PITTSBURGH -- The University of Pittsburgh brought back
Steve Pederson as athletic director Friday, after an embarrassing
decline of the Nebraska football program led to his dismissal from
his alma mater.
"We are thrilled to be back in Pittsburgh," Pederson said at a
news conference. "Leaving here five years ago was the hardest
professional decision we had ever made. Coming back was the easiest
decision we had ever made."
Pederson was Pitt's athletic director from 1996 to 2002 before
leaving to take the same position at Nebraska. He was fired Oct. 15
under intense pressure from fans and boosters.
Pederson, who helped rebuild Pitt's basketball and football
programs in his first stint at the school, replaces Jeff Long, who
left Pitt in September for the University of Arkansas.
Pitt chancellor Mark Nordenberg called Pederson "a really great
"I know were are going to benefit greatly from his future
involvement," Nordenberg said.
Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman said Pederson rubbed some
people the wrong way during his time in Lincoln. Nebraska spent at
least $2.2 million to buy out his contract two days after a 45-14
loss to Oklahoma State and only months after signing a five-year
"I think managerial style depends on how many games your teams
win," Pederson said when asked about his reputation. "I'm a
demanding boss in a lot of ways, but not more than I would demand
of myself. That doesn't mean everybody's going to like it."
Pederson's most infamous decision at Nebraska was firing Frank
Solich, the longtime assistant who replaced legendary coach Tom
Osborne. Pederson vowed that the football program would not slip
into mediocrity and hired former Oakland Raiders coach Bill Callahan.
Callahan was fired last week after a 5-7 season that included a
stunning 76-39 loss to Kansas, one of six games in which the famed
Nebraska defense surrendered 40 or more points.
Pederson on Friday pointed to some of his successes at Nebraska:
The women's volleyball team won a national championship and the
football team won the Big 12 North last year.
"Certainly, we would have liked to have more success on the
football field," Pederson said.
Although Pederson "was an outstanding athletic director" at
Pitt, Nordenberg said the school made efforts to determine what
went wrong at Nebraska.
"I did make calls to people in Nebraska and the Big 12
Conference who had a more informed perspective than I would have,"
Nordenberg said. "The consistent response was that Steve continues
to be respected as one of the best athletic directors in the
Pederson shook up the Pitt establishment his first time in town.
He tried to force outsiders to refer to the school as "Pittsburgh" instead of Pitt, an idea that has since been
dropped, and razed Pitt Stadium, building the Petersen Events
Center for basketball in its place.
He hired Walt Harris, who has since left, to rebuild the
football program. Pederson also hired Ben Howland, who built the
men's basketball team into a national power.
Howland has since left for UCLA, but the basketball team remains
a Top 25 program under former assistant Jamie Dixon.
"This is a different place than it was in 1996," Pederson
said. "The university has skyrocketed. It's spectacular. ... I
believe there are no limits as to what can be done at the University of Pittsburgh."