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Pitt fires athletic director Steve Pederson; Joe Rudolph named interim coach for Armed Forces Bowl

Pitt fired athletic director Steve Pederson on Wednesday.
Pitt fired athletic director Steve Pederson on Wednesday.
Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

After Paul Chryst left for Wisconsin, Steve Pederson is out as Pittsburgh's athletic director. Pitt announced the move in a statement released right when Chryst's introductory press conference in Madison was starting. It also named Joe Rudolph, the Panthers' offensive coordinator, as interim head coach for the Armed Forces Bowl Jan. 2 vs. Houston.

Chryst's departure seems like the most significant contributing factor, but the on-field results haven't quite been stellar, either. Pitt has won more than seven games since 2010, and won only six in 2011, 2013 and 2014. Perhaps Pitt felt the time was right for a full-scale change considering the heavy-duty makeover the football program is just beginning.

Rudolph being named interim coach for Pitt's bowl game is also interesting. As a former Wisconsin assistant, Rudolph's been heavily rumored to be following Chryst back to Madison. Him coaching the bowl game doesn't necessarily change that -- again, Pitt doesn't even have an athletic director anymore.

We'll have much more as all this unfolds. Below is the full statement on these moves from Pitt.

PITTSBURGH -- Paul Chryst, who served the past three seasons as the University of Pittsburgh's head football coach, has accepted the same position at his alma mater, the University of Wisconsin.

A national search for Pitt's next head coach will commence and has already generated considerable expressions of interest.

"On behalf of the entire Pitt community, I would like to thank Paul Chryst for his efforts the past three years," University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Patrick Gallagher said. "He leaves the program with a strong foundation for future success, both on and off the field.

"Before beginning a robust national coaching search, Steve Pederson and I spoke this morning and we mutually agreed that this would be the appropriate time to make a change in athletic department leadership.

"Since arriving at the University in August, I have greatly appreciated my collaborations with Steve. Our athletic department has advanced in many significant ways under his leadership. Steve was an instrumental figure in Pitt's move to the Atlantic Coast Conference and thanks to his efforts our athletic facilities, especially the Petersen Events Center, rival any in the country. I want to thank him for his many important contributions to Pitt and his unwavering commitment to our student-athletes."

"With major decisions to be made about the future of football, I thought it was in the best interest of the University of Pittsburgh for Chancellor Gallagher to assemble his own team," Pederson said. "I am a Pitt and City of Pittsburgh fan, and want what is best for everyone moving into the future. I will miss the daily interaction with our great staff, coaches and student-athletes, but will enjoy watching them accomplish great things. To our friends and supporters, thank you for making this a great home for our family."

Chancellor Gallagher has appointed Dr. Randy P. Juhl, Vice Chancellor for Research Conduct and Compliance, to serve as Pitt's acting athletic director effective immediately. A full national search for the next athletic director will begin immediately.

Joe Rudolph, the Panthers' assistant head football coach and offensive coordinator, has been named interim head coach and will lead Pitt into its final game, the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl against Houston on January 2 in Fort Worth, Texas.

"Joe is highly respected by our players and staff," Chancellor Gallagher said. "He has been an important figure in our program's growth and will provide our student-athletes the support and leadership they need as they prepare for their final game.

"A working group is being assembled to find our next football coach. The opportunity to lead one of the country's most historic college football programs is extremely attractive. In addition to tremendous history, we believe we have a program ready to flourish in the highly competitive ACC as well as nationally."