Rising Star Coach Dismissed After Arrest

PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh University fired head football coach Mike Haywood on Saturday, saying he could not continue in the job he held for only 2 ½ weeks because of his arrest on a domestic violence charge.

Haywood was released Saturday from St. Joseph County Jail in Indiana on $1,000 cash bond after the charge was upgraded from a misdemeanor to felony domestic battery in the presence of a minor.

Within hours of Haywood’s afternoon release, Pittsburgh put out a statement from Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg, saying that Haywood had been dismissed, “effective immediately,” and that the school was reopening its search.

“To be clear, the university’s decision is not tied to any expectation with respect to the terms on which the legal proceeding now pending in Indiana might ultimately be concluded,” Nordenberg said in the statement. “Instead, it reflects a strong belief that moving forward with Mr. Haywood as our head coach is not possible under the existing circumstances.”

Pitt moved swiftly to oust Haywood following an arrest that sullied a university that is proud of its Big Ten-like academics. It also raised questions why Haywood, who had only two seasons as a mid-major head coach, including a one-win season, was chosen Dec. 16 following a brief search.

Haywood was arrested about 3 p.m. Friday after a custody issue developed with a woman with whom Haywood has a child, police said. The unidentified woman told police that Haywood grabbed her by the arm and neck and pushed her as she tried to leave the home that Haywood owns in South Bend, Ind., where he once was a University of Notre Dame assistant.

Assistant St. Joseph County Police Chief Bill Redman says the woman had marks on her neck, arms and back.

Haywood’s hiring by athletic director Steve Pederson was greeted unenthusiastically by fans, boosters, alumni and students who questioned why a school with annual Top 25 aspirations hired him away from the University of Miami (Ohio), a mid-major program. Dave Wannstedt, forced to resign last month following a disappointing 7-5 season, had coached two NFL teams before his 2004 hiring.

“This is a matter of real regret for the many people at Pitt who had looked forward to working with him,” Nordenberg said. “However, head coaches are among the university’s most visible representatives and are expected to maintain high standards of personal conduct and to avoid situations that might reflect negatively on the university.”

Pederson emphasized Haywood would be a “role model” for Pitt’s players, most of whom wanted Wannstedt retained following seasons of nine, 10 and seven wins.

But Haywood’s introductory press conference, in which he never mentioned the word winning but repeatedly emphasized that his players would be disciplined, dress properly and attend class, was met with a lukewarm response.

Wannstedt, reportedly angered and disillusioned by his ouster after six seasons, has not said if he will coach the Panthers.

Haywood’s firing came before he had landed a recruit, held a practice or coached a game at Pitt. He had not even moved into Wannstedt’s office. Nearly half of Wannstedt’s 18-man recruiting class has decided to consider other schools or has committed elsewhere.

Haywood led Miami (Ohio) to a 9-4 record and the Mid-American Conference title in his second season with the RedHawks. Previously, the 46-year-old worked as an assistant at Notre Dame, his alma mater.

Pederson praised Haywood’s character when he was hired last month, calling his values “in line with the values of this great university.”

Haywood was the only one of the five candidates interviewed to be brought to Pitt’s campus.

It is uncertain whether Haywood signed a contract to coach at Pitt, because such contracts often take weeks or months to get worked out even after a coach has been hired. Such contracts routinely contain morals clauses that permit a school to fire a coach who gets into legal or personal trouble or embarrasses the school with his or her behavior.