Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Pitt has to start over -- again
By Andrea Adelson
Todd Graham arrived in Pittsburgh talking a big game, throwing around his ideas for a high-octane offense, for doing everything the Pitt way, for making the city and its fans get behind him and his players with the special brand of football he had to offer.
But from the start, it was obvious Graham did not do anything the Pitt way.
He did it the Graham way.
Graham took a sledgehammer to Pitt football in every way imaginable, gutting the true essence of what this program represented. He was flashy. Self-absorbed. Concerned for his own advancement. When his high-octane offense looked as exciting as a jalopy riding in a NASCAR race, he blamed his players -- not himself.
Todd Graham notified his players via text that he would be leaving Pitt for Arizona State.
And when his first opportunity came to bolt, he did, taking a page out of the Randy Edsall Book of Class to deliver the message to his players via text message. Graham lasted less than a year at Pitt, compiling a 6-6 record after setting preseason expectations so high, the Panthers were picked to finish second in the conference.
The Graham way indeed.
The disaster started before Graham, of course, when athletic director Steve Pederson decided to fire coach Dave Wannstedt even though he delivered a share of the Big East championship last December. Wannstedt failed to live up to some pretty high expectations, but he never wounded his school, his players or his fans with such a reckless, selfish attitude. Nothing about Wannstedt ever screamed, "Me first." It was Wannstedt last week who astutely pointed out that Graham treated quarterback Tino Sunseri with little respect throughout the entire season.
After getting rid of Wannstedt, Pederson turned to Mike Haywood, but that turned out to be a disaster itself. Haywood was arrested on domestic violence charges a short time later, leaving the Panthers desperate. Graham had lobbied hard for the job before Haywood was hired, so Pitt already was familiar with him and his background at Tulsa.
So in came Graham, who professed his love for Pitt, for this being a dream opportunity, for all the amazing things he could do to get this team back into a BCS game. I sat down with him for the first time during the Big East spring meetings last May, and he went over all his talking points when I asked him why he wanted to coach at Pitt.
"I’ve spent my whole life working to get this job," he said. "This is the best job I’ve ever had. To get an opportunity in a conference like this in a place like Pitt where you can compete to win it all ... our goal is to win championships. We’re extremely motivated."
Not motivated enough. In hindsight, perhaps Pederson should have seen the signs. Graham now has two one-year tenures on his résumé, a man so completely consumed with finding a bigger, better opportunity that he has no sense of loyalty, relationships or how to tell the truth.
Just ask Pitt receiver Devin Street, who took to Twitter on Wednesday to deliver one harsh message after another:
"I feel like dirt and I was just abused. For a year"
"I'm literally sick. That man pulled me in his office one on one and lied to me"
"He's an actor he did it to rice then us now he's gonna do it to ASU... That energy is fake he has them fooled"
Or defensive end Brandon Lindsey, who tweeted, "For someone who said they read the bible everyday, he must've missed the pg that said 'thou shall not lie'"
It is understandable for the players to be reacting this way. They are going on their fourth head coach in a year. But we all know coaching changes are a necessary part of college football. Coaches lie to advance themselves. None of this is new to Pitt or to the sport itself.
What is so unsettling about this situation is the way Graham went about leaving. He asked for permission to interview at Arizona State but was denied. So he resigned anyway, after 11 months on the job and a .500 record to show for all his bravado. Whatever his reasons, his final day proved to fit Graham to a tee: