PITTSBURGH - In theory, Dave Wannstedt should be the perfect football coach for Pitt.
He's a Baldwin guy who played for the Panthers, and served as an assistant coach for Pitt's 1976 national championship team. He knows what the program means.
He's been a head coach in the NFL and he's at a point in his career where he's not looking to leave Pitt.
That's no small consideration for universities.
Bill Stewart was hired at West Virginia in part because he had no aspirations beyond Morgantown. WVU officials were exhausted by a two-year soap opera in which Rich Rodriguez was being romanced by other programs before he ultimately left for Michigan.
"Coach for life" doesn't segue into weird and uncomfortable until it reaches the Joe Paterno level. The band has been playing Joe's exit theme for years, but he doesn't hear it.
Wannstedt has a reputation as a decent recruiter. The other part of his reputation is that his teams find a way to lose games they shouldn't. Wannstedt's Panthers have also displayed a knack for losing big games, just as they did Friday when West Virginia came to Heinz Field.
They seem to wilt when the spotlight is brightest.
So what's a university to do?
A lot of fans are angry. Worse, some of them are apathetic. There were plenty of empty seats for Friday's game.
Wannstedt is signed through 2014, and that's a factor. A university hates to pay someone to coach its team while it's paying someone else not to coach it.
The question for Pitt is where this program stands after six years of Wannestedt's stewardship.
Friday's game was a big test, and Pitt failed badly.
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Traditional rivals Pitt and West Virginia played their game in special uniforms no one had ever seen before.
One of these days, some college is going to have a 2 a.m. game because ESPN wants it and they'll play in special limited edition pajamas because that's what Nike wanted.
Mehno can be reached at email@example.com. His weblog is at altoonamirror.com