The cries for Pitt to make a change with their men’s basketball coach went away after the Panthers three-game winning streak, capped off by an impressive 76-67 win over North Carolina last week. That silence didn’t last long as the Panthers have put together two disappointing, lifeless performances against Georgia Tech and in last night’s 85-64 loss to Miami. After being competitive in early losses, that hasn’t been the case lately as six of Pitt’s last nine losses have been by double digits.
With two games left in the regular season, Pitt sits with an overall record of 11-18 and 6-12 in the ACC. In four seasons with Pitt, Capel’s teams have records of 14-19 (3-15 in ACC), 16-17 (6-14 in ACC), 10-12 (6-10 in ACC) and 11-18 (6-12 in ACC). That’s a combined record of 51-66 overall and 21-52 (.292) in conference play.
But beyond the winning or losing, perhaps the biggest issue when it comes to whether or not Heather Lyke and Pitt will decide to make a change will be financial. Pittsburgh Sports Now has learned that Capel’s buyout after this season would be a hefty $15 million. Next season, that number drops down to $5 million.
On January 8, 2020, Lyke signed Capel to a two-year contract extension. That new deal put Capel under contract through the 2026-27 season. The length of his contract isn’t necessarily the issue, it’s the buyout that is eye-opening. Does this large buyout number guarantee that Capel is safe? No, Pitt has paid (and gotten out of paying) buyouts before. But unless someone is ready to write a huge check, it would appear that Capel will get at least one more season with Pitt.
Lyke recently gave Capel and his staff a public vote of confidence during a radio appearance on 93.7 The Fan, but that’s not surprising considering the season is still taking place. It remains to be seen whether or not the administration will have that same opinion following the ACC men’s basketball tournament.
People that support the idea to remove Capel have plenty of reasons, the biggest being it shouldn’t take five years to turn a program around and there’s little evidence that this program is better off now than when he took over from the vilified Kevin Stallings.
While that may or may not be true, if you want a solid reason why Capel will likely return in 2023, as is the case with many things in life and in particular in the businesses of sports, just follow the money.