Sunday, December 18, 2011

For people worrying about the next coach leaving

Johnny Majors, from TENNESSEE, turned Pitt football around and won the National Championship in his fourth year.  He gave the program over to Jackie Sherrill, an OKLAHOMA native, who over the next five years went 50-9-1 before leaving not to his hometown but to Texas A&M who simply paid more.  Bottom line, it was the golden era of modern Pitt football and it was orchestrated by two guys very far away from Pittsburgh.  One went back to his alma mater, but the program was STILL excellent with Sherrill who only left for money.

Ben Howland, from CALIFORNIA, turned Pitt basketball into a national power.  And he came from Northern Arizona, and before that Hawaii and Santa Barbara.  Never has a Pitt coach looked so much out of place.  He went 57-11 in his last two years and lasted four years overall before going back home to coach UCLA.  Replacing him was his right hand man, Jamie Dixon, from CALIFORNIA.  Dixon, currently in his NINTH year, decided not to go back closer to home and instead decided to stay in Pittsburgh.

What I'm saying is this whole "he will leave us as soon as he can" mantra that many Pitt fans have is ridiculous.  Todd Graham is an anomaly in many ways, one of them being that he was a coward who left because his wife didn't like it in Pittsburgh.  But the bottom line is, Pitt football and Pitt basketball were turned around by people far from Pittsburgh and even though both Major and Howland left to go back home, THE PROGRAMS REMAINED STRONG AFTER THEY LEFT.  The only reason the football program went back down was because of horrible leadership at the university after Sherrill left.


  1. Chris,

    I understand what you're saying but, as far as Pitt football after Sherrill left, it was at such a high level that ONLY the administration could bring it down less NCAA sanctions which were to become a very real possibility if Sherrill had stayed - all this imho only.

    Regarding Pitt BB, a couple of reasons that Dixon is still here - 1st and foremost, he is a very loyal guy and secondly, the administration stepped up to the plate whenever he was approached from other schools.

    Pitt MUST get this FB HC hire right - if a coach stays as long as it takes to bring the FB program back up and THEN leaves - no problem but, if he has a couple of mediocre seasons and leaves for whatever reason, we will forever be viewed as a place where coaches come and go which will end any possibility of getting back the "glory" years...1975 - 1981.

    Again, just my opinion but, I don't think that there is any way that Pitt gets back even close to what we were at that time.

    We were THE dominate program during those years and just blew it.

    I've been following Pitt football since the late 60's and Pitt BB since about 1980.

    No one is a bigger fan than me and I just hope and pray that we get this hire right.

    I don't care if the new coach comes from Bangaledesh - if he stays and makes us semi-successful, I'm all for him.



  2. I think the Trib's Jerry DiPoala hit the nail on the head with his article today on the real reason Graham's year will be another mediocre season without a good QB, and he was seeing the writing on the wall and "struck while the iron was hot" in his mind. That stuff about his wife not being happy was ancillary in my opinion.

  3. I still don't get the concern for stability. Ignoring the last year, Pitt has been pretty stable for the last 15 years. Graham and Hayward were an anomaly not the norm. Cristobal is, nationally, recognized as the best coach on our short list right now.

    Are Pitt fans really that insecure that they can't handle someone leaving? The dude was obviously a asshole and we're better off without him. It shouldn't be an indictment on all up and coming coaches. Put your fragile ego's aside and hope that Pitt swings for the fences and hits a home run.

  4. DOke, reports today saying Cristobal has been offered but they are waiting until after the FIU bowl game for him to give his answer. Always lots of rumors, but have you picked anything up?

  5. Chris
    Love reading your work. Keep up the good work.

    One thing you said about Pitt having bad leadership after Sherrill left. I personally think we have horrible leadership (the AD) now. He the Nebraska program to levels they have haven't been to in decades, came back here Fired Wanny, hired a thug and then hired a fraud.

  6. Chris,

    To me this situation is "more of the same". I had the great fortune to matriculation as a freshman to Pitt in 1982, coinciding with Dan Marino's senior campaign. In my humble opinion, the glory days for Pitt ended with the Fiesta Bowl on New Year's Day 1984. Sure, there have been some nice season's since, but it's been nearly three decades of disappointment and despair for the majority of the Pitt fans. I agree with your thought process that we need a GREAT recruiter to lead this program. Better athletes will mean more success and a nice head start into the ACC.

    Golf Doc

  7. Agreed. The HC is important, but there's no need to blow it out of proportion. The program survives as these HCs come and go. They're fungible assets just like the players. It's important to get a good one who is committed, but it's not the alpha & omega, but rather a part of the composite that is the Pitt football program.

  8. EZ solution: Make the first three years' buyout prohibitively expensive. Any coach who is serious about his long-term career knows that he will need to prove himself over at least that many seasons.

    If Pitt is turned around in 3 years and a guy like Cristobal leaves for, say Florida, then the program will find it easier to find a top-shelf replacement.

  9. The Badger Blog stated that they were not going lose one of their coordinators to Pitt. That after the interview, it was "confirmed" that an offer had been made to Cristobal saturday evening.

    Russell Schreck

  10. Yeah, I keep reading that. Pitt denied it (which means nothing). But I wonder why Pitt would bother denying something written on a few blogs- unless maybe it's true.

  11. I expect it to basically be true but maybe they are still hammering out the final contract terms, and/or waiting for FIUs bowl game to be over. The silence from Cristobal is pretty deafening.

  12. I wonder if fiu gave permission to speak to cristobal on the condition that it would be kept under wraps until after their bowl. That would explain all denials that the interview has happened at all.

  13. If the next coach does come in and takes Pitt's program to the next level, I hope the administration does all it can to keep him. The last coach who had big-time success (Sherrill), left Pitt because of money.

    My understanding is that Sherrill was content in Pittsburgh, but money was the issue. If someone comes in and proves himself, Pitt should ante up what it takes to keep him. How many untold millions has Pitt lost in missed, or low-tier bowl games, and lost ticket sales since Sherrill left? The program's never been the same.

    However, even if a coach leaves after several years after taking Pitt to the next level, at least the program is better. The key thing then would be to replace him with someone who can maintain what's been built.

  14. Just my perspective: I did not choose Pitt under the best of circumstances. I was medically disqualified from Annapolis in June of my senior year. Being from the SWB area, I was not going to stay home for Wilkes U or U of Scranton. Pitt was one of the few reputable schools still offering acadmeic scholarships. But I fell in love with the city and the university and the rest is history. And that is certainly capable of happening to whomever coach comes in (ala Jamie D) and if they're successful and well compensated, they can stay here for years. My concern with Cristobal to be not how he handles being here but how the locals handle him. The PPG and Trib and seemingly everyone else in western PA, love local guys or guys with local connections. Does this not also hold true for HS coaches, parents, and kids as well? If so, it may be very hard to recruit as an 'outsider' and having a recruiting base in Florida or the south won't matter because kids aren't going to choose Pitt over UF, UM, or FSU. Just fact. For anyone to win consistently here, they have to get the best local talent as well as recruit outside the traditional Pitt areas. But I'm not sure we can and we especially won't if everyone is disappointed we didn't hire a Pitt guy. I am totally on board hiring the absolute best coach regardless of the area he is from but I do worry about Cristobal's incredibly strong ties and desire to stay in Florida. Luckily, UF, UM, and FSU seem to have relatively stable coaching positions right now and my goodness I can't imagined him being poached by USF or UCF if he takes the Pitt job.

  15. I don't think the media was against Graham because he was an outsider. I think they just saw a slime ball. I saw a slime ball, too, but as somebody who covers college sports , not to mention AAU basketball, it didn't disgust me as much. Until the end, of course, when Graham's slime ball quotient went off the charts.

    I have no doubts that Cristobal could recruit in western PA. If Graham can do it then Cristobal would be great at it.

    The only place that I could possibly see Cristobal leave for is Miami, and they currently have a hot young coach.

  16. Dokish, Hot young coach? Cristobal was voted "most fit" in 09'. I think Miami, FSU and Florida are all set for the short term...3-5 years. I'm not worried at all. Besides, if he turns Pitt around and the ACC money starts rolling Pitt will be able to be competitive with salaries.

    Are there any ramifications for Graham interviewing without permission and resigning? I'm sure a lawsuit is coming but does Pitt have a case against either Graham or ASU?

  17. Jackie loved Pittsburgh but Ed Bozik was a total ass and thought he could plug in Howdie Doodie because Ed had no concept of what major college athletics entailed. The University has not recovered and I have watched the Panthers since the 60's and have just about seen it all, but I have to say Graham is the most classless coach I have ever seen. A total POS!

    This new hire is very important for the program and my sources are telling me it's Cristobal's decision.

  18. Pitt could gotten an injunction blocking Graham from coaching any where else since he apparently didn't pay the buy out and they didn't release him from his contract. But they're obviously not going to do that. More likely they'll demand the buyout and that I could see them litigating against Graham and maybe against ASU for tortious interference with contract.

  19. Pitt is in a lot of lawsuits already so my guess is they will just let him go so that they never have to deal with him again.

    By the way, people need to stop listening to that ridiculous football scoop site. Cristobal is not going to Penn State.

  20. The one level-headed voice out there. Thank you Chris. I've only been reading your blog for several months but I couldn't agree more on most of these issues.

    So nice so see someone with a level head who approaches things calmly and cooly in a pretty unbiased manner. I wish you wrote for the newspaper so we could read more of this instead of the garbage that is printed 50% of the time in the Trib or PG.

  21. Chistobal may look like a good coach on the surface. Heck, he may even prove to be a pretty darn good coach if he gets hired for the Pitt job. After all, he's turned an upstart program into a pretty solid one. Here's the Concern: No one seems to be paying attention to the 4 sub par teams his FIU team lost to that Pitt would have blown out (even with Tino and Graham in place).

    Think about these teams FIU lost to this year for a second: Louisiana-Lafayette, Arkansas State, Western Kentucky, Duke. As unhappy as the fans were with Pitt's performance this year, can you imagine how irate they would have become if Pitt lost to those 4 teams this year. Graham would have been run out of town before he ever got the chance to sneak off- And ASU would never have offered him that job.

    Sure Christobal doesn't have the talent on his roster that Pitt has, but it's got to make people a bit nervous that he's playing against a completely different level of competition than Pitt and Ohio State and Wisconsin play against. Plus, it's not like his team completely dominated his schedule. Four losses in a season, no matter what level of competition, is not what the plan was when they decided to fire Wanny. The goal was to get a coach capable of getting the team over the hump and win championships. 4 losses in a third tier level program can not be seen as overly impressive.

    Now Chryst's Wisconsin team has 11 wins and is going to in the BCS Rose bowl. His Offense is number 4 in the country this year- and they played against top tier teams.

    Pitt fans have all come to learn something that I've been concerned about when Graham was first hired- you can't have an incredibly successful offense without an incredibly good coordinator in place. Graham's star coordinator left before Graham took the Pitt Job. He knew he was not going to be successful at Tulsa the following year without him–so he made the smart play– and decided to take a better job (before anyone really caught on that his talented OCs were the secret to his success).

    All that being said, I do think Christobal would be positioned well to recruit players interested in playing in the ACC. Also,I like that his Def. coordinator did a nice job while he was at UConn and that he is from Pittsburgh and could help recruit in the area.

    I just don't think this is a slam dunk. We need a winner that's gong to stick around for at least 4 years. If we get anything less, it will be a major disappointment.

  22. Minor point of clarification here... Todd Graham DID leave because be is a coward but it was not because his wife didn't like Pittsburgh. That's the reason he gave BECAUSE he's a coward. Only someone who is not a man blames his wife for anything that goes wrong in his life. Graham left because things were not going his way. He was confronted with a challenge and he bailed out. Simple as that.

  23. staying-real....who would you suggest? I am not sure that there is a true slam dunk out there that Pitt has a realistic chance at hiring. At this point in Pitt's Football program we need to re-build. Unfortunately that is reality! Pederson needs fired for tearing down the Football program with these terrible Coaching hires!

  24. Trib reports that ASU claims $1 million buyout for Graham.

    So add inability to draft a smart contract to the stupidity of Pitt. Seriously, I think Ball State could afford that buyout.

    Want to keep someone at least 3-4 years, make the buyout hurt. The truly big programs can afford about anything, but you have to make it so the weak programs can't. With the new TV contracts, it isn't unreasonable to make the buyout far higher.

    $1 million -- if that isn't the most ridiculous part of this, then it's at least in the top 3.

  25. "Jackie loved Pittsburgh but Ed Bozik was a total ass and thought he could plug in Howdie Doodie because Ed had no concept of what major college athletics entailed." -Joe Kumpf
    Unfortunately, Bozik didn't hire Howdie Doodie, he hired Fazio. We have suffered under "The Curse of Serafino" ever since.
    The Pitt administration has been historically cheap. Not keeping Jackie Sherrill to keep the program at a high level easily cost Pitt $100 million over the past 30 years.

  26. On the radio last week Paul Zeise stated that in his opinion, Pitt should offer the head coaching job to Tom Bradley. Paul said that the way Bradley handled himself, the team and the media after being named the interim head coach, during an extremely difficult period, has convinced him that the man is defiantly head coaching material. I believe that the Rooney’s, who happen to know a little about hiring successful coaches, were also lobbying heavily for Bradley during the last go-round. Penn State scandal or not, I agree with these guys.

  27. I think you misheard Zeise. I heard him say the same thing I did which was that you can't possibly hire Bradley because you don't know if his name will come up in the trial. I'm not saying Bradley knew anything, and I'm not saying he isn't a good guy, but there's no way in hell that Pitt could take that chance right now. It's just too risky. If it wasn't for the Penn State scandal then I would think differently and I would seriously consider him. But right now, there's zero chance.

  28. By the way, if Graham's buyout was actually 1 million dollars than the administration at Pitt is even dumber than I thought because that number is way too low for a major program. And it would show how desperate Pitt was after the Haywood fiasco.

  29. Actually it was Joe Bendel, who was on the air with Paul Zeise, that was making the argument that you referenced, stating that anyone associated with Penn State was radioactive and should not be handled for at least a couple of years. Zeise, however, stood by his opinion.

  30. I heard Zeise on with Pompeani Thursday and Pompeani, as usual, was talking about Bradley, and Zeise said it was too risky.

  31. to Anonymous- who asked me who I would suggest(or anyone else who cares).

    I'm not suggesting Cristobal would be a bad choice. Chris did bring up a good point in his earlier "Cristobal's Recruiting?" It helps to show the FIU coach is a tenacious recruiter. I see where (according to Chris) Cristobal was able to secure players with offers from solid schools (not necessarily top tier schools). With that type of relentlessness, I can see how he could land even better players as an ACC head coach.

    Still, it sure would have been more impressive had his team grown more dominant as the season went on (which is not the case) and if his team put up bigger numbers on offense (the way Wisconsin did).

    Further, you'd think there might be a little concern that many of Cristobal's coaches on his staff (besides the DC) have very little experience when it comes to nationally recognized teams- The OC played for Appalachian State and was an assistant there and then he was a passing game coordinator/quarterbacks coach at Toledo before joining FIU-Not exactly the kind of credentials you'd think Pitt would be falling all over after the pressure their under to get this hire right.

    Perhaps if Chistobal left his coordinator in place to take over as head coach at FIU and brought in a more recognized coordinator at Pitt, everyone might possibly feel a little better.

    Though, I would think Chryst is a bullseye in the sense that it's what Pitt has said they wanted when they hired Graham: A proven winner, someone who's team won its (major) conference and is headed to a BSC bowl, and someone who's proven he's able to get his team to put up big numbers on offense. I don't think anyone should be worried that he can't recruit- he will definitely be able to bring in very good players.

    On the other hand, It is possible that the powers that be are thinking Cristobal gives them a better pipeline to players that would be very interested in playing in the ACC- Plus his DC is from Pittsburgh and could potentially help lure local and regional talent.

    But if you look to the most recent, dominant days of Pitt Football with Majors (first go around) and Sherill, you will see two coaches who came from outside of the region and proved extremely successful at bringing in both outside talent (e.g. Hugh Green, Mark May) and local talent (e.g. Tony Dorset, Danny Marino).

    I would think if one of the coaches interviewed can show he can bring in top level recruits and win the big games with those recruits, Pitt would have itself a candidate worth considering.

  32. stayin real you are way too enamored with chryst being a wisconsin coach. for one what they do at wisconsin will be hard to duplicate here at pitt. second he has not been a head coach and has the personality of a dried turnip. not a good trait for someone trying to recruit top talent and deal with the media and boosters. what exactly do you base your theory of him being able to recruit good players on? especially when he hates doing it and you need great players not just good ones to build a successful program. if he was all that and a bag of chips he would have been a coach at a major college program already. he is by far the last one i would want of the 3 candidates to get the job and would be very disappointed if he gets the job. if its between him and fickell i'd rather have fickell. and i'm not all that hot on him either but at least he can recruit.

  33. BW...

    I'm not so much enamored with Chryst being a Wisconsin coach as much as I am impressed with his proven track record of helping his offense put up big numbers- which usually results in a W.

    While it may be true that Chryst doesn't possess a flashy personality, the fact is he wouldn't have to work quite as hard to sell recruits on coming to play for him (a top tier offensive coordinator of a top 10 team running the 4th best offense in the country which helped preform well enough to win the Big Ten and get to the BSC Rose bowl) the way Cristabol might have to sell a recruit (coming from only the 5th or 6th best team in Florida). Plus Chryst could always hire a "Flashy" assistant to help with recruiting.

    While some think it's important Pitt hires a guy with a bubbly personality (and honestly Cristobal is not overly bubbly either) I just want Pitt to land a guy who wins most of his football games. Some of the best coaches in football aren't known for their charisma: Jim Tressel, Bill Belichick and Chuck Noll come to mind.

    I'd much rather have a coach whose real talent is getting the most out of his players on the field– wouldn't you?

    That is not to say I think Chryst is the better option. I just think his credentials and results are hard to ignore–his team wins and puts up big numbers-You've got to appreciate that.

    Cristobal's credentials are not quite as impressive on paper–that's not just my opinion, it's what it is. Cristobal still looks promising though and who knows, maybe he'll prove to be the next Urban Myer. If that's the case, I sure hope he does end up at Pitt.

  34. Chris,

    I think allowing Graham to escape with the excuse of blaming his wife's dislike of Pittsburgh is a backdrop to the reality that Graham saw the writing on the wall and knew his style of football would never work at PITT. This egotistical coach also hated sharing the spotlight with the other successful pro teams in Pittsburgh and enjoyed his days of old at low profile schools such as Rice and Tulsa, where he was a big fish in a small pond where he and he alone shared accolades with no one. There was no way this clown could snow western PA football fans, so he hit the road as fast as he could. i.e., the light went on and the roach was exposed.

  35. Where in the world is former USF coach Jim Levitt? He was once offered the Bama job and turned it down. That guy was intense.

  36. staying real Chryst would have a trying time i think of recruiting for that offense. the numbers you mention look good on paper and are impressive but that type of offense is kind of a hard sell as it is kind of boring. kids today especially the skill position players like the idea of playing in a more wide open offense. then you need really good o-linemen to make it work effectively. pitt does not have them now and would take them quite awhile to get enough of them to implement it properly. not saying it can't be done but it would take a lot of time to do so. Chryst is also not a high energy guy and recruits now a days love that in a coach. another thing is with someone like him is everyone talks offense but no one mentions defense. no one knows exactly what kind of defense he would want to run if he became coach. that has alot to do with what kind of recruits on that side of the ball would want to play here as well as how the players currently here would fit into it. i do appreciate wins and someone who can get the most out of his players. but first wisconsin is not his team he is only the OC. and secondly as for maximizing your players talents i think that mario fits that bill better overall than chryst. i also don't think that mario would need the "flashy assistant" to recruit. i'd rather have a head coach that can and is willing to do that himself and i'm sure alot of the top level recruits and their families would appreciate that more as well. just my 2 cents here though and i'm just hoping that whatever happens turns out well for pitt in the end.