How Can Pitt Football Reset After Reportedly Losing Paul Chryst?


Nov 29, 2014; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers head coach Paul Chryst reacts on the sideline during the second half against Miami Hurricanes at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

It is looking like bad news for us Pitt fans again.  Sometimes I think the football program is cursed.

Just when I thought Pitt had found stability and was on the verge of breaking out, rumors starting circling about Pitt head coach Paul Chryst being the top choice for the Wisconsin Badgers head coaching vacancy.

I find it unnecessary to go through the Pitt coaching carousel the past 5 years, but it is impossible to have a successful program when there is no stability at the head coach position.

Late Thursday night, it was reported that Chryst is poised to become the next head coach at Wisconsin.

Given the “hard-to-believe” 59-0 Ohio State drubbing of a top-ranked Wisconsin defense and the quick departure of Badgers coach Gary Anderson to Oregon State after only 2 seasons, I personally thought some type of conspiracy was going on, as the Big Ten wanted a playoff team for the money.

Though I had this wild conspiracy, it never crossed my mind that Pitt could lose its head coach to Wisconsin because of it.

And here is why.

Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez, from my town of Langeloth, was a local guy from this area, and it was seen as if he was doing Pitt a favor.  He personally endorsed Chryst for the Pitt job, pleading that this guy would not jump ship like Todd Graham, and he would give Pitt stability and rebuild the program.

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I’m very surprised he would take Chryst away from Pitt after only three seasons and especially because Paul hasn’t proved himself yet.  Recall that Pitt did lose to a really bad Akron team this season.

Though just 19-19 in his first three seasons, I felt as if Chryst was on the verge of breaking out, especially given he had the youngest team in college football, ACC player of the year running back James Conner, a dynamic playmaker in wide receiver Tyler Boyd, and strong recruiting classes as he was turning Pitt into a prototypical Wisconsin team.

I’m very surprised that he would leave something that he has built the past three years, before truly seeing his full team (four years of recruits) in action.

If the reports of Chryst to Wisconsin is true, I think Pitt needs to hire a new athletic director and show commitment to the football program with a big hire.  Marshall head coach Doc Holliday has turned the Thundering Herd into a football power, so maybe he would be worth pursuing.  WVU defensive coordinator Tom Bradley has always been mentioned for the job.  I have also heard suggestions for Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost.

The biggest dilemma for replacing a head coach who leaves is that there are a variety of systems that could be run.  Pitt went from the Dave Wannstedt pro-style offense to the Todd Graham “high-octane” offense to the Paul Chryst heavy run game with a huge offensive line approach.

With Pitt’s system on the verge of success, I would be hesitant to fully change it again, but I think Pitt needs to hire someone who is well-known and a great recruiter.

Pitt has the potential to be top-20 next season, but now that is in big jeopardy if Chryst departs.  My biggest concern could be the loss of several recruits, including local standout Jordan Whitehead, and the impressive offensive lineman poised to build Pitt up.

If true, Pitt’s leaders (Conner, Boyd, and Chad Voytik) will need to gather the squad and work on retaining their incoming class for next season.

Pitt is set to play in the Armed Forces Bowl against Houston on January 2nd.

What hurts the most is that Pitt has the potential to be a really good football team next season.