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Finding The Panthers

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Perfect. That’s the only word I can think of to describe Dave Wannstedt as he relates to Pitt.

How does a coach with just two winning seasons and a 35-26 overall record merit a perfect score? That’s a good question, but Wannstedt definitely fits the bill.

Now I’m not suggesting Dave Wannstedt is the best football coach in America – he might not be the best in the state, or even the city. He’s not won any titles as a head coach, he’s been fired at the highest level – twice – and he’s stubbornly tied to his system.

But the guy is perfect.

Dave Wannstedt is perfect because he’s perfect for Pitt. Not just for the football team. Not just for the athletic department – he’s perfect for the University of Pittsburgh.

Wannstedt is doing what most of us would love to do at his age – he’s doing what he loves in his hometown, and he’s doing it his way. And he’s having success. Pitt’s 2008-09 record of 19-7 is it’s best two-year mark since 1981-82, when the Jackie Sherrill era ended with an 11-1 mark and the Foge Fazio era began at 9-3.

Recruits love the guy – and what’s not to love? The guy just LOOKS like a football coach. He carries himself with a confidence and coolness his predecessor simply didn’t possess. Recruits notice that.

More important, Dave Wannstedt has never forgotten where he came from. He believes in—and lives—the ideals of the community in which he was raised. He doesn’t have to SELL anything – he believes every word he tells high school football players. Those kids can tell what’s genuine and what’s not – and they’ll be the first ones to tell you that sincerity is not found everywhere.

Wannstedt’s love for his alma mater is not only genuine but it’s infectious. It permeates every move he makes as head coach, and it’s benefited the Panthers in ways that go beyond the football field.

He has made changes to Pitt’s summer football camps that not only stand to help his football program, but others as well – even opposing programs. Wannstedt invites coaches from the Middle Atlantic Conference (MAC)—teams that regularly compete and recruit against the Panthers—to attend Pitt’s camp, unheard of in camp circles. He does it to give local kids a better shot at earning at Division 1 scholarships.

The good will Wannstedt has created between Pitt and the local high school coaches hasn’t been seen around these parts since the eighties, and it helps the Panthers in ways that can’t be measured.

But perhaps the most crucial aspect of Wannstedt’s personality—and why he is the perfect football coach for the Panthers—is that he’s simply comfortable in his own skin. He knows exactly who he is and what he brings to the table.

There’s none of the paranoia that used to exist in and around the Pitt football program – not just under Walt Harris, but throughout the parade of head coaches that came before him. Harris did what those coaches couldn’t (win), but he was always looking over his shoulder, defending himself. He never seemed comfortable.

It’s not like that with Wannstedt. What’s he got to be paranoid about? Getting fired by Pitt? Please. The guy’s been through just about everything – he’s been fired on the grandest stage of all by two of the NFL’s most storied programs. He doesn’t sweat that stuff any longer.

That sense of self-assurance has carried over from the coach to the Pitt program itself. After stumbling blindly for the better part of two decades, Pitt football finally knows what it is. Dave Wannstedt has showed them.

mmsbca

I couldn't agree more with your story on Dave Wannstedt. A perfect fit for Pitt.

Marty Hunt
Santa Barbara, CA

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