Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson today offered a show of support for Dave Wannstedt, taking pressure off the Pitt football coach after Saturday’s 27-17 season-opening loss to Bowling Green.
Pitt was a 13 1/2-point favorite.
“In these situations, nobody’s more disappointed than Dave and our team at the results of the game,” Pederson said. “But I also know there isn’t any group that’s going to work harder to get us back on track than Dave and his coaches and the team. For Dave, this isn’t really a job, this is a passion. He’s dedicated to building a winning program here and he has all of our support as he works at that.”
Wannstedt is 16-20 in his fourth season at Pitt but has lost 13 of his past 18 games. Expectations were high for the Panthers after the season-ending upset at West Virginia and a No. 25 Associated Press ranking to start the season.
Pederson said before the season that he expected Pitt to be nationally ranked on a regular basis, but declined today to mandate a victory total for Wannstedt to meet this season.
“I don’t want to put anything definitive on a coach. I don’t believe in that,” Pederson said. “We just want to focus on beating Buffalo Saturday night. Hopefully, we can get that done.”
The Panthers drew an announced crowd of 45,063 to the opener and though many left early Pederson said he has received “great feedback” about the game-day experience and hopes to attract another strong showing when Pitt (0-1) plays Buffalo (1-0) at 6 p.m. Saturday at Heinz Field.
“It’s the first game, but I think a lot of people had fun at the game and all the events surrounding the game,” Pederson said. “It was a fabulous crowd and a fabulous atmosphere. When people come out Saturday against Buffalo, we’re going to do the same types of things. We’re going to have that atmosphere at every game and keep building on it. We’re certainly hoping that people hang with us as we move forward.”
Pederson also said that, after only one game, it’s too early to give up on the season – or Wannstedt.
“Certainly, anybody who is a Pitt fan wanted us to win the game, but we can’t let that impact the whole season,” Pederson said. “We have five more great games at Heinz Field, a lot more season-ticket holders that will hang with us and be supportive as we win more and more games. We’re appreciative that they jumped on board and we’re going to need them again on Saturday night.”