Originally written on Pitt Blather  |  Last updated 1/8/14
It is permissible to like Paul Chryst as a coach at Pitt and still hate hiring decisions. That is the state I find myself once again this offseason. Ross Kolodziej, who played seven years in the National Football League following a distinguished collegiate career at Wisconsin, has been named head football strength and conditioning coach at Pitt, it was announced by Coach Paul Chryst today. Kolodziej (pronounced ka-la-gee) was promoted to the post after serving the Panthers as an assistant strength and conditioning coach this past season. I said it on Monday that this would be a bad hire, based purely on his resume. I stand by that, as even the press release couldn’t do much to buttress his experience or credentials. Kolodziej still holds Wisconsin weight room records for a defensive player in the squat and clean. He also holds defensive lineman records in the 40-yard dash, vertical jump and pro-agility drill. “The 2014 season starts on Thursday when we begin our offseason training program and I’m excited that Ross will be leading this very important area,” Chryst said. “This is a well-earned opportunity for him and I know he is going to make a significant impact. Our players are equally enthusiastic about getting back to work. We’re looking forward to a highly productive offseason.” A two-sport athlete in college, Kolodziej was a shot putter at Wisconsin and a member of the Badgers’ 2000 and 2001 indoor and outdoor track and field Big Ten championship teams. A seventh-round draft pick of the New York Giants in 2001, Kolodziej played seven seasons in the NFL and two more in the United Football League (UFL). In addition to the Giants, he spent time with the Minnesota Vikings, San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals. His most productive NFL season came in 2005 when he started 14 games for Arizona’s top-10 defensive unit. He played with the UFL’s Las Vegas Locomotives in 2009 and 2010. A team captain, he helped the franchise to two league championships. During the 2009 offseason, Kolodziej was a full-time strength and conditioning intern at Wisconsin. The following offseason, he worked with the Badgers as a defensive graduate assistant. He owns a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Wisconsin and also has a certification in USA weightlifting, level 1. So the “offseason internship” is a new addition. Obviously very important considering his old Wisconsin GA bio didn’t bother mentioning either internship stint. Here were a couple other S&C Coaches from lower-level D-1 programs I pulled as comparisons. Let’s make this an open challenge. There are 120+ other 1A football programs. Can anyone find a S&C Coach less qualified? This is why this is even different — and a worse hire than Matt House as DC. At least House had a resume and some experience. He wasn’t hiring for a position that requires more than coaching experience. Kolodziej has one year as an assistant for a position that usually calls for certifications, education, knowledge and experience. Despite becoming an assistant last year he has added none beyond his weekend course in beginner level weightlifting coaching. He has not gotten CSCS ceritification — which is a basic prerequisite for athletic trainers (because, given how thin that bio is, you know it would have been mentioined). He hasn’t been taking any courses at Pitt related to training or kinesiology. At any other program, he wouldn’t even get an interview because of his lack of qualifications. At Wisconsin, because you know, Wisconsin — even the assistants have more experience and education. This isn’t an inexperienced hire. This is a thoroughly unqualified hire. I find it reckless and dangerous for the players. They may like him a lot, but his job is much more than motivating and getting players to like him. He has to know what they can do. Know their limits. Kolodziej may have been fantastic in the weight room as a player at Wisconsin. He may have understood exactly how far he could take his own body. But that doesn’t mean he knows what to do with the limits — mental and physical — of others. This is not about Pitt being cheap. This is a honking huge neon sign showing one of the biggest flaw in Coach Chryst as head coach. His preference to only hire from within his known circle. To promote a very unified staff, and not wanting to risk anything to disrupt it to the point of absurdity. This is so clearly his hire. His guy. We know he’s not wild about recruiting in terms of selling. But it is also apparent he has no stomach for networking. Of reaching out and working too far beyond a small circle.
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