Multiple reports late Thursday night and early Friday morning say familiar times are about to return to the Pittsburgh football program, as head coach Paul Chryst is reportedly set to return to Wisconsin. (Note: Barry Alvarez released a statement Thursday saying an offer could not be extended until Wednesday at the earliest.)
A proud program that claims nine national championships, 50 consensus All-Americans and eight Pro Football Hall of Famers, change has become the only constant.
Imagine being a fifth-year senior at Pittsburgh heading into next season. You commit as a high school senior in 2010 and, headed into your senior season in 2015 (assuming Chryst leaves), this is what you have endured:
Dec. 7, 2010: Dave Wannstedt fired after posting a 42-31 record in six seasons.
Dec. 16, 2010: Mike Haywood hired away from Miami (Ohio) after going 10-15 in two seasons.
Jan. 1, 2011: Haywood fired amid a domestic violence arrest.
Jan. 8, 2011: Phil Bennett serves as interim head coach for Pitt’s 27-10 win over Kentucky in the BBVA Compass Bowl.
Jan. 14, 2011: Todd Graham hired away from Tulsa after going 36-17 in four seasons.
Dec. 14, 2011: Todd Graham leaves for Arizona State after one 6-6 season.
Dec. 22, 2011: Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst hired as head coach.
Jan. 7, 2012: Keith Patterson serves as interim head coach for Pitt’s 28-6 loss to SMU in the BBVA Compass Bowl.
Dec. 11, 2014: Chryst reportedly leaves for Wisconsin after registering a 19-19 mark in three seasons.
Jan. 2, 2015: Interim Coach X leads Pitt against Houston in the Armed Forces Bowl.
Late Dec. 2014/Early Jan. 2015: New Head Coach Y hired.
In all, that’s eight different coaches wearing the head coach hat in roughly five years – a span of 54 games. Throw in a little conference realignment – Pitt announced its intention to leave the Big East for the ACC on Sept. 18, 2011 – plus a new chancellor – Patrick Gallagher took over the university’s top job on Aug. 1 – and that’s enough transition to throw any organization into turmoil.
Pittsburgh Steelers have 3 head coaches since 1968. Pitt is nearing its 5th head coach since 2010 (not counting interims).
— Jon Solomon (@JonSolomonCBS) December 12, 2014
That said, here’s an optimist’s point of view: the program stands on much more solid footing than it did three years ago thanks to its ACC membership, and Chryst provided a steadying hand in his three years on the job. Plus, it’s not like they’re losing a generational coach that can’t be replaced. Chryst went 6-6 this season against a schedule that missed ACC heavyweights Florida State, Louisville, Clemson and Notre Dame and featured Delaware, Iowa, Florida International and Akron in non-conference play. The opportunity for an upgrade is there and attainable.
One thing is certain, and that’s the man making the hire has lots of experience. Now in his second tenure running Pitt’s athletics department, Steve Pederson could be in line to hire his fifth head football coach.