With another disappointing loss, message boards are blowing up with the usual 'Fire Dave Wannstedt' rants. Here are five reasons I don't think that will happen after this season - even if Pitt fails to win the conference:
1. Pitt has improved on the field over the past two seasons. Pitt started off slowly under Wannstedt, hovering around .500 for his first three seasons. But in 2009 and 2010, the team won 19 games, including its first 10-win season in nearly 30 years. Those two seasons were far better than the previous three and showed Wannstedt was on the right track. He began winning with his own guys, and while the end to the 2010 regular season was a disappointing one, the team clearly had turned the corner. The administration isn't likely to fire him just because of one mediocre season.
2. He's a heck of a recruiter. Wannstedt was able to recruit well right away and continued to do so even after some poor records. A good example was the 2008 class, in which he landed three five-star recruits, including Jon Baldwin. That came after a dismal 5-7 season in 2007. Since Pitt began winning these past two seasons, recruiting is looking even better. Wannstedt is not only recruiting some highly-touted players, he's extending his reach, landing more talent from New Jersey and other points east. Pitt could have a top 25 class in 2011.
3. He's a 'Pitt guy.' It's easy to cringe at that statement. I almost did as I wrote it. But even though it's clearly not the sole reason to keep a coach, it does help that he's a local guy. He was born and raised in Pittsburgh, and he played at Pitt. He loves the university, and I think the administration values having someone that doesn't want to use the job as a stepping stone. He has said over and over that he wants this to be his last job, and I think that counts for something.
4. He runs a clean program. Go ahead, laugh. Pitt's off-field issues this year have been notorious. There were the alleged assaults by Jabaal Sheard, Keith Coleman, and Jeff Knox, a Jason Douglas hit-and-run, and DUI by Dan Mason. Those things are nothing to sneeze at and are serious issues. But none were incidents over which Dave Wannstedt had direct control, such as recruiting violations. There were, of course, the famous Elijah Fields photos with boatloads of money, but there was no NCAA investigation or even any hint of proof of Pitt paying players. The fact is while a coach can instill discipline into a program, he doesn't have control over players, some of whom are still teenagers, when they're not under his supervision.
5. He does what he can to make sure his players are good students. There was an article in the Post-Gazette last year about Wannstedt making sure his players got to class. I'm sure he's not the only coach to check in on players at classrooms, but I'm equally sure that not every coach does it. He's been doing that ever since he arrived on campus.
Pitt just gave Wannstedt an extension this Spring for his contract to run through 2014. Contracts are meaningless in the world of college coaching, but that extension suggested that Pitt has the guy it wants. Are any of these reasons individually enough to keep Wannstedt after this season? No, not really. But collectively, I think they show why PItt will keep him around.