Pitt quarterback Chad Voytik made a long-simmering decision final Monday, opting to spend his final year of collegiate eligibility somewhere other than Pittsburgh.
Voytik will seek a graduate transfer this spring, the school announced. He will earn his undergraduate degree in April, and be eligible to enroll at another Football Bowl Subdivision school this summer to play next season.
“It’s bittersweet,” Voytik said in a phone interview. “I’m excited for what’s next, and I do feel like it’s the right move for me as a player. But you have so many good relationships in the city, guys I’ve been with for four years.”
Despite losing his starting job this season, Voytik was praised by his coaches and teammates for his leadership off the field and in the locker room.
“Chad has been a tremendous leader and teammate during his Pitt career, and certainly during the year I had the opportunity to coach him,” coach Pat Narduzzi said in a statement. “We wish him the very best and will help him any way we can as he maps out his future pursuits. We will always consider him a Pitt man. His contributions have been invaluable to what we are building here.”
Voytik said he had a list of potential destinations in mind. “I’m just kind of waiting to see who contacts me. I have some connections at certain places, but I’m not completely sure what’s next. It’s exciting and kind of scary at the same time.”
The two most important factors, he said, will be a school where he can realistically win the starting quarterback job, as well as somewhere closer to his home in Cleveland, Tenn., about 80 miles southwest of Knoxville.
Voytik’s parents would regularly make the nine-hour drive to Pittsburgh for Chad’s home games, sometimes driving overnight after watching his sister cheerlead at her high school’s games on Friday night. Voytik’s longtime girlfriend also is still in Tennessee.
“I’m looking to hopefully get closer to home and make that a little bit easier on my family,” he said.
One landing spot that seems to make sense is Memphis, which is less than a six-hour drive from Voytik’s home and will have a vacancy at quarterback after losing Paxton Lynch to the NFL draft this offseason. Incoming Tigers coach Mike Norvell originally secured Voytik’s verbal commitment to Pitt in 2011 when he was the Panthers’ offensive coordinator under former coach Todd Graham.
Voytik’s camp has been in touch with the Tigers, according to a source close to the situation.
Another spot that could fit would be Vanderbilt, which is close to Voytik’s home and suffered through poor quarterback play this season.
“[I also want] an opportunity to be a starter again, because I feel like I have some good football ahead me,” he said.
Voytik entered this season as Pitt's presumed starter, but lost his job after just two games to junior Nate Peterman, who joined the Panthers this offseason as a transfer from Tennessee. In the season-opening start against Youngstown State and limited action afterward, Voytik passed for 112 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
He was coming off a redshirt sophomore year that saw him improve as the season progressed. Over the last six games of 2014, Voytik completed 64.6 percent of his passes for 1,192 yards, seven touchdowns and one interception, good for a passing efficiency of 160.0.
Voytik said he felt like he was given a fair chance this season by offensive coordinator Jim Chaney, who had a prior connection with Peterman after recruiting him to Tennessee in 2012.
“I feel like I was given a fair shot, but at times, things might’ve been a little unfair,” said Voytik, who declined to elaborate.
“I just think it was the perfect storm of events that worked against me a little bit. That’s life, though.”
When Chaney left Pitt last month to become the offensive coordinator at Georgia, Voytik said it did give him pause about his decision to transfer. There was a chance that the new offensive coordinator could bring in a system better suited to Voytik’s strengths.
“It definitely made me reconsider a little bit because in my mind, the new coordinator’s going to make it maybe an open competition,” Voytik said. “I don’t think I wanted to wait around and see how that hire would go and stuff.”
Realistically, Voytik had been weighing the decision of whether to transfer since midway through the season after it became obvious that Peterman was Pitt’s starter under center.
As the Panthers got into preparation for last month’s Military Bowl, he really started to sit down and seriously consider his options. The answer always seemed clear, even if his heartstrings were pulling him in a different direction.
“I was definitely leaning toward leaving, but whenever I sat down and thought about all the people that I’d be leaving, the team, and all that, it made me reconsider for a second, of course,” Voytik said. “That’s tough. I’m not going to say I was real close to staying another year, but it definitely crossed my mind.”
And even though he’s choosing to end his career elsewhere, Voytik was nothing but positive about his time at Pitt.
“I told coach [Pat] Narduzzi, this is not how I’d draw this year up by any means, but that’s life,” Voytik said. “You take it for what it is and make the most of it.
“I learned a ton about myself and I enjoyed the year with my teammates. I got to take on a different role, and sometimes you have to do that in life. You make the most if it and roll with the punches, just keep going on.”
Sam Werner: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @SWernerPG.
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