Monday, February 4, 2008
Pitt hires former SMU coach Bennett as defensive coordinator
ESPN.com news services
PITTSBURGH -- Former Southern Methodist head coach Phil
Bennett, fired with four games remaining last season, was hired
Monday as Pitt's defensive coordinator.
Bennett, a longtime acquaintance of Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt,
replaces Paul Rhoads, who held the job for eight seasons under
Wannstedt and former coach Walt Harris before leaving last month
for the same job at Auburn.
"I'm incredibly excited to be part of what is happening here
and look forward to helping the program continue its climb, both in
the Big East and nationally," Bennett said.
The hiring was first reported by ESPN.com's Joe Schad.
Pitt was 5-7 last season, its third consecutive losing record
under Wannstedt, but finished with a 13-9 win over then-No. 2 West
Virginia -- one of the biggest upsets in school history.
The 52-year-old Bennett had an 18-52 record in six seasons at
SMU, where he was dismissed Oct. 28 following a 1-7 start. Bennett
stayed on to finish out a 1-11 season before being replaced by
former Hawaii coach June Jones.
The 1-11 record was a major disappointment for SMU, a one-time
power that has struggled since shutting down its program from
1986-88. SMU was coming off a 6-6 record in 2006, but allowed an
average of 39.8 points last season, third-most among the 119
Division I-A programs.
Before taking the SMU job in 2001, Bennett was the defensive
coordinator at Kansas State for three seasons and coached the
secondary at Oklahoma. Bennett also was the defensive coordinator
at TCU, LSU, Texas A&M, Purdue and Iowa State.
During his playing career, Bennett was a defensive end at Texas
Wannstedt also considered Pitt defensive line coach Greg
Gattuso, the former Duquesne coach, and Carolina Panthers defensive
line coach Sal Sunseri, a former star linebacker at Pitt. Wannstedt
has one remaining staff opening, a receivers coach.
Joe Schad is a college football reporter for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.