PITTSBURGH (AP) - A person with knowledge of the decision says Pittsburgh has hired Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst as its head football coach.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because an official announcement has not yet been made. The hiring was first reported by ESPN.com.
The 46-year-old Chryst helped mold the Badgers into an offensive powerhouse since joining the program in 2005. Wisconsin (11-2) is ranked fourth in the country in scoring this season, averaging 44.6 points while winning the Big Ten championship and earning a Rose Bowl berth.
The Panthers went 6-6 in Graham’s one season and are in desperate need of stability following his stunning departure.
That number doesn’t include Phil Bennett, who served as interim coach in a 27-10 victory over Kentucky in the BBVA Compass Bowl last January, or Keith Patterson, tabbed last week to lead the Panthers back to the same bowl on Jan. 7, this time against SMU.
Contract terms were not immediately available. Chryst beat out Florida International coach Mario Cristobal and interim Ohio State coach Luke Fickell for the job.
It’s one the Panthers hope Chryst will hold onto as the school prepares to move from the Big East to the ACC by 2014.
The job was supposed to belong to Graham, who took over 11 months ago preaching character, commitment and a “high octane” offense designed to take the Big East by storm.
It never happened as the Panthers struggled adapting from Wannstedt’s pro-style approach to Graham’s modified spread attack. Pitt allowed 57 sacks this season, easily the most in the FBS, and Graham drew the ire of the fan base for shifting blame from himself to quarterback Tino Sunseri.
The growing pains led to a wildly uneven season in which the Panthers let winnable games slip away. Pitt held double-digit second-half leads over Iowa, Cincinnati and rival West Virginia only to collapse in the final minutes.
Chryst will be tasked with helping the Panthers learn to finish, something that wasn’t a problem for the Badgers since the former Wisconsin quarterback joined then coach Barry Alvarez’s staff in 2005. He stayed on after Alvarez was replaced by Brett Bielema and has consistently churned out high-powered offenses that have lit up scoreboards across the Big Ten.
This season was no exception. Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson finished second in the country in pass efficiency while throwing for 31 touchdowns and just three interceptions and running back Montee Ball was a Heisman Trophy finalist while rushing for 1,759 yards and 32 touchdowns.
Graham didn’t leave the cupboard completely bare. Running back Ray Graham was among the nation’s leaders in rushing yards before tearing the ACL in his right knee in October, ending his season. He is expected to return for his senior season, and if he’s healthy he will give Chryst the kind of dynamic threat out of the backfield that was a fixture during Chryst’s days at Wisconsin.
Chryst’s first job, however, will be selling the Panthers that he’s in it for the long haul.