Pitt offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh is expected to resign and accept a position as the New York Jets quarterback's coach according to multiple sources familiar with the situation.
Cavanaugh became the Panthers' offensive coordinator after the 2004 season and, along with running backs coach David Walker and defensive line coach Greg Gattuso, was one of three assistant coaches remaining from Dave Wannstedt's original staff.
Wannstedt was noncommittal about Cavanaugh yesterday at a news conference to introduce Pitt's recruiting class. Cavanaugh was not available for comment.
"We all know Matt's a great coach, and I'm sure a lot of other people out there will be interested in giving him another opportunity," Wannstedt said after the news conference. "It wouldn't surprise me if people had an interest in him, but at this point, I have nothing further to say about it."
Wannstedt and his staff were at Heinz Field last night for a reception with alumni, donors and season ticket holders, which is an annual event on signing day. Cavanaugh did not attend.
Cavanaugh and new Jets coach Rex Ryan worked on the same staff in Baltimore for six seasons. Cavanaugh was the offensive coordinator from 1999-2004 and Ryan was a defensive assistant. The two were on staff together in 2000 when the Ravens won the Super Bowl.
Cavanaugh had recently expressed his desire to become a play-caller and coordinate an offense in the NFL again. That was the position he had for eight seasons with the Bears and Ravens before joining Wannstedt at Pitt.
Ryan retained Brian Schottenheimer as the Jets' offensive coordinator, but Cavanaugh is at least back in the NFL with hopes that it will provide him a faster track back to a coordinator position.
Cavanaugh, like Wannstedt, is a former Panther. His roots are in nearby Youngstown, Ohio, and he was the starting quarterback for the Panthers in 1976, when they won their most recent national championship.
But Cavanaugh's tenure as Pitt's offensive coordinator was rocky.
He was often criticized for being too conservative on offense and that he hadn't adapted to the college game.
The calls for Cavanaugh to be fired reached a fever pitch after the Sun Bowl when the Panthers lost to Oregon State, 3-0, the first time in more than a decade that the Panthers had been shut out.
However, Cavanaugh did have some successes.
This season, the Panthers did lead the Big East in scoring during the regular season (29.3 ppg) and, in 2006, ranked among the top 20 nationally in three offensive categories.
Although Wannstedt, who has begun the search for a successor, did not comment specifically about Cavanaugh, he hinted that whomever he hires will have a similar philosophy to Cavanaugh's and will run a pro-style offense.
"We're not changing anything on offense," Wannstedt said when he was asked about the recruitment of versatile quarterback Kolby Gray. "We are not going to go to the read zone offense, we're not going to go an option. We are going to run the Pro offense than we've always run."
A formal announcement of Cavanaugh's departure could come as soon as today.
Paul Zeise can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1720