As you know here at the TRBB I don't do a ton of Pitt stuff but from time to time I will put something together about the program and today is one of those times as a story broke earlier this morning that head football coach Todd Graham was leaving Pitt and heading to Arizona State University.
On the surface this shouldn't shock a lot of people. Coaching turnover in college football is part of the DNA of the sport and we see a lot of times where coaches go to a place in order to get to some other job that they really want to be at. Todd Graham has done this throughout his whole career and that makes it even more of a less shocker that he is gone after one year. Coaching changes happen and Graham said that this was what was best for his family and I think this is a job that he has wanted for some time. Should I, or anyone else, tell him what he should and shouldn't like or what job he should take? I don't think so. I wouldn't want someone telling me where I have to work and that I have to be happy in that job. If this was the only thing we were dealing with than that would be one thing, but it isn't.
When you leave a job or you move to another city there is a respectable way to do it and then there is a way that makes you look like a jackass. Todd Graham took the latter and decided it was the best way to go. Earlier in the year in a team meeting he told the student-athletes that he was going to be here and that he, and the staff, had a five year contract and that they were going to be here. Good, that is what people like to hear, someone that will honor the contract they signed and start to build something here at Pitt. Instead Graham sent an e-mail to the director of football operations today and told him to forward a message onto his players. The players found out they will be playing for a new coach via text message. Technology everyone. This is a pretty embarrassing way to leave a program and you have to feel back for the kids in this situation and if you follow any of them on twitter you really see what they are going through. Sad to see.
Graham brought a "high octane" offense to Pitt this year which was completely radical from the pro style offense the team ran the year before and needless to say it was a rough year. Pitt went 6-6 and two of those wins were against teams that me, you and 18 other guys would be able beat. It wasn't impressive but he didn't have the kids to run the system he wanted to. Not saying the Panther players didn't play great this year, they did, but they just aren't the typical players you might find in a run and gun system like Graham wanted to run.
A lot of people during the season were not happy with Graham and how he ran the team and the results on the field. I was willing to look past that as it was only one year with a totally different system. I knew it was going to be a few years before we really got a good look at what Pitt could be in this system, but we won't have to wait very long. Most people look at this and might see it as a good thing that Graham is gone and maybe they can get back to the basics on the field but this goes way beyond the on the field stuff.
What really is going to be interesting is off the field stuff, in my eyes. The Panthers have a pretty decent recruiting class coming in and how many of those kids are going to be willing to commit to a school with no coach and a school where they had four head coaching announcements since 2010. I am sure Graham recruited for his system so those kids have to be wondering what they are going to be getting themselves into. Hopefully Pitt can keep as many of these kids as possible but this has to be one of the main headlines from this announcement today.
Another nugget that is being talked about is if athletic director Steve Pederson is going to survive the latest coaching blunder. Like I said this is the fourth coach in the last few years for the Panthers and you have to wonder if Pederson is able to hire a quality coach after all of this. While this situation is different I wouldn't be shocked to see this cost him his job. While a lot of people are slamming on Pederson for the Graham departure this can hardly be pinned on him. When you hire a guy and give him a five year contract you expect him to be here for five years. I can bet that nobody expected Graham to leave after nine months and this can hardly be put on anyone. For those looking to get rid of Pederson you have to look at the big picture. I read a lot of people saying that Jamie Dixon is a big fan of Pederson and he might be one of the reasons that Dixon is still at Pitt. Not saying they should keep Pederson for that reason but there is always different angles to look at.
Overall I really don't have a problem with Graham leaving. As things come up about how he treated players and his overall attitude at times I think we can say that this may be a blessing in disguise but that doesn't mean it won't kill the program in the short term. He said this was a family decision and I can't really bag him for that. Maybe he is lying (it wouldn't be the first time) but if it really is the best for him and his family then how can you knock that. Coaching changes happen all the time and this isn't the first, or the last, of this type. If he didn't like it here then it wasn't going to be for the long term anyhow. Word is now coming out that he was putting feelers out at Kansas and Texas A&M so he probably wasn't going to be here much longer the way this was going. I can't tell a person to love their job but I am a person that would try to honor the five year commitment I made. That's just me though.
I do have a problem with HOW he left the program though. Be a man and get in front of your kids and tell them you aren't coming back because there is something better. You told them you were going to be back and you jet a little while later they at least deserve to hear that from you. It was a chicken shit way to duck out on the team you coached and jumping from school to school like this. No idea how you answer a recruit when they look you in the eye and asks you how you can speak on commitment when you as the coach can't do the same thing.
Pitt fans are mad and frustrated. I am frustrated. Having four coaches in a few years isn't fun but it is what it is. You might not want to hear this but Pitt probably isn't the most desirable place to coach football. The team constantly gets thrown over the coals and you are lucky to get a half full stadium. Couple that with a conference move and it is going to be hard to get that big time coach that a lot of people want. Like I said before this stuff happens and Pitt will overcome it. They have a lot of important decisions to be made and the 2012 season will go on.
There are a lot of ways you can go with the next coach. I have see people talk Tom Bradley and Jim Tressel but I don't think either is a great option. At a time where you have struggled to find the right guy the last thing you want to do is bring in someone with baggage. Bradley is more than qualified but he is still in the middle of the PSU investigations and Tressel has his own problems. Would you want to hire Bradley and then find out six months down the road he had a part in all of this? What a nightmare. I am not saying that I think Bradley was a part of it but what if he was? I am sure they will look at local guys and national guys but I would expect Pitt to go a little off the radar to hire the next guy, I would.
This has certainly been a shock to a lot but life moves on. This might be a good thing in the end. Only time will tell. Hail to Pitt.