The University of Pittsburgh made a change in its athletics department this Winter; former athletic director Steve Pederson was fired by the school, and a process began in earnest this off-season to find his replacement. The ouster was likely brought about after a new chancellor was hired by the Pennsylvanian university, and the football program was forced to begin a new coaching search after Paul Chryst left for Wisconsin.
Pederson oversaw at least five changes to the football head coach at Pitt during his tenure there.
By contrast, Villanova has had extreme stability in both football and basketball coaching, with both revenue programs having an incumbent with over a decade on the job. Perhaps that is one of the factors that makes the Wildcats' AD Vince Nicastro -- reportedly -- a candidate for the job at Pittsburgh.
The news comes via KDKA's Richie Walsh (and via SB Nation's Pitt blog, Cardiac Hill), who reported yesterday that the Panthers administration has narrowed their search to four or five candidates for their opening. Among those candidates are Nicastro, Boise State's Mark Coyle, Northern Illinois' Sean Frazier and Utah State's Scott Barnes, with a possible fifth candidate to be added.
All of those athletic directors currently oversee programs with both football and basketball programs, all outside of the 'power 5' conferences. Nicastro is the only candidate listed who oversees an FCS program, albeit one that has been consistently ranked among the top in the subdivision and won a National Championship at that level during his tenure. Nicastro has also overseen a basketball program that has achieved top-10 rankings, a Final Four appearance, and the construction of a state-of-the-art practice facility on campus.
ACC school Pittsburgh has some familiarity with Nicastro, having worked with him in the old Big East and shortly after the Panthers' exit to the ACC, when Nicastro worked closely with Pederson and the Panther's football office to manage a late rescheduling of a planned football game.
It remains unclear whether the Wildcats' athletic director is a serious candidate to depart for Pittsburgh, or just a name that has been mentioned. Only the Panthers' administration can know for sure.
If Nicastro is seriously interested in that job, however, it shouldn't be a big surprise. Compensation for football school athletic directors (and for the 'power 5' generally) is generally higher than at schools that do not sponsor top-subdivision football, and the administration at Pittsburgh may be able to sell him on the benefits of working at a larger state school that has shown some dedication to athletic success -- he would potentially have the 'keys to the castle' to run his department at Pittsburgh in a way that he would not at Villanova.
Should the Wildcats lose Nicastro, it would put them into a similar search for a new athletics leader. Nicastro was already on staff with Villanova when he took over the job. His predecessor, Tim Hofferth (who served a brief three-year tenure) came in along with prior AD Gene DeFilippo from Kentucky. DeFilippo had prior experience as the AD at South Carolina-Spartanburg before becoming an associate AD at UK, and eventually moving up the ladder by coming to the Main Line.
With the last two hires coming from inside the existing department, it would surely signal that the university planned to stay the current course if Nicastro left and was replaced with one of his own staffers. Hiring from outside the current staff would likely signify an interest in taking a new direction and vision with athletics.