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Dave Wannstedt
Wannstedt with the Dolphins in 2003
Wannstedt with the Dolphins in 2003
Title Head Coach
College Pittsburgh
Sport Football
Conference Big East
Team record 35–26
Born May 21, 1952 (1952-05-21) (age 57)
Place of birth Baldwin, Pennsylvania
Career highlights
Overall 35–26 (NCAA)
82–86–0 (NFL)
Bowls 1–1
Coaching stats
College Football DataWarehouse
Playing career
Green Bay Packers
Position Offensive tackle
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
Pittsburgh (GA)
Oklahoma State (DL)
Miami (DC)
Dallas Cowboys (DC)
Chicago Bears
Miami Dolphins (DC)
Miami Dolphins

Dave Wannstedt (born May 21, 1952 in Baldwin, Pennsylvania), is the current head coach of the University of Pittsburgh Panthers football team. Previously, Wannstedt was the head coach of the Miami Dolphins of the NFL from 2000 to 2004, and the Chicago Bears from 1993 to 1998. He also was a long-time assistant to Jimmy Johnson with the Dallas Cowboys, Miami Hurricanes, and Oklahoma State Cowboys as well as an associate of Johnson when both were assistants at the University of Pittsburgh in the 1970s.


Early years

Wannstedt was born in Baldwin, Pennsylvania and attended Baldwin High School. He earned an athletic scholarship to the University of Pittsburgh playing offensive tackle and blocking for future Heisman Trophy winner Tony Dorsett. After a successful career with the Panthers, he was chosen in the 1974 NFL draft by the Green Bay Packers, but spent his only NFL season on the injured reserve list with a neck injury.

Coaching career


First college coaching career

In 1975, Pitt coach Johnny Majors hired him as a graduate assistant coach. He was on the staff when the Panthers won the 1976 NCAA Division I-A national football championship with a victory over the Georgia Bulldogs in the 1977 Sugar Bowl. In 1977, Jimmy Johnson joined the staff of the Pitt Panthers and the two would forge a long lasting personal and professional bond. When Johnson left to become the head coach of the Oklahoma State Cowboys in 1979, he invited Wannstedt to join his staff.

Wannstedt served as defensive line coach for the Oklahoma State Cowboys for the 1979 and 1980 seasons and was promoted to defensive coordinator in 1981, a spot he held for two seasons. He moved on to University of Southern California in 1983 to coach the Trojans and served as the defensive line coach for three years. In 1986, Wannstedt became defensive coordinator for the Miami Hurricanes under friend and mentor Jimmy Johnson, where they won a national championship in 1987.

Dallas Cowboys

When Johnson was hired as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys in 1989, Wannstedt joined Dallas' staff as defensive coordinator. The Cowboys defense was considered one of the best in the NFL under Wannstedt's leadership and he became a prime candidate to become an NFL head coach. When Chuck Noll retired as head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, in 1992, Wannstedt was one of the finalists for the job, but was ultimately edged out by fellow Pittsburgh-area native Bill Cowher.

Chicago Bears

On January 19, 1993, he was hired as the head coach of the Chicago Bears replacing legendary coach Mike Ditka, another former Pitt Panther. Wannstedt's tenure at Chicago was tumultuous. He led the Bears to only one postseason appearance in his 6 years at Chicago and compiled a 41-57 record. After Wannstedt posted back-to-back 4–12 seasons, Bears owner Michael McCaskey fired Wannstedt on December 28, 1998, a day when five NFL head coaches – one sixth of the league – lost their jobs. Four of those coaches--Wannstedt, Ted Marchibroda, Ray Rhodes, and Dom Capers--were fired within one hour, while Dennis Erickson was fired later that day.

Miami Dolphins

In 1999, Wannstedt again joined coach Jimmy Johnson's staff—this time, as defensive coordinator and assistant head coach of the Miami Dolphins. When the then-56-year-old Johnson announced his retirement suddenly on January 16, 2000, Wannstedt was the obvious choice to replace him, and he was immediately named Johnson's successor. Under Wannstedt, the Dolphins regular season record was 42-31, with playoff appearances in his first two seasons.

Wannstedt resigned as head coach midway through the 2004 season, with the Dolphins record standing at 1-8. Less than two months later, he agreed to return home to fill the head coach vacancy at his alma mater, the University of Pittsburgh.

University of Pittsburgh

When University of Pittsburgh head coach Walt Harris announced that he was leaving Pitt to become head coach at Stanford, Wannstedt, a Pittsburgh native and Pitt graduate with NFL experience and a proven college recruiting record, immediately became a leading candidate to replace him. Wannstedt was initially interested in the job but pulled back over salary issues and concerns about his ability to keep a quality staff. After working out several issues with the Pitt athletic department including pay raises for assistant coaches, Wannstedt agreed to Pitt's offer and was named head coach on December 23, 2004.

Wannstedt said that recruiting would be a top priority under his leadership. Harris had been roundly criticized during his tenure for not recruiting top high school talent, especially in the crucial and talent-laden western Pennsylvania area. Wannstedt retained some of Harris' staff including Paul Rhoads, the defensive coordinator, but made several key changes including bringing in former Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh to run his offense. Cavanaugh was Pitt's starting quarterback in 1976 and 1977 when Wannstedt was a graduate assistant coach.

Wannstedt's tenure at Pittsburgh has been a steady progression of on field success and recruiting strength. Pitt, which won a share of the Big East Championship and played in the Fiesta Bowl the previous year under Harris, was ranked 21 in the first AP Poll of 2005. However, defeats by Notre Dame and Ohio University; and a last second loss (by a score of 7-6) to Nebraska turned the season into an up-hill struggle. Pittsburgh finished the season at 5-6.

Wannstedt's recruiting prowess led analysts to rate the Panthers' class of 2006 the eleventh best in the country. Wannstedt followed his touted 2006 class by bringing in the #8 recruiting class as ranked by Scout in 2007. The class includes blue-chip players such as RB LeSean McCoy, QB Pat Bostick, and OG Chris Jacobson. On December 1, 2007, just days before an upset win at West Virginia, Wannstedt was given a contract extension through 2012;[1] he had previously been signed through 2009. The 13-9 upset win in the annual Backyard Brawl denied the Mountaineers a chance to play in the BCS National Championship Game and was the start of a turnaround that subsequently lifted Coach Wannstedt and the Panthers to a 9-4 season in 2008.

The Panthers started the 2008 season ranked in the top 25 for the first time under Wannstedt's leadership (although the Panthers were ranked #25 in the pre-season before Wannstedt's first game in 2005). Starting 0-1, Pitt soon defeated Buffalo and then beat Iowa with a 21–20 victory. On Thursday, October 2, 2008, the Panthers scored an upset win over the then-ranked and undefeated #10 University of South Florida in a game nationally televised by ESPN. Then on Saturday, October 18, 2008, the Panthers easily defeated Navy. Upset by Rutgers, however, Pitt rebounded with a 36-33 overtime victory the following week at Notre Dame. The game, which lasted four overtime periods, was the longest game ever for both Notre Dame and Pittsburgh. After a 41–7 rout of visiting Louisville, the Panthers improved to 7–2 and were bowl-bound for the first time under Wannstedt.

Dave Wannstedt addresses the crowd during the trophy presentation following the 2009 Meineke Car Care Bowl, in which Pitt defeated North Carolina 19-17 for Wannstedt's first bowl victory

A loss to eventual Big East champion Cincinnati Bearcats eliminated the Panthers from BCS contention. However, Coach Wannstedt stayed upbeat, and worked with defensive coordinator Phil Bennett to devise a gameplan to defeat West Virginia for the 2nd time in four years in the annual Backyard Brawl. Pitt defeated West Virginia 19-15 on the day after Thanksgiving in a national telecast on ABC. The following week the Panthers won at UConn to improve to 9-3 on the season and clinch a bid to the Sun Bowl. Dave Wannstedt improved his record at Pitt to 25-22.

On December 31, 2008 Pittsburgh was defeated in the Sun Bowl by Oregon State 3-0 in a defensive struggle. The Oregon State team that defeated USC in 2008 had remarkably shut out the Pitt Panthers for only the first time in twelve years.

In 2009, Wannstedt led Pitt to a 3-0 start before losing on the road to North Carolina State in the fourth quarter. Wannstedt's Panthers then won their next 6 games, raising Pitt's record to 9-1 and the team cracked the Top 10 in the rankings, their best mark since the Dan Marino led team in 1982. The Panthers faltered in their final two games, however, losing to both West Virginia 19-16 and Cincinnati 45-44 in the Big East Championship game to fall to 9-3. After the regular season, Pitt went on to defeat the North Carolina Tarheels in the Meineke Car Care Bowl to finish the season with 10 wins for the first time since 1981.

On November 14, 2009, Wannstedt and his Pitt Panthers hosted Charlie Weis and his Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh in a nationally televised game, with Pitt holding on to win 27-22 after building an 18 point lead. It was Pitt's second consecutive victory over the Irish. Wannstedt and Weis made their college head coaching debuts against each other in the 2005 season opener at Heinz, a 42-21 Notre Dame victory. Weis was fired by Notre Dame following the 2009 season finale, a loss to Stanford.

NCAA head coaching record

Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl Coaches# AP°
Pittsburgh Panthers (Big East Conference) (2005–Present)
2005 Pittsburgh 5–6 4–3 T-3rd
2006 Pittsburgh 6–6 2–5 6th
2007 Pittsburgh 5–7 3–4 T-3rd
2008 Pittsburgh 9–4 5–2 T-2nd L, 0-3 Sun Bowl
2009 Pittsburgh 10–3 5–2 T-2nd W, 19-17 Meineke Car Care Bowl 15 15
Total: 35-26
      National Championship         Conference Title         Conference Division Title
Indicates BCS bowl game. #Rankings from final Coaches Poll.


  1. ^ Pitt Football Coach Wannstedt Gets 3-Year Extension,, accessed 2007-12-02

External links

Sporting positions
Preceded by
Bill Trout
Miami Hurricanes Defensive Coordinator
Succeeded by
Sonny Lubick
Preceded by
Mike Ditka
Chicago Bears Head Coach
Succeeded by
Dick Jauron
Preceded by
Jimmy Johnson
Miami Dolphins Head Coach
Succeeded by
Jim Bates
Preceded by
Jimmy Johnson
Miami Dolphins General Manager
Succeeded by
Rick Spielman
Preceded by
Walt Harris
University of Pittsburgh Head Football Coach
Succeeded by


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