Paul Chryst Leaves Pitt For Wisconsin, Steve Pederson Steps Down As Athletic Director


Dec 26, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers athletic director Steve Pederson during the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl against the Bowling Green Falcons at Ford Field. Pittsburgh Panthers defeated Bowling Green Falcons 30-27. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

As I speculated in my previous report, Paul Chryst to Wisconsin became a reality tonight.  Chryst is a Wisconsin guy, and he was offered the dream job back at home.

Who wouldn’t accept their dream job?  This opportunity may come only once in a lifetime.

It is hard to bash someone for pursuing their dream job in their home state, and I think Pitt will be just fine.  This situation is much different from what Todd Graham did to Pitt after one season and bolting to Arizona State.

You may ask, “How can Pitt be fine after losing a guy who was bringing stability to a program in shambles?”

My first answer stems from what simultaneously happened as Chryst was announced the head coach at Wisconsin:

Pitt announced that athletic director Steve Pederson had met with new chancellor Patrick Gallagher and decided it was best to step down as AD.  Many fans had been calling for Steve to step down, especially after the “resigning” of Dave Wannstedt, the debacle of Mike Haywood and his domestic violence situation, and the sneaky Todd Graham taking his high-octane offense to the West.

Losing another coach to another university finally sealed Pederson’s fate, and it is time for Pitt to freshen up its athletic director position and bring some excitement to the football program.

New chancellor Patrick Gallagher wants to hire his own guy, and I absolutely agree with him.  Though there are many unknowns at this point, I think this move is best for the University, especially the football program.

Though Pederson did a great job with athletic facilities and helping Pitt with its acceptance into the ACC, he failed when it came to hiring a football head coach.  Football is the number one sport in college athletics.  It is the big moneymaker, and lately, Pitt football has been seen as irrelevant.

By starting fresh, it will only rejuvenate Pitt and potentially revitalize the football program.  I am very interested in seeing the direction that Gallagher goes in the hiring of an athletic director.

  • Maybe this AD will be willing to make the big hire that the players want?
  • Maybe this AD will want to bring back the old school Pitt colors and script for more than just the football helmet?
  • Maybe this AD will schedule tougher nonconference football and basketball opponents, which will only make our teams better?
  • Maybe this AD will renew the Backyard Brawl against WVU in football and basketball?
  • Maybe this AD will rejuvenate Pitt football and be a central component in bringing back success?

This is a crucial time for Pitt though, with regards to the football team and its current system and incoming recruits.  Chryst is gone and offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph will be interim head coach for the Jan. 2 bowl game against Houston.  Prized recruits like Jordan Whitehead opted out of enrolling in January for classes, as they wait on the decision of the next head coach.

Chryst has been slowly building Pitt in my opinion.  He started at Pitt with a program that had been through a complete mess and a variety of systems.  He brought his system to Pitt, and we were beginning to see his Wisconsin-style offense.  The offensive line continued to grow in size and strength, and the running back committee is very deep behind ACC player of the year James Conner.

The defense looked horrendous at times, so I am not sad that defensive coordinator Matt House will be a goner.  The defense was a reason that Pitt lost close games to Duke and North Carolina.  The offense did its part, though did have growing pains against Virginia and Akron (that game still stings).

Next season, essentially the entire offense returns, so Chryst left the Pitt team in better shape than when he came here three years ago.

I think the most fragile aspect of the situation is losing recruits and players to transfer.  Whoever the new AD is, they will need to thoroughly consider the risk of going away from the current style of offensive play that Pitt has adopted.

This brings in the idea of hiring offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph as head coach.  The players are lobbying for him, he is a local guy from Belle Vernon, and he is an important piece to the current recruiting puzzle.

Would Pitt consider him, or will he decide to join Chryst in Wisconsin?  I have no idea where to stand on Rudolph, but I am sure we will learn more in the coming days and weeks.  If the players want him, why not give it a shot?  Remember that Pitt was the youngest team in college football, composed of the most freshmen and sophomores in the NCAA.

I wouldn’t be opposed to Tom Bradley who turned around a bad WVU defense and recruits the area well.  Though Doc Holliday has a bit of a different style, I think he would be a good option for Pitt.  He has built up a tough Thundering Herd squad at Marshall.

As for other guys, I am intrigued with the idea of Green Bay offensive coordinator Tom Clements.  He is a Pitt guy who graduated from Bishop Canevin and has built a machine in Green Bay with quarterback Aaron Rodgers.  I’m not sure how interested he would be in the job though.

More candidates will surface in the coming weeks, but people need to stop suggesting high school coaches like Bob Palko.  This sounds almost as ridiculous as me sending in my job application for Pitt head football coach.  I mean, come on, I am a Pitt guy who would never leave my dream job.

Stay tuned to City of Champions for updates on the hiring of a new athletic director and football head coach.