Miami (Ohio) coach Michael Haywood, known for his fiery speeches and CEO-like leadership skills, has been chosen by Pitt to succeed Dave Wannstedt as coach.
Haywood, 10-15 in two seasons in the Mid-American Conference, held a series of meetings on campus Wednesday with Pitt officials — some of which were spotted by students. He then returned to Oxford, Ohio, where he broke the news to Miami's players at a late-night meeting.
Haywood was the only known candidate interviewed for the job, although Pitt also may have had interest in new Miami coach Al Golden and new West Virginia offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen before they took their new jobs.
Formerly the offensive coordinator at Notre Dame, Haywood was 1-11 in his first season at Miami in 2009 before going 9-4 this season and beating Northern Illinois 26-21 in the MAC championship game.
Miami was 10-27 in the three seasons before Haywood's arrival. The RedHawks play Middle Tennessee State in the GoDaddy.com Bowl on Jan. 6 in Mobile, Ala., two days before Pitt plays Kentucky in the Compass Bowl in Birmingham, Ala. Haywood is not expected to coach Miami in the bowl game.
Wannstedt resigned under pressure Dec. 7 following a 7-5 season in which Pitt was ranked No. 15 in September and was picked to win the Big East, only to have numerous top players have disappointing years. Wannstedt was 41-32 in six seasons, including 10-3 last year, after being hired to upgrade a program that had gone to a BCS bowl under former coach Walt Harris, but never reached one under the former Chicago Bears and Miami Dolphins coach.
ESPN.com first reported Thursday night that Pitt had chosen Haywood. Pitt will hold a Thursday afternoon news conference to formally introduce him.
At Miami, Haywood became known for making his players wear coats and ties on road trips — the idea being that players who dress professionally will conduct themselves on the field accordingly — and for being a skilled motivator. His pregame talk before Miami's 23-3 victory against Temple was widely viewed on YouTube.
Haywood's hiring did not immediately excite Pitt's fan base or students. Radio talk shows and Pitt-related message boards were overwhelmed with calls and messages criticizing the hiring of a MAC coach rather than one from a major school. Others suggested West Virginia moved faster and more forcefully in bringing in Holgorsen, who is regarded as one of college football's top offensive coaches.
Even a former Miami player, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, didn't seem all that excited about the news. The Steelers and Pitt share a practice complex on Pittsburgh's South Side.
"He (Haywood) never reached out to me," Roethlisberger said Wednesday. "I don't really know him. I know what helped Miami, Ohio win this year, in my opinion, more than anything, is Brad Bates, the athletic director. What an awesome guy."
Haywood, a former Notre Dame cornerback, has coached at Army, Ohio U., Ball State, LSU, Texas and Notre Dame, working under Charlie Weis, Nick Saban and Mack Brown, among others. Haywood was chosen as the American Football Coaches Association assistant of the year in 2005, but lost his play-calling duties with Notre Dame in 2008. He has coached multiple positions, including wide receivers, linebackers, running backs, defensive ends and special teams.
Before being hired by Miami, the 46-year-old Haywood was passed over for head coaching jobs at Houston, Minnesota and Washington.
The negative reaction to the hiring by Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson was similar to that when Pederson, then at Nebraska, hired former Oakland Raiders coach Bill Callahan to succeed the fired Frank Solich following a 9-3 season in 2003. Callahan proved to be a flop, and both he and Pederson were fired by Nebraska in 2007. A few months later, Pederson returned to Pitt, where he had hired Ben Howland as basketball coach during a previous stay from 1996-2002.
Haywood is the first black head coach in a major men's sport at Pitt. Pitt is expected to return at least 16 starters next season from a team that lost badly at home to Miami of the ACC and West Virginia, was upset by Connecticut and lost non-conference games against Utah and Notre Dame.