By Richard Hefner
Note that the Pitt-GT game has been delayed until Dec 12 due to COVID 19. Pitt has paused all football related activities.
Pitt is coming off a much-needed victory over Florida State 41 – 17. Pitt is now 4-4 (3-4 in conference). It was an enjoyable game to watch with an inevitable (at least to me) win pretty well insured by the end of the 3’rd quarter. Our upcoming opponent is Georgia Tech 2-5 (2-4 in conference). GT is coming off a bye week with hopes of breaking a 3-game losing streak.
Pitt fans will be able watch the 7:00pm on their Regional Sports Network. For me that is either Fox Sports South or Fox Sports Southeast.
Before we start on the Georgia Tech – Pitt comparisons, let me tell a story/rant about 3 teams. On October 27’th, Austin Peay (AP) lost/promotes/hired their 3’rd coach since July. In July, Mark Hudspeth (former up & comer at Louisiana (aka UL-Lafayette, aka ULL) abruptly resigned as HC at AP while he was under suspension for “Unacceptable Conduct”. AP promoted Marquis Lovings to HC for AP’s “Rent a Win” fall campaign. On October 27’th, Austin Peay hired 30-year-old Scotty Walden as their new HC. Walden will guide AP for their 2020 OVC campaign scheduled to start in February 2021. Two things – Walden is youngest head coach in D1. (Yes, FCS is NCAA D-1), Will Healy who some mention as a Pitt HC candidate, was the HC at AP before Hudspeth.
So where did Walden come from? Walden was working as the interim HC for Southern Mississippi (USM). Walden was promoted to that position after then HC Jay Hopson resigned the day after an opening game loss to South Alabama in the 2020 season opener. Walden was the offensive coordinator before his promotion. USM has now promoted another assistant (Tim Billings) to HC. As long as USM does not hire Billings as the full time HC for 2021, USM will be on their 4’th in less than a year.
Southern Miss had/has a reputation as one of the better known G5 teams. At one time, they were bowl eligible for 18 straight years. The last three were coached by former UNC HC Larry Fedora. His last year at USM finished with a 11-2 record and a number 20 ranking in the AP poll. From my past treks to the red neck Riviera (Biloxi), I talked with USM fans every year. They can point to the coaching hire that undid whatever mystique USM had. – Ellis Johnson.
Ellis Johnson, a long-time defensive coordinator with some experience as a head coach, took the reins from Fedora, promptly changed everything finished the season 0-12 and even more promptly was fired. His head coaching experience was at FCS Gardner-Webb (20 miles from where I live) (5-6) & a 3-year stint (12-22) at The Citadel.
And that long, complicated & winding story is how I have now managed to work either kin or “The” Citadel into my last 5 articles. I batcha you thought I was telling a story about the unknown pitfalls of coaching hires.