With Paul Chryst all but out the door as the Pitt head coach, as an official announcement is expected to be made Wednesday evening, it’s time to focus on filling the void on the Pitt sidelines.
As the Panthers search for their fifth head coach since 2010, several names stand out as who should be considered serious candidates to land the job.
With that being said, here’s a look at 10 strong candidates that current Pitt AD Steve Pederson should have on speed dial.
Greg Schiano- I know for a fact that Schiano is on Pitt’s radar and would be the big name coach that Pitt fans want to see hired. While Schiano didn’t fare well in the NFL, he was once one of the hottest coaching names in college football, having made Rutgers a respectable program.
If he can take Rutgers to six bowl games, he should be able to do a better job at Pitt. A return to the college game would benefit both Schiano and Pitt. There’s a chance that he could view Pitt as a stepping stone, but let’s be honest, that’s exactly what this job is at this point.
To land a name like Schiano, Pitt is going to have to be willing to up their recruiting budget and the pool for assistant coaches’ salaries, but that is something that is long overdue anyways. Schiano is a good college football coach and should be at the top of Pitt’s wish list.
Pat Narduzzi- The Michigan State defensive coordinator is biding his time until he lands the right head coaching gig with a power five conference school and Pitt could be the right opportunity.
I know that Narduzzi is high on the Panthers wish list and would be a great fit. Pitt’s defense needs fixed and there may be no one better to do it. And it is not like the cupboard is bare as the Panthers are expected to return eight starters on offense and seven on defense.
The problem comes down to money though as I’m told it is going to take a lot to lure Narduzzi away from Michigan State and that isn’t exactly Pitt’s M.O. Chryst made $1.578 million last year and it will take more than that for Narduzzi. But if they elect to go the assistant coach route, like they did with Chryst, Narduzzi should be the top target.
Scott Frost- If you can’t get the top defensive coordinator available, how about possibly the top offensive coordinator?
Frost is going to get a head coaching job soon and it would make sense for Pitt to try and lure him into town and bring that Oregon offense with him. Frost has been linked to the Colorado State opening and I am not sure if he is on Pitt’s radar at the moment, but if he isn’t he should be.
Tom Bradley- Bradley makes the list because it is a name that people in the area will automatically bring up every time there is a vacancy. Currently the senior associate head coach at West Virginia, Bradley at least deserves a call about the job.
I just don’t see him as that serious of a candidate though. If Steve Pederson is involved in the hiring process, and he will be, even though Bradley is a guy that makes sense, he is a longshot. If Bradley didn’t get the job last time around, I don’t see how he would be viewed as a better candidate this time around. It’s still worth picking up the phone though.
Doc Holliday- Sources say that the 60-year old Marshall head coach has some interest in the job and Pitt could do a heck of a lot worse. On the positive side, Holliday can recruit, especially in Florida and you would have to think he would get better players at Pitt than he gets at Marshall.
On the negative side though, while Holliday has done well the past couple of seasons with the Thundering Herd, he boasts only a 39-25 career record as a head coach and that is coming in a pretty weak Conference USA. If Pitt settled on Holliday it wouldn’t necessarily be a bad hire, but there are some better candidates on the board.
Joe Rudolph- Rudolph is the least sexy name on the board and one that may make Pitt fans cringe if he gets the job. But there’s a lot about him that would suggest he is at least worth a look.
For one, the Belle Vernon native has the local ties that many fans and some former player’s desire. Secondly, as Pitt’s offensive coordinator, has put together an impressive offense that should only get better. Finally, Rudolph should come cheaper than any of the other candidates and that is still likely a big deal.
He may not be one of the top candidates available, but Rudolph deserves a look at the minimum.
Terry Bowden- if Pitt fans want a big name coach, how about a blast from the past?
Bowden could be looking for the opportunity to get back into coaching a power five team and Pitt may be the right fit. The Panthers got a firsthand look at Bowden this year when his Akron Zips came to Heinz Field and beat the Panthers.
He’s starting to turn the Akron program around, but has posted only an 11-25 record. But he’s still a guy who posted a 47-17-1 mark at Auburn in the 90’s.
Mike Solari- Solari’s name keeps popping up, but I don’t view him as a serious candidate. The San Francisco 49ers offensive line coach does have ties to the program and does have interest in the job and likely will have the free time once Jim Harbaugh is let go after the season.
However I have a hard time seeing Pitt target a guy that doesn’t have much college coaching experience.
Justin Fuente- There’s a better than average chance that Pitt will target a current head coach from a smaller school, which makes Fuente a great candidate for the job.
When Fuente took over the Memphis program in 2012, the Tigers won only five games in three years under two coaches. The 38-year-old former TCU offensive coordinator has quickly made the Tigers (9-3) American Athletic Conference champions.
Memphis is trying to lock up their promising young coach to a contract extension, but it won’t be long before Fuente moves up in the coaching ranks. Pitt would be wise to make him one of their top priorities.
Luke Fickell- Fickell, currently the co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach for Ohio State, could be an outside candidate. An assistant at Ohio State for over ten seasons, Fickell served as the team’s head coach during the 2011 football season, but only put up a modest 6-7 record.
Fickell likely isn’t a strong candidate due not only to his failures during his brief stint as a head coach, but due to the fact that he interviewed for the Pitt job back in 2011. Similar to Bradley’s situation, if Fickell didn’t get the job the first time around, I don’t see why he would be a stronger candidate now.
He’s still someone worth reaching out to though.
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