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June 11, 2013Pitt Athletic Director Steve Pederson will remain in that position through 2018, as the University announced Tuesday that Pederson has signed a new five-year contract.
The announcement of Pederson's extension comes a few weeks prior to Pitt's official entry into the ACC on July 1. Pederson was one of the central players in Pitt's move from the Big East to the ACC two years ago, a move that enhanced the long-term viability of the school's top revenue sports: football and men's basketball.
"With the University of Pittsburgh set to officially join the Atlantic Coast Conference on July 1, our athletic programs never have been better positioned for future success," Pitt Chancellor Mark Nordenberg said in an official statement. "That is a real tribute to the hard work and effective leadership provided by Steve Pederson as Pitt's athletic director.
"Just two years ago, during a period of significant conference instability, Steve was a driving force in helping us to find the best possible conference home. When we received an invitation to join the ACC, Pitt not only had the chance to move to an outstanding athletic conference but also became aligned with some of the nation's most prestigious academic institutions. The ACC is a perfect fit for the University of Pittsburgh, and our receipt of their invitation reflects well on both our overall institutional strength and on the tremendous progress made in Pitt athletics under Steve's guidance.
"As we begin this exciting new era of ACC competition, we all have high aspirations for each of our programs. The creativity, strength and stability of Steve's continued leadership will be an important asset as we pursue those lofty goals."
Pederson was first hired by Pitt in late 1996 as the football program was stumbling into the quagmire of irrelevance, and his early decisions were often divisive, most notably changes in the Panthers' uniforms. Pederson also played a role in the razing of Pitt Stadium, the construction of the Petersen Events Center, and the football team's move to its practice facility in the South Side and its game day home at Heinz Field.
Additionally, Pederson made two key hires during his first tenure at Pitt in football coach Walt Harris and men's basketball coach Ben Howland; Harris and Howland led major turnarounds for their respective programs after both programs had fallen into low states.
In 2002, he left Pitt to become the Athletic Director at his alma mater Nebraska, where his tenure was marked by the removal of head football coach Frank Solich, who had won 58 games over his first six seasons leading the Cornhuskers, and replacing him with Bill Callahan.
By 2007, the football team had gone 27-22 under Callahan and criticism of Pederson grew strong enough that he was fired on October 13 of that year. One month and 17 days later, Nordenberg rehired him to be Pitt's Athletic Director.
While the move to the ACC is a credit for Pederson, his second tenure at Pitt is ultimately defined by the decision to fire Dave Wannstedt in December 2010. Mike Haywood was hired to replace Wannstedt, but Pitt fired Haywood two weeks later after he was arrested for domestic assault. In January 2011, Pederson hired Todd Graham to be head coach; Graham's era ended 11 months later when he left Pitt for Arizona State.
Finally, Pederson hired Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst, who led Pitt to a 6-7 record in 2012.
Despite the volatility in the football program, the move to the ACC is one that will create a considerable amount of stability for that program and the Athletic Department overall, and that has to be appraised when evaluating Pederson's tenure.
"Pitt has a terrific asset and leader in Steve Pederson," ACC commissioner John Swofford said in a statement. "He's one of the most experienced and respected athletics directors in the country and he's already made a positive and prominent impact around the ACC table."
"This is an exciting time to be at the University of Pittsburgh," Pederson said. "I am fortunate to work with this great staff and together we are helping to guide each of our student-athletes as they aspire to excellence academically, athletically and personally. I appreciate the confidence the Chancellor has in our ability to keep Pitt athletics moving forward."