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Pitt's Wannstedt: 'I'm not going anywhere'

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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

After leading Pitt to back-to-back bowl game appearances, coach Dave Wannstedt on Tuesday was awarded a two-year contract extension through January 2015.

Wannstedt, who led the Panthers to their first 10-win season since 1981, said the extension signals his commitment to both the program and future recruits.

"The parents and the high school coaches know I'm here, and I'm not going anywhere," Wannstedt said. "I haven't wavered from that, and it's important from a stability standpoint."

The Panthers have been among the best teams in the Big East the past two seasons, totaling 19 wins — including a 19-17 victory over North Carolina in the Meineke Car Care Bowl in December.

Also, Pitt is 20-7 in its last 27 games. Perhaps Wannstedt's brightest moment was the school's first-ever victory over a No. 1-ranked team, a 13-9 upset of top-ranked West Virginia in 2007.

But there were heartbreaks, too, during Wannstedt's first five seasons at his alma mater. And none more painful than a 45-44 loss to Cincinnati in the 2009 regular-season finale at Heinz Field — a loss that denied Pitt a second Bowl Championship Series bid.

"I felt like we were very capable of winning a championship last year," said Wannstedt, who led Pitt to its first bowl win since a 38-13 thumping of Oregon State in the 2002 Insight Bowl. "Now, we have to win one.

"Obviously, we have to continue to get better and recruit. We have to keep knocking on that door for a championship."

Wannstedt's coaching staff secured 23 recruits this year, and he continues to expand Pitt's recruiting reach in hopes of making the program a national championship contender.

"We have been trying to crack into schools like DeMatha and (Cleveland) St. Ignatius," Wannstedt said. "When you start getting players from those programs, those areas that speaks volumes about how those people feel about (Pitt).

"We have a lot of unfinished business. Our players and our staff understand, so we're working every day to find an edge and to give us a way to get back to winning championships."

Last season, Wannstedt positioned the Panthers to win at least a share of the Big East title for the first time since 2004. But they staggered during the stretch run, losing a defensive battle to West Virginia and its shootout with eventual conference champion Cincinnati.

The Panthers, who were the Big East preseason favorites, parlayed players-of-the-year performances by tailback Dion Lewis and defensive linemen Mick Williams and defensive end Greg Romeus to finish 15th in both The Associated Press and coaches polls.

"It's been an exciting opportunity for us to watch (Wannstedt) build Pitt football to something really special again," said Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson. "We have great days ahead.

"The contract extension is really a mutual commitment to one another, particularly doing the time of year we're doing it. It's letting our team know and future student-athletes know that our coaches will be there, and continue to move the program forward."

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