Pitt hires first Black head football coach

by Malik Vincent

After being responsible for the biggest turnaround in major college football at Miami (OH) last season, Michael Haywood garnered the trust of Pitt Athletic Director Steve Pederson and was named their 35th head football coach and the first African-American.

After going 1-11 the previous year, the Miami Redhawks won the Mid-American Conference Championship, for the first time since current Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger led them there in 2003.

TAKING OVER—Michael Haywood, right, holds a team jersey with Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson after being introduced as the Panthers new head coach during a news conference, Dec. 16. Haywood’s sister Paula smiles at center.  (Photo by J.L. Martello)

The announcement was made by Pedersen at an introductory press conference at Pitt’s practice facility on the South Side, Dec. 16.

“From my very first meeting with Michael Haywood, it was obvious that the qualities he exhibited were in line with the values of this great University,” Pederson said.

Haywood, known for his fiery speeches and CEO-like leadership skills, was named MAC Coach of the Year in 2010. His career has spanned nearly 23 seasons, during which he has been a part of some of the nation’s top programs including Notre Dame, LSU, and Army. Most notably, he served at Texas under legendary coach Mack Brown as a running back coach/co-special teams coordinator, including a stint as their recruiting coordinator in 2004—the year that the Longhorns played in the Rose Bowl.

“I would like to sincerely thank Chancellor Nordenberg and Steve Pederson for the opportunity to become the head football coach at the University of Pittsburgh,” Haywood said. “This is where I’ve always wanted to be.”

Known for being a disciplinarian, Haywood is expected to come in and, “change the culture of the program,” according to Pederson. He’s also been noted for having his players participate in 6:00 a.m. morning practices, wear coats and ties before games, and making players sit in the first row of classes.

“I want my players to be men of values, to be men of trust, to be men of integrity,” Haywood said.

Haywood, who turns 47 in February, will take over the program from Dave Wannsteadt who coached Pitt to six underachieving seasons in which they never won the Big East title, outright— in a conference that has seen considerably lesser competition rise to prominence.

Not to mention, the program has experienced some troubles off the field with the arrests of four players this season.

“His history at outstanding programs with outstanding coaches gave him a rare combination of experiences and background,” Pederson added. “Most importantly, Michael is a man of character and integrity and will be an inspirational leader for our football program.”

A Houston native, Haywood said his goal is to make his student-athletes “relentless players.”

Note the famous character from the “Nightmare on Elm Street” movies, Freddy Krueger, who would return from the dead to cause mayhem and horror.

“We used to watch Freddy Krueger movies (at LSU) as a team,” Haywood said. “The thing about it is, when you think he’s gone, he’s back. When they think you’re beaten, you’re back. And you keep comin’ and keep comin’.”

“I just love to coach the game of football. When I wake up and look in the mirror, I notice that I am a Black man, but aside from that, I’m in it to become a successful coach,” was Haywood response when asked about being Pitt’s first Black coach.

His wealth of experience in many areas of the country should help with recruiting in many states—he called it the ‘bloodlines’. Haywood also mentioned that he would like to keep all the players that have already committed to Pitt, and said that his recruiting base will be right here in Pennsylvania, pointing out New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and Washington D.C. as other places of heavy consideration.

No stranger to the Black Press, Haywood is blood related to the Campbell family, who owns and operates the Arizona Informant, an African-American newspaper that was founded in 1971.

(Malik Vincent can be reached at malikvincent@gmail.com.)

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