Pitt defensive coordinator to be interim coach

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Pitt defensive coordinator Phil Bennett has been named interim coach and will coach the Panthers in the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham, Ala., against the University of Kentucky, former coach Dave Wannstedt confirmed this afternoon at a news conference.

Wannstedt said he told his seniors Sunday night he would not coach the Panthers in their bowl game but said he did not take long to make his decision about coaching the BBVA Compass Bowl.

"I just didn't want to tell you guys," he told reporters.

Wannstedt was forced to resign from his job Dec. 7, but remained with the university as an assistant to Athletic Director Steve Pederson. Pederson gave Wannstedt the option of coaching the Panthers in the bowl game.

PG VIDEO: DAVE WANNSTEDT

"My loyalty to these players is to have them enjoy this experience and allow them to be the main focus of attention when they travel to Birmingham to get ready for this game," Wannstedt said. "It would be unfair for any part of their experience to be about the head coach and his particular situation."

"Phil Bennett has been a head coach, is respected by the players and staff, and will do a fine job leading the Pitt football team in Birmingham," Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson said in a statement.

The university's football program has been rocked the past three days by the firing of coach Michael Haywood, who was arrested and jailed Friday night for domestic violence in South Bend, Ind. Haywood, who was hired by Pitt Dec. 16, was fired by Chancellor Mark Nordenberg Saturday following the arrest.

Wannstedt also said that senior defensive end Jabaal Sheard will not play in the BBVA Compass Bowl Saturday after having surgery on his elbow.

Wannstedt described the surgery as "nearly elective," and said it should not affect Sheard's NFL draft chances.


Jerry Micco: jmicco@post-gazette.com


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