Well, we all know that Dave Wannstedt was most likely forced out rather than resigning on his own accord. Not winning the Big East this season was the final nail in the coffin, but here are five reasons I think Wannstedt was let go.
1. National TV losses. It seems that every time Wannstedt and Pitt were on a national stage, they faltered. That isn't quite true, of course. The team won nationally televised games on NBC against Notre Dame in 2008 and 2009, a 2008 Thursday night contest against then No. 10-ranked South Florida, and of course the 2007 win against No. 1 USA Today / No. 2 AP West Virginia. The problem is that recent memory always takes precedence. And this season, Pitt lost every one of its national TV spotlight games against Utah, Notre Dame, Miami, and West Virginia. To the average sports fan out of the area who may have only seen the Panthers during those televised games this season, the team was a disappointment each time. Pitt's national reputation took a big hit because of that.
2. No BCS appearances. The team tied for the conference championship twice, but that's irrelevant. Due to head-to-head losses, Pitt did not appear in a BCS game under Wannstedt's leadership and thus won no championships. No one expected Pitt to win the Big East title each season, but in six tries, there's no reason Pitt couldn't have gotten the job done at least once. This year was particularly painful, since Pitt was playing in a very weak conference. Wannstedt doesn't play on the field, of course, but in the end, Pitt's administrators thought that someone had to take responsibility. Had Pitt gone 7-5, but secured a BCS bid, I think there's a good chance Wannstedt would have been retained.
3. Losses to bad teams. Not only did Wannstedt's Panthers lose most of their games against good teams, but there were also plenty of defeats to flat-out bad teams. The Panthers blew a 14-point lead late in the third quarter in losing to 5-7 North Carolina State last year. There was also an opening-day loss to Bowling Green in 2008, an overtime loss to Navy in 2007, and a 2006 loss to ... Ohio University. Ouch. North Carolina State at least has pretty good athletes, but the other three losses were embarrassing.
4. Lack of a well-timed signature win. Make no mistake, Wannstedt did indeed have a signature win in beating West Virginia back in 2007. If winning a road game as a huge underdog, against your biggest current rivals, preventing them from playing for their first-ever National Championship doesn't count as a signature win, I don't know what does. The problem is that it came in a year when Pitt finished only 5-7. The Panthers never had that type of a win when they were competing for a conference championship, falling short against Cincinnati in 2009 and West Virginia in 2010.
5. Fan outcry. Who knows how much this had to do with Wannstedt's departure, but I think it was a factor. I have a hard time believing Steve Pederson and Mark Nordenberg don't listen to any of the local television/radio shows or were capable of constantly ignoring persistent fans out and about or at university functions. Fans demanded a winner in Pittsburgh, and I believe that another season of declining fan interest or even an anticipated decline in ticket sales had something to do with the decision.