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Pitt hires Mike Haywood

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Michael Haywood today was named the head football coach at the University of Pittsburgh, replacing Dave Wannstedt. Haywood, who turns 47 in February, is a Houston native who has been the head coach at Miami-Ohio the past two seasons.

Haywood joins the Panthers after orchestrating the biggest turnaround in major college football this past season as head coach at Miami of Ohio. The RedHawks went 9-4 and captured the Mid-American Conference championship -- the program's first MAC title since 2003 when its quarterback was Ben Roethlisberger.

The achievement, in just his second year as a head coach, earned Haywood MAC Coach of the Year honors and landed the RedHawks in the GoDaddy.com Bowl against Middle Tennessee State on Jan. 6, although he will not coach in the bowl game and will instead begin his tenure at Pitt immediately.

Haywood took over a Miami program that had just 11 wins over the previous four seasons and was 2-10 in 2009. The Red Hawks went 1-11 in his first year, but rebounded to go 9-4 and win the conference in 2010, capping the campaign with rousing wins over Temple and heavy favorite Northern Illinois in the championship game.

Prior to taking over the Miami program, Haywood spent four seasons as the offensive coordinator at Notre Dame—his alma mater—under head coach Charlie Weis. He was also an offensive assistant for Mack Brown at Texas and Nick Saban at LSU.

"From my very first meeting with Michael Haywood, it was obvious that the qualities he exhibited were in line with the values of this great University," Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson said. "Michael has tremendous pedigree, having been mentored by some of the very best coaches in the game. His history at outstanding programs with outstanding coaches gave him a rare combination of experiences and background. Most importantly, Michael is a man of character and integrity and will be an inspirational leader for our football program."

"I would like to sincerely thank Chancellor Nordenberg and Steve Pederson for the opportunity to become the head football coach at the University of Pittsburgh," said Haywood, who becomes the 35th head coach, and first African-American head coach, in Pitt football history. "It is an honor and privilege to join such an accomplished academic institution and historic football program. I'm looking forward to the challenges and opportunities we will have as we work to achieve our goal of a Big East championship."

Haywood became at hot coaching prospect during his tenure at Notre Dame. He was named the NCAA Division 1-A Assistant Coach of the Year in 2005 by the American Football Coaches Association, and he oversaw the nation's No. 6 and No. 12 scoring offenses in '05 and '06. He went through some difficult times the next two seasons, however, as the Irish offense plummeted to next to last in the country in '07 and 77th in '08, when Weis eventually stripped Haywood of his play-calling duties.

Nevertheless, Haywood remained a highly sought-after head coaching prospect, narrowly missing out on the Houston head coaching vacancy in 2007 to Kevin Sumlin. He also was mentioned as a candidate for positions at Washington and Minnesota before being hired by Miami after the 2008 season.

Prior to joining Weis in South Bend, Haywood served two highly successful seasons at Texas (2003-04) as running backs coach and co-special teams coordinator under Mack Brown.

“Mike is a tremendous football coach and a great hire for the University of Pittsburgh,” said Brown. “H did a phenomenal job in turning things around at Miami. Mike is a great coach and person who has proven he really understands how to build a staff and a program. I'm really looking forward to following him at Pitt."

In 2004 he was promoted to recruiting coordinator. He tutored Longhorns All-America running back and Doak Walker Award winner Cedric Benson, who rushed for 1,834 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2004. Haywood concluded his tenure at Texas by coaching in the thrilling 2005 Rose Bowl as the Longhorns, behind 264 yards rushing, outlasted Michigan, 38-37.

Haywood served as LSU running backs coach from 1995-2002 and also was the Tigers' special teams coordinator in 1997-98 and 2001-02. During his time in Baton Rouge, he helped produce some of the most productive running backs in LSU history, including All-American Kevin Faulk, who set virtually every school rushing record before going on to win three Super Bowls with the New England Patriots.

Pittsburgh Steelers defensive back Ryan Clark played for Haywood at LSU.

“The thing that I remember about him was his fire. He’s a guy who is always pumped up, always enthusiastic about football,” said Clark. “I think that will be a great spirit that he will bring to Pitt... He commanded respect because he gave it. He treated us like men, and we were young at that time. He allowed us to learn, he allowed us to work, but he also talked to us like men. He was straight up... That’s something important at that age – when you’re 19 or 20 years old, you don’t want to be trying to figure out how somebody feels about you.”

A 1986 graduate of Notre Dame, Haywood was a four-year letterman for the Irish (1982, 1984-86), playing for Garry Faust initially and for Lou Holtz as a senior. A cornerback, Haywood made 13 career starts and compiled 78 tackles, five interceptions and two blocked kicks.

He began his coaching career at Minnesota as a graduate assistant in 1988, and then went to Army as an assistant coach from 1989-90 before moving to Ohio University in 1991 and '92. He then spent two years at Ball State (1993-94) before being hired at LSU by Nick Saban.

Haywood has a son, Michael Christopher.


Watched the PC and not impressed. Haywood looked glum at best and quite uncomfortable. Perhaps from all the negative chatter about his character over the past 24 hours. And what was up with his response to the WV job? They must not have prepped him on that question.

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