Tradition, similarities run deep between head coaches

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One of the interesting story lines of the 75th Brut Sun Bowl will be about the men in charge: Pittsburgh's Dave Wannstedt, and Oregon State's Mike Riley. 

Riley grew up in Corvallis, Oregon, and now coaches in the town in which he grew up.

Wannstedt is a native of Baldwin, Pennsylvania, and played offensive tackle for Pittsburgh from 1970-1973. 

Both coaches have had stints in the professional ranks that they would probably like to forget. Because of these similarities, the two have crossed paths several times and have become friends over the years.

Mike Riley left Oregon State for the NFL after the 1998 season. In his three years as head coach of the San Diego Chargers, he accumilated a combined record of 14-32, including an 1-15 season. After being fired by the Chargers, Riley became an assistant coach of the New Orleans Saints. After one season with the Saints, Riley returned to Corvallis to retake the head coaching position after Dennis Erickson left for the NFL.

Similarly, Dave Wannstedt spent several years as a graduate assistant and an assistant at Pittsburgh after his college graduation. He then left his alma mater for positions with three other college teams and three professional teams. Most notably, he was on the Dallas Cowboys staff when they won Super Bowl XXVII. He earned NFL Assistant Coach of the Year Honors with the Cowboys in 1990.

Wannstedt then spent six years as head coach of the Chicago Bears, assembling an 41-57 overall record. He was fired after posting two consecutive 4-12 seasons in 1997 and 1998. Dave eventually became head coach of the Miami Dolphins, were things didn't improve. Despite some success, Wannstedt was often criticized for his decisions on and of the field. He resigned in 2004 after a 3-4 start to the season.

It wasn't long before his alma mater Pittsburgh came calling... Wannstedt was hired in December of 2004, becoming the ninth Pitt graduate in history to lead the Panthers. 

Since his arrival on campus as head coach, Wannstetdt has received many accolades for his contributions to the University of Pittsburgh and to Panther Football. 

"Dave is a Pitt guy," said Mike Ditka, the All-America end for the Panthers. "Dave has a commitment to this university. Dave is the right guy to lead this program. He's a young guy with a lot of enthusiasm and he's really proud to be a Pittsburgh guy."

"There might be no other coach in the country who knows the very soil beneath him better than `Wanny,'" CBS Sportsline.com senior writer Dennis Dodd said. "Wannstedt's blood and sweat literally stain the grass at his alma mater."

Rileyhiring_mediumMike Riley is probably the closest thing to an "Corvallis guy". Mike grew up in Corvallis watching the Beavers-- his father, Bud, was an assistant coach of the Beavers from 1965-72. He now embodies Beaver Football, and every true OSU fan knows he's not going anywhere soon.

Bob De Carolis calls him a perfect fit for a program that thrives on its "lunch pail" mentality and has quietly moved into the upper echelon of the Pacific-10 Conference. After all, he does drive a Toyota Prius to work. Riley says he'll stay at Oregon State "forever", if they let him.

As you can see, both coaches aren't strangers to their respective schools. Both have an unmatched legacies that will go head to head December 31 in El Paso.

Where Riley surpasses Wannstedt, though, is in bowl game experience. Riley is 4-0 in bowl games as head coach of the Beavers, and 9-0 if you toss in the games he was involved in as offensive coordinator at USC. His four game bowl win streak is the third longest active streak in the nation-- only Boston College (8) and Utah (7) have won more consecutive postseason games.

Wannstedt's tenure dates back four years, and he's yet to particpate in a bowl game as Pitt's head coach.

(photos via www.post-gazette.com, blog.oregonlive.com)

--Jake (jake.buildingthedam@gmail.com)

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