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Monday, January 3, 2011
Dave Wannstedt bows out of Pitt's bowl

By Brian Bennett

The coaching circus continues at Pittsburgh.

Dave Wannstedt announced on Monday that he will not coach the Panthers in Saturday's BBVA Compass Bowl against Kentucky. Defensive coordinator Phil Bennett will lead the team in the bowl.

This has been an incredibly odd situation, to say the least. Wannstedt was fired a few days after the season finale but was given the option to coach the bowl. He did not tell university administrators until Monday -- less than a week before the game -- what his intentions were. I'm sure Wannstedt would love to coach his players again, but he is also angry at the school's administration and doesn't want to deal with the news conferences/attention in Birmingham (not that anyone there will care that much about the bowl, but still). And by dragging his decision out, he got to make athletic director Steve Pederson feel uncomfortable, which Wannstedt probably enjoyed.

Meanwhile, Wannstedt has been coaching the team during the bowl practices, as players wondered who would actually lead them onto the field at game time. There was Mike Haywood watching practice from the sideline during his brief tenure. Wannstedt's former staff members were all dismissed except for defensive backs coach Jeff Hafley, who bolted for Rutgers. Various outlets have reported that offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti will join Hafley with the Scarlet Knights. And Pitt now is searching for a new head coach.

The whole situation is reminiscent of Cincinnati's coaching sideshow at last year's Sugar Bowl against Florida. But at least the Bearcats had a head coach in place for the following season.

The "distractions" angle is often overused. But if any team has had distractions this bowl season, it's Pitt. Kentucky (6-6) is not a great team, but the Panthers must be considered a huge underdog in this game considering the massive amount of chaos surrounding the program.