- Associated Press - Saturday, January 1, 2011

PITTSBURGH (AP) - Pittsburgh fired football coach Mike Haywood on Saturday, saying he could not continue in the job he held for only 2 1/2 weeks because of his arrest on a domestic violence charge.

Haywood was released Saturday from St. Joseph County Jail in Indiana on $1,000 cash bond, said an officer at the jail who declined to give her name, after the charge was upgraded from a misdemeanor to felony domestic battery in the presence of a minor.

Within hours of Haywood’s afternoon release, Pittsburgh put out a statement from Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg, saying Haywood had been dismissed, “effective immediately,” and the school was reopening its search.

“To be clear, the university’s decision is not tied to any expectation with respect to the terms on which the legal proceeding now pending in Indiana might ultimately be concluded,” Nordenberg said in the statement. “Instead, it reflects a strong belief that moving forward with Mr. Haywood as our head coach is not possible under the existing circumstances.”

Pitt moved swiftly to oust Haywood following an arrest that sullied a university that is proud of its Big Ten-like academics. It also raised questions why Haywood _ who had only two seasons as a mid-major head coach, including a one-win season _ was chosen Dec. 16 following a brief search.

Haywood’s hiring by athletic director Steve Pederson was greeted unenthusiastically by fans, boosters, alumni and students who questioned why a school with annual Top 25 aspirations hired him away from mid-major Miami (Ohio). Dave Wannstedt, forced to resign last month following a disappointing 7-5 season, had coached two NFL teams before his 2004 hiring.

“This is a matter of real regret for the many people at Pitt who had looked forward to working with him,” Nordenberg said. “However, head coaches are among the university’s most visible representatives and are expected to maintain high standards of personal conduct and to avoid situations that might reflect negatively on the university.”

Pederson emphasized Haywood would be a “role model” for Pitt’s players, most of whom wanted Wannstedt retained following seasons of nine, 10 and seven wins.

But Haywood’s introductory press conference, in which he never mentioned the word winning but repeatedly emphasized that his players would be disciplined, dress properly and attend class, was met with a lukewarm response.

According to Nordenberg’s statement, Pitt will reopen its search during the same week the Panthers (7-5) _ the Big East preseason favorites _ are preparing to play Kentucky (6-6) in the Compass Bowl on Jan. 8.

Wannstedt, angered and disillusioned by his ouster after six seasons, has not said if he will coach the Panthers.

While Pederson chose Haywood, his own job is not in jeopardy, according to an additional statement issued Sunday night by Pitt. Pederson was fired by Nebraska in 2007 following his failed hiring of football coach Bill Callahan, but returned to Pitt several months later for his second turn as AD.

Mr. Pederson has played a key role in elevating Pitt’s athletics programs, remains an important member of the university’s senior leadership team and continues to enjoy the full support of the chancellor,” according to the statement.

Haywood’s firing came before he had landed a recruit, held a practice or coached a game at a school where successful coaches such as Pop Warner, Jock Sutherland, Johnny Majors and Jackie Sherrill once worked.

Since Haywood took over _ though he had yet to occupy Wannstedt’s office _ nearly half of Wannstedt’s strong 18-man recruiting class has decided to consider other schools or has committed elsewhere.

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