Later today it will become official: Football Coach Paul Chryst is leaving Pitt to become Head Football Coach at the University of Wisconsin, and the all too familiar process, to Pitt fans, of selecting a new football coach at Pitt will begin, has already begun, in point of fact.
Pitt fans know the sad litany of Harris-Wannstedt-Haywood-Graham-Chryst-and Whoever the Interim Guys were, so let's not rehash that. So, what are we faced with at this point?
I have read enough and heard enough from people whose opinions I respect to come to the conclusion that AD Steve Pederson should be kept out of the loop in deciding who should be the next football coach at Pitt. For all the good Pederson has done at Pitt, and he HAS done a lot of good there, as even some of his detractors admit, Pederson's history of hiring football coaches both at Pitt and Nebraska, has been a disaster, and Football, for better or worse, is the engine that drives the athletic train at major universities. You screw it up with football, and pretty much everything else doesn't matter.
Should new Pitt Chancellor Patrick Gallagher fire Pederson, name a new AD and let the New Guy hire the coach? A lot of people are clamoring for that, but if Pederson got the boot today, how long would it take to find candidates, screen and interview them, and hire one of them as the new AD? And how long would it take that guy to find, screen, and hire a new football coach? A month or so? You do that, and an entire year's recruiting class would be lost, and the new coach would be starting in hole that would take at least two to three years to dig out from.
Or, you form a Blue Ribbon Committee to hire the new coach, and then fire Pederson, and bring in a new AD. At that point, the new AD would have a football coach who is not "his guy", Pitt goes 5-7 next year, and this whole cycle begins all over again.
Or, someone other than Pederson hires a coach, Pederson stays, and nobody is happy.
Leaving aside the whole situation with the Athletic Director, my own thought is that Pitt needs to bring in a younger guy, some hot young OC or DC at a power school, as head coach and hope that you get lucky and that he does the job, and turns Pitt into a serious contender for ACC Championships. Of course, when and if that happens, this guy will walk whenever another school with a higher profile, in a "better" conference, and with more money comes calling. Look what happened with Christ, and he only went 19-19 during his tenure. Like it or not, this is what the Pitt job is - a stepping stone. Lots of Pitt fans don't want to admit that, but that is the way it is, and has been since the early 1980's, and that's over thirty years ago. Pitt got lucky a long time ago with Johnny Majors and Jackie Sherrill (both of whom, it should be noted, left Pitt for "better" jobs), and some extraordinary players (Dorsett, Green, Marino, e.g.).
One can only hope that they can get lucky again with this next hire, and that this new guy will build something that will make Pitt a desired job for those who will follow. I am not so sure that Chryst and his 19-19 record did that.
We will see.