Michael Haywood certainly is not a name Pitt fans had in mind when news broke of Dave Wannstedt ousting. There were a number of candidates that featured better resume’s or more prolific pasts, such as Mike Leach, Paul Chryst, or Mark Stoops. Pitt doesn’t exactly pursue the high profile, almost sure-thing, expensive coaches though. So lets examine what Pitt fans should expect for the future:
A Big East Championship next year:
This may seem like a tall task for a brand new coach, but Pitt has a lot of talent coming back. Sure, Jon Baldwin will never be seen in a Pitt uniform after this season, but a talented core of receivers will fill the void. Devin Street and Mike Shanahan have the potential to be the best tandem in the Big East while star running backs Ray Graham and Dion Lewis return. The primary reason why Wannstedt was fired was because he failed to win the Big East with a team that was far more talented than the rest of field . The hiring of Haywood indicates that the administration believes the former Miami (Ohio) coach will help the program reach its full potential. Wannstedt has the talent in place; Haywood will bring the coaching. The Big East will still be the worst BCS conference in the land next season, which means that the expectations should be no different–no matter who the coach is.
A top 25 recruiting class in the near future:
Much has been made of Wannstedt’s recruiting classes. The fact is, no matter how good they were, he still could not win a championship with them. The opposite end of spectrum is that maybe he couldn’t win a championship because his classes really were not all that good. While he has produced a long list of NFL talent, he has missed on some Western Pennsylvania recruits that could have helped changed face of the program (Stefen Wisniewski, Nick Sukay, Terrelle Pryor, Dorian Bell). Haywood has not been a slouch when it comes to recruiting either though. His MAC Championship team had players from 13 different states this season. He also did not have the help of a big named university such as Pitt to rep at his previous coaching job. He has help positions at major programs such as Texas, LSU, and Notre Dame and also has a past as a recruiting coordinator. He has already stated that he is going to expand Pitt’s recruiting field and he now has the Western Pennsylvania base to pull from–a luxury he was not afforded at Miami.
Some may say that Wannstedt already had a top 25 class arriving next season, but according to most experts, next years field is not a supremely talented one. The 2012 local class looks to be very skilled though, especially with third ranked national recruit Rushel Shell. With a sold history, expanded base, local football hotbed, and large named university, Haywood should be able to fare quite well in the recruiting game.
The upgrade from Wannstedt to Haywood is like upgrading from a mid-90′s Honda to a late-90′s Toyota. It is bland, unexciting, and will prove to make little difference. Pitt still thinks it is a football university with a football tradition. However, the administration is unwilling to pay elite football coach money and until they do the product on the field is not going to be elite football play. Certianly Haywood’s two-season turnaround at Miami from 1-11 to 9-4 is impressive.I do not see him being the answer at Pitt though. One thing which is encouraging is that the Steve Pederson would not have made a change in coaching unless he felt that Pitt would be more successful immediately. Wannestedt brought the first ten win season since the early 80′s and returned Pitt to national prominence, but had no hardware to show for his work. Pederson and the administration were close to Wannstedt and liked everything about him. This move would not have been made if they thought Haywood could not deliver future championships.
While fans may not like the hiring of Haywood, they should expect a bright future for the Panthers squad. I am not saying that there definitely is one, but Pitt did not fire a highly successful coach to replace him with someone who will produce the exact same results.