent recruiter. Comments about him indicate that he will make sure that all of the assistant coaches can recruit. That’s encouraging to hear. Even though Chryst and company did a better job in reality than they did on paper. They did so with mostly 2 and 3 star rated players. If Narduzzi and his staff are able to bring more blue chippers, it should make a big difference. I expect to see that, especially with more talented defensive players. Another thing I anticipate seeing next season is a dramatic improvement with the Pitt defense. I would expect Narduzzi’s reputation as a defensive coach to draw more and better players to that side of the ball. I think this is an opportunity for the Pitt football program to take a big step and I am looking forward to next year.

Comment by Justinian 12.25.14 @ 8:47 am

I’m really curious to see what happens with the OC, I would like to think we’d continue with a pro set, I’m a fan.

Comment by Benzene 12.25.14 @ 8:50 am

Reed, thanks for putting into print what most of us Pitt fans feel. Given the way Graham fled the ‘Burgh, it was amazing Pitt could get any head coach willing to step in and take over a football program tittering on the edge. For that I give Chryst an ‘A’. I like Paul and Wisconsin and wish them both success. In fact, I’d love to see Pitt play Wisconsin in the ‘final four.’

How long the Narduzzi honeymoon lasts depends on how well Pitt handles the Youngstown States…

In the end, we will always be Pitt fans, it’s in our blood. So, hail to Pitt and its loyal followers. We deserve better and hopefully 2015 will leave us satisfied and proud. Happy Holidays!

Comment by MariettaMike 12.25.14 @ 8:59 am

It’s Christmas! Let’s be grateful to the Panther squad, Chryst & Co. for our early Christmas present that made all of these subsequent gifts possible, the Miami win! Without that the Panther Nation would be sitting home for the holidays with a 5-7 record no bowl game and a Smilie Steve wishing us “Happy Holidays” while still attempting to hypnotize us into believing that we should be enjoying the place Pitt Football is with HCPC still here, Matt House still our DC and blue chip recruits still overlooking Pitt for greener pastures.

I agree with Reed, Narduzzi is a risk as our next HC, but this hire feels totally different to me than Chryst’s did. Pat is not Paul but Pat must still “show me”! He needs to show immediate leadership here at Pitt, first by not coaching in the Cotton Bowl because his focus from today on should be ALL ABOUT PITT. Second he has to be urgent about retaining this recruiting class, especially Jordan Whitehead, who BTW, should love this hire. But to get this recruiting class intact to LOI signing day will take appropriate effort by Narduzzi to assemble, at least the major cogs of his staff before the middle of January so that these recruits know who their coaches will be. Lastly, Narduzzi has to start selling Pitt Football, to the recruits, to the fan base, to the media, and most importantly to himself and his yet to be assembled staff. He has to have a vision for Pitt Football before he can sell it and I want to know what his vision is.

None of the above was ever properly accomplished by HCPC. He lacked the motivation to assemble the best staff possible from across the country but rather he opted for hiring friends and sure bets that where mainly within his circle, he was slow to make those hires in a timely manner and failed to emphasize recruiting efforts concerning those hires. Both of those issues negatively impacted his recruiting success while here. Lastly can anybody tell me what Chryst’s vision and goals were for this program other than stability for the program and recruiting kids of good character? If those were his vision for the program then Chyrst should feel as though he has succeeded here at Pitt, but few objective observers would agree with that assessment.

HCPC, made enough of the typical “learning on the job” errors to label his tenure here as mediocre at best and I’m not even referring to his W-L record. His staff, his recruiting classes, his public relation skills and his promotion of the program all turned out to be mediocre. Those are all reasons the current interest in Pitt Football has waned recently. The fans in a football metropolis like Pittsburgh know good football and Paul Chryst failed to produce a good product for that fan base to consume during his tenure here.

Paul Chryst is a nice guy, a great OC, but up to this point he’s an average HC. Let’s give thanks for that Miami victory though, because that provided the bare minimum results needed for Barry Alvarez to call Paulie back home without causing a fan revolt at Wisky.

Thanks for that Barry, because now Pitt’s administration has decided to get off their asses and do something about our languishing football program as a result of Paulie’s departure. Our fresh leadership in Chancellor Gallagher has injected a huge amount of hope into the remaining Pitt fan base with the timely dismissal of Pederson. THAT alone demonstrates to me that this administration is tired if doing things the SOP way.

Even though I agree with Reed here and would have preferred a seasoned, successful power 5 HC taking over here at Pitt, Narduzzi just might have a plan that this search committee bought into. I don’t see the hiring of a DC from a power 5 team as a SOP move IF it’s backed up with hiring of a great staff that can recruit like mad, that is motivated by their new 1st time HC who possesses a clearly focused vision for this program. When you back that up with an administration that is providing the resources and support to get it done, then my friends, the sky is the limit.

As our departed HC liked to say, now it’s time to “show me”!

Merry Christmas to all and Hail to Pitt!

Comment by Dr. Tom 12.25.14 @ 9:07 am

I’m not a Barry Alvarez fan. However, given Pitt’s situation after Graham fled to Arizona State AND how toxic our AD was, I give him credit for recommending Paul Chryst even though he had anterior motives. In the end, it should work out for Pitt and Wisky.

Comment by MariettaMike 12.25.14 @ 9:16 am

Dr. Tom, I think this is a great hire for Pitt. I believe we have real football guy, who recruits well and has a well established reputation for hard nose tough defensive football. I think he has the hunger necessary to out-work opponents on both the recruiting trail and on game preparation.

Comment by Justinian 12.25.14 @ 9:41 am

As long as Nard brings along experienced assistants, he’ll quickly learn how to coach. With some guys it just comes naturally. Nard should be able to delegate and get the help he needs to succeed. Chryst didn’t have that. Chryst set himself up for failure by hiring incompetent assistants, by his just offer approach recruiting, and being shackled by the former AD and Chancellor. Nard is coming into a good situation. If he fails, it will truly surprise me. Failure equals mediocrity.

Comment by TX Panther 12.25.14 @ 9:50 am

I agree that Narduzzi has to show us but…He’s not a young guy with 2 years of coordinator experience. HCPC was a long time coordinator but didn’t come in with nearly the respect that Narduzzi has. OC’s are reaching out to him? Did DC’s reach out to Chryst when they knew Pitt needed defensive help? No. Sounds like recruiting will improve and we need players. Ex coach and supposed quarterback whisperer couldn’t get a top rated QB in 3 years! This hire is cause for great optimism! Let’s enjoy it until we have a reason not to.

Comment by Sam_in_215 12.25.14 @ 9:50 am

Reed, I always enjoy your work and the fact that you are willing to interact with us on your opinions adds a great deal to Pitt Blather.

I think a pool of Blatherers on these firings, resignations and hirings would be interesting.

It would also be interesting to learn who were the big names that inquired about the position or was that just a red herring?

I wrote a while back when you and Chas indicated that you did not think Petersen would be dismissed, something to the effect that this was an opportunity for Gallagher to show what he is made of. He has certainly answered that question.

I am hopeful that the announcement tomorrow confirms a stronger commitment to football and that Narduzzi makes a strong presentation. Will be strong in comparison to the last introduction I’m sure.

Any time you make any hire you never really know how it will work out. It appears that with Narduzzi, you can check off a lot of desirable indicators.

Let’s hope he hits the ground running.

Merry Christmas, indeed!

Comment by gc 12.25.14 @ 10:11 am

One thing that Wanny did exceptionally well was be the team and school’s head cheerleader. This was obviously lacking in Chryst’s make-up. It sounds like our new guy will do a good job in this area.

It helps if a coach has charisma and is inspirational. It sounds like this is part of Narduzzi’s skill set.

Comment by gc 12.25.14 @ 10:22 am

The face of Pitt football will be Nard. Serious, aggressive, discipline, risk taker, sincere, engaging, winner. Those are some of the words the admin wants associated with Pitt. Chryst brought alloof, lackadaisical, stubborn strict, laid back, boring and mediocre.

Chryst left the program stable. Nard needs to take her to the next level. Win the Coastal. Get to the ACC championship. Finish in the top 15. It shouldn’t be difficult with good assistants, and a chancellor and new AD that are supportive.

Expect donations to roll in. Expect attendance to increase. Expect a renewed sense of spirit and purpose. Expect more talk about what it will take to make Pitt relevant again and a destination for coaches and players. I don’t expect Pitt to become consistently elite but I do expect 10 win seasons. Enough of being mediocre.

Comment by TX Panther 12.25.14 @ 10:44 am

If you look at the talent pool left behind by X HCPC on the O side of the ball, it makes sense that there would be O minded coaches lining up for the OC position at Pitt.

Let’s hope that bigger names, than have been leaked, are in line.

As the Rolling Stones song says – “you can’t always get what you want” – we truly did need an upgrade on D and we got it. HC experience, no.

I’m committed to supporting Pitt FB and I’m renewing my four season tickets. I am also excited for the press conference at 3:30pm tomorrow – let’s get back to the winning ways we all so cherish.

HTP! And Merry Christmas

Comment by Erie Express 12.25.14 @ 11:05 am

Chryst’s tenure wasn’t a success in terms of wins and losses for sure, but there is no doubt the program is in a better position to succeeed now. Theres a ton of young talent on offense and the more talented kids on defense are young, although, there is a lot less depth there.

To me, narduzzi IS a splash hire. I dont know what people expected pitt to do. The dan Mullen thing was a puipe dream and that just raised expectattions to an unattainable level. If you say you wanted a guy with HC experience, thats fine. I would’ve liked that too. However, Narduzzi has a completely different personality and mindset from Paul Chryst. Across the country this the media is buzzing with positivuity about this hire. Narduzzi is a perfect fit here and from what I’m hearing about assistants and overall how he wants to handkle things, pitt is in good hands.

With every pitt hire ive been positive but ive always had that gut feeling that says “somehow someway this will go wrong”. I dont have that with Narduzzi. Obviously the transition from coordinator to HC can be tricky but i am supremely confident that they got it right this time.

Comment by Pk 12.25.14 @ 11:32 am

It’s hard to compare the coaching hires. This time we have the ACC not the Big East, lucrative TV contract, a young talented team, and no SP/AD constraints or oppions to gum up the hiring. The HCPC was a desperation hire because of the previous problems and the Ho hum attetude of the administration. This time I think Narduzzi is here to stay. He was loyal to Dantonio not the to MSU. He waited for a chance to bring his own culture to a P5 program and here is the perfect place,time and chance to instill his will. The next AD needs to get PSU or WVU on the schedule every year as a priority to instill that history and grit the program lacks. Sky is the limit and if Narduzzi has the vision and guts to take the proper steps it’s all ripe for the picking.
Merry Christmas

Comment by Tackle made by Hugh 12.25.14 @ 12:11 pm

Reed–a very nice, and I think very fair assessment of the Chryst tenure at Pitt. We will never know for sure, but I think Chryst would have done just fine in 2015 had he stayed. I think the defense would have been improved because I don’t, like many Pitt fans, attribute the weak defense primarily to bad coaching and the recruiting of poor defensive talent. Rather, I believe it was primarily a function of the effort to rebuild the offense first. This meant that larger numbers of players for the offensive side were recruited than for the defensive side constrained by needing to operate under the constraints of the 25-85 rule. This doesn’t mean that the defensive players that were recruited didn’t/don’t have a strong upside–just that there were too few of them added to the roster which meant too much youth and not enough depth. IMO, the youth part of the equation diminishes for 2015 so if the defense stays healthy (the number of d-backs that went down injured last year was amazing), I would expect it to be improved even without Narduzzi’s direction. Hopefully, he will be able to do even more with it due to better schemes but we do need to recruit more depth and quality depth for that side of the ball and the development of a dominant defense will likely require 2-3 years, IMHO. My only fear is that the offense will slip backwards in the meantime if we over-recruit for the defensive side as Chryst did for the offensive side. We really need a balanced emphasis on both offense and defense in both coaching and recruiting. Hopefully, Narduzzi won’t so emphasize defense that the offense slips backward.

Comment by pitt 1972 12.25.14 @ 12:14 pm

Reed, one of your best journalistic memoirs. When we discussed the attributes of a successful HC, we listed leadership, the ability to inspire and impart attention to detail.
I gave XHCPC a 5, 6,4 out of 10.

My friends at MSU give Nard a 9, 9 and 10 in those same categories. We’ll see if that translates to HCPN!

Merry Christmas from one old Presbyterian to another!

Comment by Dan 72 12.25.14 @ 1:20 pm

Great report. I do think it is a little too easy to call this move a SOP move, simply becuase Nards is not already a head coach. Heck Dokish only had two current head coaches on his own splash list and I don’t think there is a clear cut argument that either of them (Holiday or Fuente) would succeed over and above what Nards might be able to accomplish. Having hired dozens of people myself I can say for sure, hiring can be one of the toughest calls to make, always on incomplete information and uncertainty. But Nards has arguably been the most sought after coordinator for a while…probably for good reason. SOP would have been, we make the offer and he says no. SOP would be to hire an up and coming coach that really is not up and coming (Haywood). SOP would have been to only interview one serious candidate and a bunch of posers (which, maybe happened here, but I hope they at least interviewed Holiday and took him seriously).

Anyways, HTP, lets hope this does not turn out to be SOP…which would be, looking back three years from now, at 6-6 each year, looking for the next head coach! You never know, but as a Pitt fan, I have to stay optimistic in the face of huge past disappointment.

Happy holidays all!

Comment by DD 12.25.14 @ 1:42 pm

Where did Pitt state that a “splash” hire was its goal?


At no time were the words “big” or “splash” uttered by anyone at Pitt (for attribution). It was all “reports” from “sources” that Pitt fans ran wild with. Some blogs/national CFB/PG/Trib/local TV news reporters were “told” that Gallagher wanted to “go big” and make a “splash.”

Comment by deepelemblues 12.25.14 @ 2:02 pm

Agreed that it’s same old Pitt. I’m really hoping Narduzzi wins (a lot) but let’s be honest… It’s no different than 3 years ago. Pitt hires a highly -regarded coordinator and hope it works out.

Comment by Jason Smith 12.25.14 @ 2:22 pm

But Nard comes with better intangibles. And he won’t make the mistakes of Chryst (eg picking incompetent assistants, a slow, just ask and passive recruiting strategy) and has the admins full support. Plus kids love him. He’s just as sincere but far more charasmatic than Chryst. And D wins championships. I want to win. I’m excited. Time will tell but I have a feelin…a good one bout this.

Comment by TX Panther 12.25.14 @ 3:14 pm

@Jason Smith
This is not SOP! Nordenberg is gone, Pederson is gone, the new chancellor seems to have a clue, the offense is in great shape and the new coach can string a number of sentences together.

Comment by Oklahomeboy 12.25.14 @ 3:14 pm

This is a different day. When PC took the job Pitt football was a dumpster fire (as has been mentioned… I just like the analogy). There weren’t a lot of guys that would have taken the job not matter how much money was involved. Today, things have stabilized for the most part, there’s a new chancellor/sheriff in town, and the dark cloud/stigma that surrounded Pitt football has has abated to some extent. There is some talent here, and the ACC affiliation helps as well.

Let’s be honest: this is a COMPLETELY different than three years ago. Narduzzi may turn out to be a putz, but he is on MUCH firmer footing than HCPC ever was.

Comment by thestumper 12.25.14 @ 4:08 pm

I love this hire and see this as a significantly better hire than Chryst. PN was making $900K per year to be a DC. In fairness to HCPC, I am sure that HCPN is going to have a much higher budget for his staff…On an unrelated note, yet another University without the tradition and history of Pitt football is going to build a new on campus stadium . Colorado State will invest $220M to show it’s commitment to their football program.

Comment by HbgFrank 12.25.14 @ 4:55 pm

Good assessment Reed — that’s about where I fall with Chryst. I liked the guy and liked his offensive approach, and I didn’t really care about him being dull and low-key and not particularly eloquent — its football, not international affairs — like many here seemed to be upset with. But I think the thing that bothered me the most about him was he didn’t seem to get real upset after bad losses. I wasn’t looking for chair throwing or raging at the media, but I wanted to see some fire in his eyes and clenched jaw type look…he never seemed to be bothered by it…which wasn’t neat at all and I didn’t appreciate it…because it mattered to me.

Comment by Matt N. 12.25.14 @ 4:59 pm

Deep – where do you think the local media types get this info from? From PITT, via either the SID department or via other known sources. So your stating “Some blogs/national CFB/PG/Trib/local TV news reporters were “told” that Gallagher wanted to “go big” and make a “splash.” is exactly how getting info to the media is handled by the university. Believe me, even if the formal stance by the Administration is that they ‘won’t comment’ on the hire or something else that truly does not stop the flow of info. When a local journalist says “a reliable source informed me…” then I pretty much believe it because he is being specific.

Now, most blogs, twitter, etc which are not confined by the rules of journalism has someone say that I would be more wary. For example I write mostly opinion stuff and will say “I think” or “I believe” if that is the case. I will be more specific if I’m passing along something that I have learned from those closer to the program than I am and who I trust to be reliable and then I’ll write something like “I was led to believe” or ” in conversation with someone who knows the situation…”

But in my experience over the last five years doing this I can pretty much tell what comes from the PITT campus and what doesn’t.

That said, do you think ‘big and splashy’ wasn’t the goal with the Admin? I sure do and whatever words and channels they actually used to get the point across it was thought that it would be a ‘big’ hire. Maybe Narduzzi is considered to be just that by PITT and others – ESPN certainly likes the move and obviously some fans feel the same way – that Narduzzi is a Big Deal hire.

Comment by Reed 12.25.14 @ 5:00 pm

I suspect that Narduzzi might beef up the defense by moving atheletes of appropriate size that are over abundant in certain positions to defense much like Chyrst did with Clements to the detriment of the defense. In this case the cupboard is full. For example Wilson (RB) has perfect size for LB 6’2″ 220-230 lbs. with much speed surpassing our linebackers. He probably played LB in H.S. He might not see the field as a RB and films I’ve seen (Penn State wanted him as a L.B.)he has the quickness and toughness runs like Conner.
I am certain with good coaching other offensive recruits might be able to make the transition, hopefully the OL recruits to DL. Chryst could not coach them for such a transition but Narduzzi could. This would balance the one-sided recruiting of Chyrst.

Comment by lost in the south 12.25.14 @ 5:13 pm

Gentlemen… I agree with many points, ie the absence of SP, the “assumed” new dollar commitment, etc. However. We have ZERO evidence of his in game coaching decisions, as he’s NEVER been a head coach (and defensive minded head coaches are historically CONSERVATIVE on offense) and his connections to his defensive players as a HC will not be the same as they would be as a DC. I have been a Pitt fan for more than 30 years, am a former student and current 12-year season ticket holder (despite living 220 miles away.) You can not simply ASSUME he’s going to be great. We can all HOPE. But HOPING is not the same as being confident.

My best wishes and warm welcome to Coach Narduzzi and his staff (whoever they may be.) NO ONE is hoping for your success more than I.

Merry Christmas to all reading this board and HAIL TO PITT!

Comment by Jason Smith 12.25.14 @ 5:28 pm

Based on reports in the national media and Narduzzi’s local paper the Detroit Free Press, Pitt made a splash hire.

I think it’s important that as fans we don’t lose sight of the fact that he impressed the most important and powerful person at Pitt as far as purse strings and decision-making are concerned.

Do we have any reason to doubt Chancellor Gallagher at this point? I don’t think so.

He said he wanted the coach to know he had a direct link, line of communication, with the head guy.

Selfish politicians at Pitt – usually greedy, self-promoting athletic directors – have a history of hurting the football program.

If Chancellor Gallagher stays in touch and on top of things, we’ll praise this hire down the road.

Comment by Tony77019 12.25.14 @ 5:36 pm

I feel good about this hire, but I cringe at posts expecting Pitt to instantly be a 10 win team in 2015. This guy has never been a head coach; he will have much to learn and will make mistakes. He will be implementing new systems, learning about his players, adapting to a new coaching staff, etc.

Above all that, although Pitt may have 10 win talent on offense, they certainly do not on defense. If Narduzzi can coax 10 wins out of this team next year, Pitt should immediately double his salary and erect a statue. Just beat Youngstown St. and Akron first, and then we’ll see from there!

Comment by Iron Duke 12.25.14 @ 6:26 pm

Love the Narduzzi hire.

Here’s hoping Pitt maintains positive ties with Joe Rudolph, too.

Comment by LA-Yinzer 12.25.14 @ 7:26 pm

Anyone know if Nard/Duzz (haven’t decided what sounds better yet) is going to be here for the bowl game? Or is he staying at MSU to coach their bowl game? I hope it’s the former.

Merry Christmas.

Comment by panther94 12.25.14 @ 9:25 pm

@ Iron Duke. This year’s team shoulda-coulda been a 9 win regular season team. Next year’s schedule is tougher, but just about everyone of importance is back. So, if the defense is improved even modestly we should expect 8-9 wins regular season with the possibility of getting a 9th or 10th win in a bowl game.

Comment by pitt 1972 12.25.14 @ 11:01 pm

To follow on–I was expecting and believing it likely that Chryst would win 8-9 regular season next year. Given that–why should I expect Narduzzi to do less?

Comment by pitt 1972 12.25.14 @ 11:04 pm

My gut feel is this: “proven,” successful head coaches choose destination programs with the intent on staying as long as things are good.

Up and coming head coaches like Narduzzi choose programs like Pitt as a stepping stone. They’re getting their tickets punched in the “head coaches’ club,” but they’re really shopping for their next program while they’re here.

It would be nice to see someone less transitional, looking to build on their success at Pitt for the long haul.

Comment by Lou in Indy 12.25.14 @ 11:12 pm

@ lost in south 12/25/14 5:13pm comment

Who is Wilson (RB) you are referring to that could convert to LB?

Also, Dr Tom – Spartan Tailgate is hearing that Narduzzi plans to serve as Michigan State’s defensive coordinator against Baylor in the Cotton Bowl on New Years Day.

Not the start we hoped for, but I’m still pumped up for the change – no more Pederson & House. Chryst leaving was a must to make this all happen – I wish X HCPC well. I’ll be routing for Wisconsin unless we lose some of our 2015 recruits/prospects to them…


Comment by Erie Express 12.26.14 @ 7:00 am

Erie Express, After being hired at Pitt, Walt Harris finished up at Ohio State’s bowl game, before reporting for work. It was important to Harris to finish the season. I don’t think it will matter much if Narduzzi, coaches in Michigan State’s bowl game. He won’t be flying down the team because he’ll be in Pittsburgh, for Pitt’s announcement at 3:00 this afternoon.

Comment by Justinian 12.26.14 @ 8:11 am

One more thing about the criticism about Pitt not hiring someone with head coaching experience. I don’t think that is necessary, if you think you have the right guy. You can get a coach with a higher ceiling, if you hire someone for whom it’s a big opportunity. With someone like Pat Narduzzi, Pitt is hiring a highly regarded defensive coordinator who has more of an up-side than many of the re-cycled head coaches. Pitt hasn’t had particularly good success with head coaches, Todd Graham, Mike Gotfried, or Johnny majors the 2nd time around. Conversely Jackie Sherrill was an assistant with Majors and only had 1 year as a head coach before coming back. Walt Harris was an assistant when he got the Pitt head coaching job and like it not, Paul Chryst, as least stabilized the program and built a strong offense to leave his successor in a stronger position.

Comment by Justinian 12.26.14 @ 8:31 am

Narduzzi has to hit the ground running as far as recruiting for next seasons defense. Key players such as Thomas and Vinopal are gone. Returning players were pushed around too often It’s great to have optimism but if the new HC doesn’t get some good recruits eight wins seems a stretch . You can’t polish a turd

Comment by Fred filopek 12.26.14 @ 9:01 am

If Narduzzi signs today, he should start today. Is Chryst coaching Pitt next week? Nuf said.

Comment by MariettaMike 12.26.14 @ 9:21 am

To follow on–I was expecting and believing it likely that Chryst would win 8-9 regular season next year. Given that–why should I expect Narduzzi to do less?
Comment by pitt 1972 12.25.14 @ 11:04 pm

1972 – you’re modifying a bit. I did not say don’t expect 8-9 wins, I said don’t expect 10. Eight wins may be achievable. Ten would be a significant accomplishment to say the least. I expect (hope) Narduzzi will ultimately be a better HC than PC. But he will still be a first year coach in 2015. And Pitt is still losing it top tacklers from an already weak defense.

Comment by Iron Duke 12.26.14 @ 9:25 am

Needless to say, I would expect improvement with the Pitt defense. The offense is solid and should get better as well. I don’t think there’s any reason to have low expectations.

Comment by Justinian 12.26.14 @ 10:04 am

Reed ,I could not disagree more. Pitt had to act as soon as Narduzzi was willing to come. He is way more coach than what our sorry, never does didly program, deserves to attract. When the Big “G” decided to step in the tide turned. It is a tide that has been flowing the wrong way since Jackie Sherill left town. He by the way, was also the nations best defensive coordinator when he took the job.
My sense of this is that the days of 6 and 6 seasons against feeble opposition are over. It remains to be seen if we can get to 10 or 11 wins a year but this guy isn’t comming here to drag us through the mud of mediocrity that Chryst did. I would bet my nuggets that he will attract some quality assistants, recruit like crazy, communicate well with the media, and win way more games. How much bigger of a splash can we expect for a program that hasn’t been relevent to top 20 football for almost 4 decades?

Comment by spiritofsection22 12.26.14 @ 10:40 am

@ Iron Duke, I expected Chryst to win 8 games this year with the sorry schedule. We should get up a collection and send a case of good scotch to Barry Alverez.This is the best thing to happen to our football program since 13-9 WVU game. Narduzzi isn’t giving up a million a year to come here to lose. The tide has turned and we are a football program again. Dumbo and Howdy Doody are no loonger on the payroll.

Comment by spiritofsection22 12.26.14 @ 10:47 am

Spirit – what exactly are you disagreeing with me about? I’m inferring from your comment that you think I don’t like the hire – and that isn’t the case at all as I stated in the 2nd para when I said “Not that I disagree or even dislike the choice, I’m OK with it actually, but it runs counter to what PITT’s stated goal was after Chryst left.”

If it is the ‘splash’ thing you are looking at it one way but there is another POV. PITT looked at guys who were free agents or ass’t coaches and pretty much had a deadline of around Jan 1st so a new HC can try to firm up the recruiting class before LOI Day in Feb. It sounds like you believe PITT ‘had’ to act on Narduzzi because he’s such a great hire but at the same time it could be thought that he was the only guy left standing out of a very short list of candidates in PITT’s price range.

Which BTW isn’t going to be unlimited as we just saw. I think Narduzzi will get right around the $1.6M or so, maybe a bit more, Chryst was getting and that’s about a $700+K annual raise. We all think the purse strings are going to magically open really wide just because a new Chancellor fired SP and they probably will a bit but the BoT also signs off on big money issues and it could well have been that there was an acceptable salary limit PITT had to work inside.

Notice that PITT didn’t go after any really successful and established HCs at the bigger B5 programs that would have cost more money than we’ll pay Narduzzi. Highly coveted and high profile successful HCs are like mercenaries – they go wherever the money is and PITT didn’t get, or even really try to get, those more expensive top shelf “splash” guys. If PITT was really serious about hiring the best guy possible their short list would have been guys they could entice away with the offer of big money and that didn’t happen.

All that said I wouldn’t have expected PITT to do that and personally like the financial approach PITT took and the guy they hired, it may be a great ROI move for us. But if anyone thinks Narduzzi is the ‘best’ coach money could buy at this point in time they are mistaken – he’s the best coach PITT’s budget could buy in their price range. It all depends on what one’s definition of ‘splash’ is I suppose.

Again, I think the hire is fine and I’m excited to see what happens, but I also think there are more similarities to what we did three years ago than not. I think PITT fans have short memories when it comes to stuff like this.

Comment by Reed 12.26.14 @ 11:16 am

Very well said, Reed.

Comment by Lou in Indy 12.26.14 @ 11:41 am

The Narduzzi story from the MSU view:
link to

Comment by San Diego Panther 12.26.14 @ 12:35 pm

I think Narduzzie has the smarts the motivational skills and a bio to run the program. He will have to show the management skills. The only things important now are 1.Money to run a good program(Asst.s.)2.Asst.s that are barn burners like Sherril’s and who compliment/suppliment the HC.s background.3. Keep the recruiting moving forward.4.Better game day adjustments and coaching.5.A new AD that helps the HC and doesn’t get in his way or micromanage.Given these things I think we should all be happy with this year because these were the frustrations of the last several years.

Comment by Pitt 60 12.26.14 @ 12:40 pm

Just a side note…the Steelers last 3 coaching hires were all former assistants.

Comment by Jackagain 12.26.14 @ 12:54 pm

Reed, Where I disagree is with the replication to Chryst hire comments. Sure coaches can be mercinaries but the days of loyal long term relationships in any kind of bussiness are gone. I think one of the best qualities Narduzzi brings to the job is that he was in a position to pick and choose between positions and wait for the right one. He is the top DC in the country and wants us. That is amazing considering how bad we have sucked for the last 40 years.

Comment by spiritofsection22 12.26.14 @ 1:13 pm

Reed, The delusion that some top head coach on the way up would want to come here is laughable. We got our best hope in Narduzzi and did it quickly. He will likely recruit better, improve the staff, be a better salesman for the program media wise, and be a better game coach. The reason I feel so certain is because the bozo that just left was so bad at all four areas. Add to that the likelihood that the Big “G” could improve the budget and I have to ask this question. How could we have done any better without an AD and owning a perenially lethargic program? That’s why I think they jumped at this opportunity. I am glad they did.

Comment by spiritofsection22 12.26.14 @ 1:38 pm

Here is a look at the 2014 HC’s salaries… link to

We are almost dead at the halfway point at # 59… guys, Central Florida pays almost $200K more than we did. Iowa State, Illinois, Maryland, Purdue, Utah, Kentucky, Kansas & Kansas St…. etc. Those schools opened up their checkbooks and got some name people.

I really don’t expect PITT to pay a whole lot more than Chryst got. Maybe if PITT is super generous they go to the $2.2M mark but if they were willing to do that, which I doubt, we should have shopped more.

I’m a wait and see guy so I’ll figure out if Narduzzi is right for the job and the salary when things start moving. Adding quality defensive recruits to the 2015 class would be a nice start.

Comment by Reed 12.26.14 @ 1:42 pm

We should be embarassed that we spend so little on our football team. It is time to start spending top 25 money. It is time to ante up or shut up. There are only about 120 division 1 teams and we spend 59th. I’m all for being good stewards but give our kids enough to compete or quit playing.

Comment by spiritofsection22 12.26.14 @ 3:10 pm

You would think that a four star defensive player would want to follow in the footsteps of Aaron Donald who was just named to the Pro Bowl as a rookie. How impressive is that. Go find him Narduzzi.

Comment by Fred filopek 12.26.14 @ 3:33 pm

You’re right Reed I was wrong.

No one from Pitt was ever actually quoted as saying “go big” or “splash.”

So I shouldn’t have put either in direct quotation marks.

There was also nothing anywhere except footballscoop’s one report and Rich Walsh running with it on KDKA and his twitter to say that they were going after an established P5 HC.

Here’s a lecture for you, thanks for the unnecessary one on how media “quotes” and paraphrases take on a life of their own:

You don’t say “same old Pitt” when you support something Pitt does. That expression has a strong and well-known meaning in Pitt fandom, and you don’t use it to describe a move by Pitt you agree with.

Comment by deepelemblues 12.26.14 @ 3:50 pm

Deep – my saying ‘same old’ wasn’t necessarily negative as I showed with the rest of the article… but the truth is that we just did exactly what we did three years ago in hiring a B10 coordinator who has no head coaching experience.

We PITT fans were just as excited getting Chryst onboard back then as we are getting Narduzzi now – we are assuming the same things also. Mainly that we’ll automatically get better in the HC’s expertise area. That really didn’t happen for two season under Chryst so lets hope it gets better quicker under the new guy.

Comment by Reed 12.26.14 @ 4:48 pm

Apologize for getting the name wrong for RB moving over to LB. Just a thought concerning abundance of offensive RB’s, and OL.
The player is Oadree Olson, RB (RS)
HIGH SCHOOL: The top running back prospect in the state of New York according to Rivals and 247Sports…rated a consensus Top 5 overall prospect in New York by the major scouting services…two-time New York State Sportswriters Association (NYSSWA) Class AA All-State selection…finished as the all-time career rushing leader at Canisius with 4,147 yards, a total that ranked third in Monsignor Martin Association (MMA) history…scored 57 career touchdowns…rushed for 1,465 yards and scored 22 touchdowns as a senior…in the MMA championship game played in Buffalo’s Ralph Wilson Stadium, Ollison closed his high school career by rushing for 240 yards and five touchdowns on 20 carries (12.0 avg.) to lead Canisius to a 41-7 victory over rival St. Joe’s…as a junior, rushed for 1,876 yards and scored 26 TDs…led Canisius to a 20-2 record (.909) his final two seasons, including back-to-back MMA championships…played under Coach Rich Robbins.
Good size for LB.

Comment by lost in the south 12.26.14 @ 7:45 pm

The name is Qadree Ollison,

link to

and he was as good at RB as Chris James in the fall camp, but we do have RBs for ’15. Conner might leave after this season though so if he does looking ahead to ’16 we’ll not have Bennett or Poteat any longer and the remaining RBs will be: SR Ibrahim, JR Briggs, JR James and JR Ollison.

Take away Ollison and we have on two established RBs ready to go – or three if Briggs gets some work this season.

BTW – here is a good article about the younger players going into this last season…

link to

Comment by Reed 12.27.14 @ 7:32 am

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