Big Lead Sports Bar

1/05/2011

The 11 Most Embarrassing Pitt Football Moments of 2010-11



That picture pretty much sums up the clueless state of Pitt football these days, no? 

It's been one train wreck after another in a season that was supposed to culminate in a Big East Championship, BCS appearance, and maybe even a Heisman Trophy winner. It's got me and many others pretty bent out of shape, and when a team annoys me to this level, I have to vent.

So in honor of the complete disarray surrounding this once-proud program in 2011, here are the 11 most embarrassing moments of the Pitt football program during the 2010-11 season. Normally, I would've thought such a negatively-themed list was reserved exclusively for the Pirates on this site, but that should tell you just how bad things have gotten. A recap of the carnage:


11. Jon Baldwin rips the team, then awkwardly backtracks (December '10)

The mercurial talent had a sometimes-interested, sometimes-not season in 2010, uneven if nothing less. He flashed incredible ability at times, and at other times displayed the undesirable personality traits sometimes seen in elite wide receivers. But once all was said and done, JB seemed intent on burning each and every bridge linking him to the Pitt Panthers:
At first, it sounded as if Baldwin was non-committal on his future, but when asked, “Why would you stay [for your senior season] when you have no chemistry with QB Tino Sunseri, a new coach/system taking over next season and possibly hurt your draft stock for the 2012 draft, Baldwin clarified, “Oh, I misunderstood you … Heck yeah I’m leaving. It can only get worse. They had me running a lot of deep routes [this year] and yards were hard to come by. I barely ran intermediate routes; it felt like they were purposely trying to disrupt my draft stock.”
After the comments lit up the internet, Team Baldwin went into damage control mode, with both father and son trying to spin Jon's words into something else:
"Yesterday, I received a text message from a reporter at a time when I was very emotional. Because of everything that happened, I wasn't using the best judgment and am very sorry about the things that were printed. I love my teammates and coaches at Pitt. I have not made a final decision on the NFL Draft. My only focus is on my commitment to my team and preparing to win our bowl game next month." -  Jon Baldwin

"He was just misquoted, that's all, he was misquoted. He still has a bowl game to play, he still has a few weeks of practice and he hasn't decided what he is going to do. No decision has been made." -- Jeff Baldwin, father of Jonathan
Dumb comments, dumber backtrack. For a guy who seemed to give up at times during the 2010 season, this seemed like a fitting way to end his Pitt career: disappointing.

10. OL Keith Coleman was charged with aggravated assault, harassment and disorderly conduct after breaking a man's collarbone in Oakland. (September '10)

This was the third installment in the future Time-Life Series, "Best of COPS: Oakland Edition",  and lit up message boards,  blogs, and talk shows at the time it happened. Never before had Pitt experienced such a  rash of discipline problems like this under Wannstedt, and it seemed to be a growing epidemic at the time.

9. Freshman Jeff Knox arrested and charged with simple assault, reckless endangerment and disorderly conduct - the fourth arrest of the season for the Panthers (Sept '10)
"Mr. Knox then slapped her in the head, knocking her to the ground. He jumped on her, grapped her by the throat, picked her up by the throat and slammed her head into a wall, according to the complaint."
Notice the date of this article - Thursday, September 23 - the same day as the Miami game. Nothing like a well-publicized arrest to serve as a distraction before one of the biggest games of the season.

Thankfully, this would be the final time a Panther would get entangled with John Law during the 2010 season. Nonetheless, no one knew at the time that it would be the last incident, and the noose was undoubtedly tightening around the neck of Dave Wannstedt.

8. "Hey, I play for Pitt football. Please, don't arrest me." (September '10)

Another dark moment that will live in Pitt infamy, this time involving Jason Douglas, Dan Mason, and a lot of alcohol. Let's recap:
You want details? Take it away, PG...
Mr. Douglas was arrested and charged with aggravated assault with a vehicle while DUI and being involved in an accident that resulted in personal injury, as well as a misdemeanor charge of driving while under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance and a summary underage drinking charge. Mr. Douglas, 19, is free on $500 bond, pending a preliminary hearing at 8 a.m. Thursday. According to court records, Mr. Douglas, a redshirt freshman from Opa-locka, Fla., was arrested after police were called to the scene of an accident at 1:41 a.m. at East Carson and 22nd streets. The victim, Christopher Paul, suffered head and neck injuries. Police found him lying in the street, and paramedics drove him to UPMC Presbyterian where he was in serious condition Sunday.
That sounds pretty bad, for both Douglas and the victim. But what about that soon-to-be infamous quote?
Police said he was slow to comply with their orders to exit the vehicle, and when he spoke without prompting, he said, "Hey, I play for Pitt football. Please, don't arrest me," according to the affidavit that supports his arrest.
Teammate Dan Mason got in the car with Douglas, who blew a 0.178 on the breathalyzer. For that act of dumbness alone, Mason was demoted by Wannstedt as his punishment. This was arrest #2 of 4 for the Panthers, and left many shaking their heads in disbelief.

7. Jabaal Sheard throwing a man through a glass door on the South Side (July '10):

Another instant classic in unforgettable Pittsburgh sports off-the field moments:
The officer said he identified himself as police, ordering the two to stop, but he said Sheard ignored him and continued to beat Parker in the face and body.

Other officers arrived and unsuccessfully tried to break up the fight, police said. One officer used a baton on Sheard, who grabbed Parker and threw him through the glass door of the LaFond Gallery, police said.

As Parker laid on his back bleeding, police said Sheard continued to hit him, which is when they used pepper spray on both men.
The team's first off-field incident of the season, it sounded like an incredibly ugly, violent and public confrontation involving an extremely high-profile player. We should have known that it would serve as the precursor to a nightmarish run by the football program that's continued on months later in varying forms.


6. A nationally-televised humiliation against Miami (September '10):

450 alumni on hand, including Tony Dorsett, Jimbo Covert, Ruben Brown, and Coach Johnny Majors. Sky-high expectations. An ESPN audience. And once again, the Miami Hurricanes completely and utterly dominated the Pitt Panthers, this time by a 31-3 final on the Heinz Field turf.

With the season-opening loss to Utah lingering in the back of everyone's minds, this was a clear sign that Pitt might not be the national player some had expected them to be in 2010. They were outplayed, outcoached, outhustled, and outmanned by a Miami team that would also fire their coach following the season. It was a telling sign of the distressed state of the program, and on the field, for a change.


5. Losing to UConn (November '10):

The Huskies, 4-4 at the time, brazenly went for it on fourth-and-1 on their own 19-yard-line with 2:45 to play - and converted. It was an in-your-face symbol of the makeup of this particular Pitt team in absolutely blowing a chance to go to a BCS game with a win.

The nauseating components of the loss included allowing Jordan Todman a career-high 222 yards rushing; giving up a momentum-destroying touchdown on a kickoff; not one, but two horribly shanked punts from Dan Hutchins; Ray Graham's fumbled kickoff, directly resulting in seven UConn points in the fourth quarter; Tino Sunseri throwing two picks, overthrowing receivers and in general looking like was running a disorganized offense, one that drew a penalty on a fourth-and-1 and had to punt; Jon Baldwin giving an on-again, off-again effort that Randy Moss would be proud of; and of course, the Wannstache and his staff.

4. Losing the Backyard Brawl to West Virginia (November '10)

Another chance for Pitt to win the conference and go to a BCS game, and what happens? A humiliating 35-10 loss to their rival on home turf. More than any other game, this one probably served as the tipping point to fire Wannstedt.

3. Letting Dave Wannstedt decide whether or not to coach the bowl game

If the powers that be at Pitt wanted to part ways with Wannstedt, they should have written the buyout check and made a clean break. That's what big-time programs do, and the last time I checked, Pitt considered themselves a big-time program, although that's highly debatable at this point.

Instead, their undeniably poor decision to let Wannstedt dictate whether or not he wanted to coach in the BBVA Compass Bowl blew up in their faces and became the latest embarrassment to a team collecting embarrassments like the hoarders you see on TV.

To the surprise of almost no one, Wannstedt passed on the opportunity to coach in a meaningless bowl that no one will watch for a school and an A.D. that just told him he wasn't good enough for them. And by dragging his feet as long as he did, Wannstedt surely did nothing but add more chaos to an already-disorganized situation.Wanny took his share of criticism for the way he handled his exit, but to me, it's simply human nature and it's what a lot of people would've done in the same situation.

2. The firing of Dave Wannstedt

The Wannstache came to Pitt a few years ago and gave fans the hope of taking the program to a level that Walt Harris could not reach. He left it in arguably a worse position than Harris did when he bolted to Stanford, a position that would get even worse after the final regular season game was played .

Wannstedt was likable, he was personable, he had a fantastic relationship with local coaches and with the media. He was many things that Walt Harris was not, but in the end, his teams did not meet expectations, despite talented rosters that produced a number of NFL players. No matter how great his personality was, fans and boosters want wins, and Wannstedt simply did not get enough of them.

That being said, Pitt couldn't have handled the ending of his tenure any worse than they did, with a sham "resignation" forced by Steve Pederson being exposed at a brief press conference with Wannstedt surrounded by many of his players in support of their coach.

The general public isn't as dumb as it looks at times. Steve Pederson assumed that it was, and the only one looking dumb at this point is him. 

1. The hiring and firing of Michael Haywood

When reasonable candidates like Al Golden and Dana Holgorsen came and went, Pitt decided to go on the cheap and promote a MAC coach who preached discipline and accountability to the point that winning seemed like a non-factor. Unfortunately, that very person getting arrested and capturing national headlines during the busy New Year's college football news cycle forced the university's hand into a knee-jerk firing, turning Pitt talk into a daily punchline of  "Can you top this" (in a bad way).

What will happen next is anyone's guess. Penn State's Tom Bradley has been widely mentioned as Haywood's replacement, but that seems like a short-sighted pick. I'm always wary of the long-long-long-time assistant's ability to slide into the commander's seat (see: Stewart, Bill; Coker, Larry; Guthridge, Bill), and that's exactly what we'd get in Bradley.

Bradley definitely has his selling points, first and foremost in Western PA recruiting, but I don't think he's got a high enough ceiling. Of course, at this point in the game, Pederson and Nordenberg are probably hoping for someone who won't manage to ruin whatever's left of their program and recruiting class, and Bradley would certainly help in those areas. But I can't get into the administration's heads. I don't know what they're looking for in a head coach anymore, and frankly, they might not, either. I do know that they better figure it out soon,  though, because things could get a whole lot worse before they get any better.

Mondesi's House: The Director's Cut (more links, commentary, etc): twitter.com/mondesishouse
Email: mondesishouse@gmail.com

17 comments:

BURGH08 said...

Well done. A few thoughts including making it a 'dirty dozen' including:

* 12.) Steve Pederson EXTENDING Wanny's contract through the 2014 season back in March. He already had a contract that ran through the 2012 season. If this was a 'Big East or bust' season, then don't extend him. They fire him nine months later, and are worried about money that could have been saved by not extending him.

* I don't have a problem with folks not wanting Tom Bradley as coach, as long as it has nothing to with him coaching at Penn State. My issue is he wasn't interviewed by Pederson back when he hired Wannstedt nearly seven years ago.

Nor did Pederson interview Bradley in this last search, and it's garbage that it was because he was only looking for head coach experience. They inquired about Dana Holgorsen and a couple other assistants. Ed Bouchette from the PG reported that Dan Rooney called on Bradley's behalf, and Pederson couldn't even grant him an interview?

That's garbage. I wouldn't trust Pederson to pick up my takeout order after this, let alone a head coach.

nuthinhere said...

Hey, why not hire Mike Leach?? What could possibly go wrong? :-)

It wouldn't hurt Pitt to ask the guy. Gee, Pitt can't find a coach and Penn State's probably should have retired 10 years ago. Interesting state of affairs for big time college football in Pennsylvania.

Tawm said...

How funny would it be if Pitt hired Rich Rod.

Scott said...

Did Ohio State can their AD when he hired a I-AA head coach instead of one of their assistants? Or some other long-time assistant with ties to central Ohio? Nope.

Maybe Peterson knows what he's doing. Way too many armchair quarterbacks and poor interpretations of what it takes to be a successful FBS head coach.

Bababooey said...

Scott,
OSU and Youngstown State's situation with Jim Tressel was way different. He coached at YSU for 15 years and won 4 NCAA I-AA Championships before taking leadership of OSU and being in the BCS National Championship almost every year after that. Tressel established himself beyond Michael Haywood's coaching accolades. Don't get Pederson's blunder confused with OSU's success.

The Haywood hiring was nothing but a mistake- a downgrade and cheap way out to Pitt's problem, which blew up in their face.

BurressWithButterflywings said...

Trying to point out the embarrassing moments from this season is like shooting fish in a barrel. Let's not forget the trip to Bristol CT to promote this abortion of a season, as well. Lord, it is a tough to be a Pitt fan as it is to be a Pirate fan.

Also, comparing Pitt's situation to Ohio St's is apples and oranges. Ohio St pays their kids a lot more than Pitt does.

Scott said...

If comparing Ohio State and Pitt is 'apples and oranges,' it is because Ohio State is a legit FBS program and Pitt is not.

Pitt fans need to rid themselves of their delusions of grandeur. Any significant accomplishment by Pitt football on a national scale happened more than ten years before these players and recruits were even born. Soon it will be a time when the recruits were born after Dan Marino retired from the NFL.

Pitt is in the conference they are in because of proximity and association, not because of accomplishment. This type of pipe dreams of greatness by association should be kept to people with last names like Rockefeller and Kennedy.

BurressWithButterflywings said...

How can you take anything from what I said and interpret that as a delusion of grandeur?

And yes, Ohio State is definitely a more legit FBS program than Pitt, even if their players sold all of the evidence to support that theory.

BURGH08 said...

Last I checked, teams like TCU, Oregon, and Stanford were ranked ahead of Ohio State. Boise was a kick away from being in the same position.

More than a decade ago those programs would also be described as "delusions" if you thought they would be in the position they are now.

There is no reason why Pitt could be in that same position on a given year, or at least be in the top 20-25 on a regular basis (and stay there). The question remains if/when the university is willing to commit to that.

People had the same "delusions" about Pitt being ranked nationally in basketball.

Dallas Mike said...

Mondesi breaks his silence. For a minute I thought Mondesi might have been vacationing with Paul Zeise over the holidays and the two conspired not to say anything (sarcasm). Mondesi, great list, but you had a plethora of moments to choose from.... Good point BURGH08 about the extension of Wannstedt's contract. I also think that might have impacted the decision to go the bargain basement route with Haywood. Pitt has never shown a willingness to pay one football coach an above market salary, and true to form, they were not going to open the checkbook with DW on the payroll through 2014....Hopefully Pederson learned his leasson: It is never a good idea to go cheap when it comes to legal representation, real estate, and NCAA football coaches.

BURGH08 said...

Mike: Absolutely agree about even more of a reason why Pitt went on the 'cheap'.

Apparently there are reports from WTAE that Bradley will be named, but Pitt is denying it and no other news media is jumping in on that.

I have been a long time fan of Bradley, wanted him after they let Walt Harris go, and was furious when he didn't even get an interview last time.

I can understand if people wished they would go a different route than Bradley, but I would support that move.

It's just a shame the program had to be rightfully embarrassed to come to this pick...if it happens.

Louis Lipps is my homeboy said...

I just read that whole thing...

Excuse me while I pop this cyanide capsule.

HomeRunFromBehindTheMeatballs said...

I think it's funny how few people were calling for Bradley as even being a candidate prior to the mike haywood hiring. Now everyone is saying how great he is, and how dumb it would be to pass on him.

...i'd agree. I didn't think (/hoped not) that he was willing to leave PSU, but if he wants to be a head coach somewhere, i'd be tired of waiting for JoePa too! PSU dangled that carrot in front of him for too long and now, it seems, they're gonna lose the best coach currently on their staff and they will suffer for it. If Bradley is offered this PITT job, i'd love for PSU to offer JoePa a "scouting director/coaching advisor/or get out" position and offer the head coaching position to Bradley. I believe that Bradley leaving PSU would be devastating. Not only because of what Bradley brings to the table, but likely because if Bradley leaves, JoePa will retire within 2 yrs and hand the job off to that no-talent-a$$-clown of a son. I'm all for JoePa leaving on his own terms, but not if those terms cost us Tom Bradley.

PITT SHOULD want (should have wanted) Bradley! And PSU should be terrified that this is a realistic possibility.

BURGH08 said...

I would like to call myself part of 'the few' if only that shunning Bradley was asinine. No matter how it turns out.

After Haywood was hired and was posted here, a portion of my post included this:

"I'm disappointed in the hire, but also how the process was handled. To not even interview Tom Bradley was a joke. They also went on the cheap in my opinion."

Can a brutha get a golf clap? :)

Bababooey said...

Is there any word at all on what the current coaching staff has consisted of? Coach Gatusso still around?

BURGH08 said...

Officially until the day after the bowl game.

BURGH08 said...

They are going to screw this up again, aren't they?