Tag Archives: Paul Chryst

The revolving door starts spinning

If the primary argument in retaining a coach is program stability, it’s not a ringing endorsement for the job being done.

And stability seems to be the main reason some Pitt football fans want to see head coach Paul Chryst remain stay for a fourth season. Chryst’s name emerged Wednesday as a potential replacement for Gary Andersen at Wisconsin, though it’s all speculation. Andersen departed Madison abruptly after two successful seasons for the football riches of Oregon State. Andersen’s move is a curious one, and an indictment of how the coaching world views the Wisconsin job.

PittsburghPanthers.com

PittsburghPanthers.com

Chryst heading to Wisconsin makes sense. He grew up in Madison, played quarterback for the Badgers and earned praise for his work as the Badgers’ offensive coordinator. His work as OC led Langeloth native and Wisconsin AD Barry Alvarez to unabashedly endorse Chryst for the job at Pitt. And when Bret Bielema left Wisconsin for Arkansas, Alvarez said at the time he wouldn’t feel right plucking Chryst after only one year at Pitt, and after Alvarez vouched for him.

But times change. Who would have thought a decade ago, when Alvarez ran one of the country’s best football programs, that Wisconsin would become a revolving door for head coaches. What Alvarez said about Chryst two years ago was … two years ago. It’s hard to imagine Alvarez not at least gauging Chryst’s interest, and it’s even tougher to imagine Chryst not being interested.

Not that Chryst did much to distinguish himself at Pitt, where the game-day atmosphere probably reminds him of coaching against Indiana or Purdue. And Chryst’s spotty record could be a determining factor at Wisconsin, which no doubt wants to quell the label of being a stepping stone to other jobs.

In three years at Pitt, Chryst owns a 19-19 record heading into the Armed Forces Bowl, which pits the Panthers (6-6) against Houston (7-5) in Fort Worth, Texas, Jan. 2.

Granted, Chryst didn’t unravel a program in desperate need of solid coaching when he was hired to replace Todd Graham, who was hired to replace Mike Haywood, who was hired to replace Dave Wannstedt. Chryst provided stability, and it’s difficult to say the Panthers don’t appear to be headed in a good direction. Pitt’s three best skill players – ACC Player of the Year James Conner, Tyler Boyd and Chad Voytik – are all sophomores. The offensive line displayed consistent improvement. Players responded to an awful stretch with two wins to end the regular season and become bowl-eligible.

But inconsistency elsewhere characterizes Pitt football during Chryst’s tenure. The defense struggles to make stops. There are head-scratching losses to the Akrons of the college football landscape. Pitt regularly snatches defeat from the jaws of victory, as recent results against Duke and North Carolina prove.

Pitt rarely lands top recruits, and for every two-star guy like Conner that succeed at Pitt, there are 10-15 four- and five-star guys within Pitt’s recruiting base excelling at other schools.

Should Chryst stay at Pitt, and the guess here is the Panthers will have an interim coach for that bowl game against Houston, he’ll enter a make-or-break year. Marked improvement will be expected in Year 4. If there’s another 6-6 season, or even a 7-5 one, Chryst will likely be looking for work.

So why take the chance? Chryst could land several years of job security at Wisconsin. Whether or not he can coach in Alvarez’s shadow will likely determine his answer if he’s offered. And judging by Chryst’s unspectacular demeanor displayed at Pitt, that won’t be a problem.

Then, Pitt’s revolving door will be moving again.

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Pitt, is that really you?

Forgive Pitt fans if they approached Saturday’s season opener against Delaware with a near complete cloak of apathy.

Recent history warrants skepticism, despair and even a lack of interest.

Ready to relive some painful memories? Come on, you’re probably a Pitt fan if you’re reading this. Chances are you’re a masochist and are looking forward to the following.

Pitt opened the 2012 season, and the Paul Chryst era, with a loss to Division I-AA (Yes, I recognize it’s not longer called this) Youngstown State – at Heinz Field. It marked the Panthers first loss to a program in a lower division.

Pitt stormed into Toledo ranked No. 9 in the country in 2003 and left with a humbling 35-31 loss. Sure, Toledo’s Bruce Gradkowski and Lance Moore are current Steelers, but this loss ranks more maddening than most. Bill Hillgrove’s constant calls of, “Gradkowski complete for nine yards” can still be heard somewhere over Lake Erie.

Urban Meyer once coached at Bowling Green, but his Falcons lost at old Pitt Stadium back in the days of Latef Grim and then-freshman Antonio Brown. But, fast forward to the 2008 season, and Bowling Green left Heinz Field with a 27-17 win.

There’s been the Swinging Gate vs. Texas A&M, the Palko Slide against UConn, the terrible loss at Ohio and the “Whatever You Do, Don’t Kick the Ball to Marty Gilyard” game where Pitt blew a double-digit lead to Cincinnati with a berth in the Sugar Bowl on the line.

Pitt once lost to Notre Dame in a game where the Irish returned three kicks for touchdowns – in the second quarter. And, who wants to remember the 1996 fiasco at Ohio State where the Buckeyes defeated Pitt, 72-0. The Panthers crossed midfield once in that game and David Boston returned a punt for a touchdown with only eight players on the field.

That’s a lot of low points in a span of less than two decades. So, again, forgive Pitt fans if they entered Saturday’s game with incredible trepidation.

After all, the most Pitt thing to do would be fall behind or lose to Delaware then go win at Miami in the regular-season finale.

Instead, it was Pitt 62, Delaware 0.

The Blue Hens were held under 70 total yards of offense. Pitt rushed for 409 yards, with James Conner rushing for four first-half touchdowns.

It’s as unPitt as Pitt can get.

So what does it mean?

Too early to tell, but it’s certainly a good sign. Granted Delaware is Division I-AA (yes, yes, I know) program, but Pitt has had problems putting those teams away in the past. Villanova, Furman or The Citadel ring any bells?

Pitt simply doesn’t put teams away, let alone dominate them.

Friday’s game at Boston College should offer some indication if Pitt is improving in Chryst’s third year or if this opening game was nothing more than an unusual occurrence, like Warren G producing the jam of the summer in back-to-back years. That actually happened in 1993 (Indo Smoke) and 1994 (Regulate).