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Newz Forum: FOOTBALL: Wannstedt no longer candidate for Pitt job

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posted on Dec, 16 2004 @ 10:39 PM
PITTSBURGH -- Former Miami Dolphins and Chicago Bears coach Dave Wannstedt decided Thursday not to seek the coaching job at Pittsburgh, the school where he played and once was an assistant coach.

Wannstedt, who resigned as the Dolphins' coach Nov. 9 after a 1-8 start, was believed to be the front-runner to succeed Walt Harris at Pitt. But Wannstedt called Pittsburgh athletic director Jeff Long on Thursday morning and pulled his name out of consideration.

"As much as I appreciate everything that Jeff and Mark (Nordenberg, Pitt's chancellor) are doing and the opportunity there -- everybody knows how I believe in Pitt and love the city -- the timing just wasn't right," Wannstedt told the Associated Press in a telephone interview.

Pitt wants to hire a coach as soon as possible to replace Harris, and Wannstedt wasn't prepared to make a decision so quickly. The key weeks of the recruiting season follow the holidays, and Pitt wants a coach in place by then.

Wannstedt said that despite reports he wants to take a year off from football, he has not decided against coaching next fall, but isn't ready to accept a job right now.

"I'm not ruling anything out, and my mind-set has not changed, it's the timing," said Wannstedt, who will work at least two games as a Fox NFL analyst. "I'm going to keep my football options open. NFL or college, I'm really not closing the door on anything."

Asked if he would assist Pitt in its search, Wannstedt said he planned to talk to Long again Thursday to make some suggestions. Wannstedt is a longtime friend of Nordenberg, and their relationship was believed to be one of the reasons Wannstedt was such a strong candidate at Pitt.

"The program is heading in the right direction, but they need to get moving forward and capitalize on the year they've had and take advantage of that, and I just couldn't make it fit right now," he said.

Long is serving as a one-member search committee as Pitt seeks to replace Harris, who was allowed to leave for Stanford with two years left on his contract despite a 25-12 record the past three seasons.

The No. 19 Panthers (8-3) play No. 5 Utah (11-0) in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 1 after unexpectedly earning the Big East Conference's guaranteed BCS bowl slot by winning six of their final seven games.

Even with Wannstedt out of the mix, Long is still expected to interview at least three candidates.

Houston Texans assistant Jon Hoke and Oklahoma co-defensive coordinator Bo Pelini are expected to talk with Long, while Pitt defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads also is interested in the job.

Hoke is a lifelong friend of Long's and the two played football together at Fairmont East High School in Kettering, Ohio. Hoke was the assistant head coach and defensive coordinator at Florida under Steve Spurrier and now coaches the Texans' defensive backs. He turned down a chance to rejoin Spurrier at South Carolina.

Pelini is a former assistant coach with the 49ers, Patriots and Packers and was a Nebraska assistant last year before moving to Oklahoma, where Long was the senior associate AD before being hired by Pitt in May 2003.

Long said he will make no comments on the search until Pitt introduces its next coach.



posted on Dec, 23 2004 @ 03:12 PM
I guess he had a change of heart...

Upon further review: Wannstedt takes Pitt job

PITTSBURGH -- Former Dolphins coach Dave Wannstedt accepted the coaching job at alma mater Pittsburgh on Thursday, exactly a week after he turned the Panthers down and said he wasn't ready to coach again.

Wannstedt, who stepped aside as the Dolphins' coach by mutual agreement following a 1-8 start this season, felt differently after talking to Pitt athletic director Jeff Long early in the week. The two talked extensively after that, and Wannstedt agreed to take the job after Long agreed to bump up the salaries for Pitt's assistant coaches.

After Wannstedt pulled out, Long interviewed Ravens offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh and Pitt defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads twice each, but Wannstedt was believed to be Pitt's first choice all along. Wannstedt was known to have the backing of Pitt chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg.

Wannstedt, a native of Baldwin, Pa., a Pittsburgh suburb, has never been a college head coach, but is a former Pitt assistant and is known to be an innovative defensive coach. He succeeds Walt Harris, who is leaving for Stanford after coaching Pitt to a 25-12 record the last three seasons -- Pitt's best three-year mark since Jackie Sherrill went 33-3 from 1979-81.

Harris and Long did not get along, and it appeared unlikely Harris would not return next season despite coaching the No. 19 Panthers to an 8-3 record and a surprise trip to the Jan. 1 Fiesta Bowl against No. 5 Utah.

Pitt's search for Harris' replacement lasted 10 days and, though the school interviewed Oklahoma co-defensive coordinator Bo Pelini, never really strayed beyond former Pitt grads or coaches associated with the school. Giants defensive coordinator Tim Lewis, a former Pitt and Steelers assistant, and former Pitt player and assistant Sal Sunseri of the Carolina Panthers also talked with Long, who was hired 19 months ago and is making his first major hire.

Wannstedt told Long on Dec. 16 that he didn't want to be considered because he wanted to see what opportunities might be available -- possibly in the NFL. But he since changed his mind, apparently because Pitt agreed to pay him more than the estimated $600,000 Harris made.

Wannstedt becomes Pitt's seventh coach since Johnny Majors left after the school's 1976 national championship -- including Majors' unsuccessful second stint from 1993-96 -- but the first with a mostly NFL background.

The Dolphins were 10-6 under Wannstedt in 2003, but fell apart this season after star running back Ricky Williams unexpectedly decided not to play just before training camp began.

Wannstedt was 43-33 record in 4½ seasons with Miami -- 42-25 before this season -- but his lone playoff victory came four years ago. He also barely avoided being fired after the Dolphins failed to make the playoffs in 2003.

Wannstedt coached the Bears from 1993-98, going 41-57, after being the Dallas Cowboys' defensive coordinator and an assistant with Pitt, Oklahoma State, Southern Cal and the University of Miami.

Coincidentally, Pitt shares its practice complex with the Steelers. Wannstedt was the other finalist before the Steelers hired coach Bill Cowher in 1992.



posted on Dec, 23 2004 @ 03:27 PM
Seems to be the perfect job for Wannstedt being that he has already played and coached there. He probably still has alot of friends at Pitt and is familiar with the area so that should make the transition a bit more smooth. Pitt is a proud football tradition and I think Dave will help carry that on.

posted on Mar, 5 2005 @ 03:06 PM
Pittsburgh has the right guy. Dave Wannstedt is as Pittsburgh as a shot and beer. Whether it has the right coach, well, the school has invested time and millions to find out.

There might be no other coach in the country who knows the very soil beneath him better than "Wanny". The former Dolphins coach came home in December after 16 years in the pros and 32 years after playing for the Panthers.

Wannstedt is the latest thread in a trend that has seen former NFL coaches come back to college. He talked to USC's Pete Carroll, Georgia Tech's Chan Gailey, Alabama's Mike Shula and former Illinois coach Ron Turner, all former NFL coaches.

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