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The Three Stooges

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Pitt, West Virginia and Maryland enter 2011 with new football coaches. In West Virginia's case, the new guy won't officially take over until 2012, but the new regime is in place and the change is underway.

Whether the three programs even needed new coaches is up for debate, although legitimate cases can be made for each dismissal. But there is one thing of which we are certain: The Panthers, Terps and Mountaineers all handled their coaching changes with stunning ineptitude.

Maryland fired the reigning ACC Coach of the Year. Pitt fired a guy who led the program to its best three-year stretch in nearly three decades – and then made him deliver the eulogy at his own funeral. And West Virginia—before firing anyone—hired one guy for two vacancies they didn't have.

Maryland alumnus Ralph Friedgen was hired in November 2000, and charged with rebuilding a struggling program that had only one winning season and no bowl games since 1990. He went 74-49, taking the Terps to seven bowls. He survived a disasterious 2-10 season a year ago and rebounded to guide the team to an 8-4 record in 2010, earning him ACC Coach of the Year honors.

But Terps athletic director Kevin Anderson needed to get rid of “Fridge” so they could hire Mike Leach, the former Texas Tech head coach and renowned offensive genius. The move was a stunner, and was praised by writers, analysts and former players across the country. Except Mike Leach to Maryland—all but a done deal in December—still hadn't happened by the end of year, and sources late in the month were reporting that Rich Rodriguez would be fired by Michigan and hired at Maryland.

So Maryland fans were reduced to hoping a coach would be fired so they can hire him.

Alas, it never got that bad and the Terps instead snatched up UConn's Randy Edsall, ex-coach of the reigning Big East champion Huskies. Edsall, whose team was bombed by Oklahoma 48-20 in the Fiesta Bowl. Esdall, who won exactly as many games at UConn as Friedgen did at Maryland (74). And, Esdall, who also lost 21 more than Fridge. But we don't talk about that.

Closer to home, Pitt AD Steve Pederson insulted the intelligence of every sports fan in the 412 area code by telling us that head coach—and Pitt alum—Dave Wannstedt “resigned” after the Panthers beat Cincinnati in their regular season finale, their 26th win in three years.

Then Pederson hosted a press conference that shattered the record for uncomfortable public gatherings. University Chancellor Mark Nordenberg—long known to be an ardent Wannstedt supporter—didn't attend. The football team did attend, however, and stood next to their ex-coach at the podium as he struggled to find the words to explain his sudden departure. Then Pederson held court for 20 minutes, seemingly oblivious to the awkwardness of the moment, explaining how the program had lost it's way and implying the head coach needed to do a better job instilling discipline in the players.

Oh, and then the coach he hired to replace Wanny, Miami of Ohio's Mike Haywood, was in the clink just 15 days into his tenure.

And then there's Maude.

Unlike Pitt and Maryland, the Mountaineers and new AD Oliver Luck appeared to know exactly what they were doing. They just made the wrong moves and said the wrong things at every turn.

Bill Stewart went 28-12 in his first 40 games as WVU's head coach, but it was clear to Luck—20-15 in his three seasons as the Mountaineers' starting quarterback, by the way—that the program would never be able to compete for a national championship under Stewart. Nevermind that WVU played for a national title under Don Nehlen in 1988 after going 10-13 the two years prior. Luck had to have a change. Stew had to go.

So while Stewart was still competing for a conference title with his 2010 squad, Luck went out and hired Oklahoma State assistant Dana Holgorsen to be his new offensive coordinator and eventual head coach. Current OC Jeff Mullen and offensive line coach Dave Johnson were also fired as part of the regime change.

Trying to explain the whole sordid affair, Luck threw Stewart firmly under the wheels of the bus when he told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that Stewart knew of the entire succession plan for weeks, yet chose not to tell his two assistants they were being let go.

Who knows if the three athletic directors have big skills when it comes to making big coaching decisions, but they do have big egos. Whether its Pederson's hi-jacking of the Pitt head coaching job for his own professional rehabilitation project, Anderson's Lust for Leach, or Ollie Luck's placement of Coach Stew under the bus  with his "he said, she said" airing of dirty laundry to the media, all three ADs are now closely tied to these coaching hires.

And next time there is a football coaching vacancy in Oakland, College Park or Morgantown, there will likely be an opening for an AD as well.

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