Big Lead Sports Bar

1/10/2011

Pitt Enters the Todd Graham Era



Following the disappointing Wannstache Era and the never-was Haywood Era, the Pitt Panthers will go in a new direction yet again when they introduce former Tulsa head coach Todd Graham as their new head coach on Tuesday.

The 46-year-old Graham is a departure from Pitt's comfort zone, at least financially. Where Wannstedt and Haywood were closer to the $1 million/yr range, Graham will likely double that.on an annual basis. For a school that considers itself a major player in college football, it finally paid the market rate for a head coach. Whether or not this coach is the right one will be decided over time, but no one can call Pitt cheap like they did following the Haywood hire.

Graham comes from the University of Tulsa, where he went 36-17 in four seasons after replacing Steve Kragthorpe. Kragthorpe bolted Tulsa to make the jump to Louisville in 2007 and compiled a 15-21 record in three seasons, including a 2-12 mark over his final two seasons in the conference. 

To some, the Kragthorpe experience may be a warning sign, as if any coach who worked at Tulsa is incapable of competing in the Big East. But we are talking about two completely different men. Graham must be judged on his own merit, and everyone associated with the Pitt program, from fans to boosters to players to administration, need to get on board and get behind the new regime.

I think Pitt was lucky to get a do-over after the Haywood hire, which looked to many like an affordable, safe, uninspiring move. But this is just the beginning. Graham and his employers have a tremendous job ahead of themselves cleaning up the mess that played out over the last month, which came on the heels of an incredibly disappointing season. Their fun is just beginning. 

I believe that next season will be a challenging one for the Panthers, taking a step backwards before they can go forward. Graham and his philosophies will have to mesh with the existing talent, relationships must be built with recruits and coaches, and most importantly, everyone involved will have to repair the bridges recently burned with fans, current players, and boosters. This particular job is not a complete rebuild effort, but some of that will be required. The only thing I'm hoping for is that the Graham hire closes a completely forgettable chapter in Pitt history and serves as the starting point for a new era where the Panthers can reach the levels of success that they think they can reach.

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8 comments:

BURGH08 said...

I couldn't disagree more.

This isn't a program that needed to be "taking a step backwards before they can go forward". This is a team that won ten games last year and eight games this year, despite losing games that would have put them in BCS bowls.

That means you make a change to stablize what you have and build on it, not blow it up and start over.

People say that he won ten games this year, yet didn't win his conference. They say his team beat Notre Dame, yet Pitt beat Notre Dame two of the last three. They talk about the points he puts up on offense, yet not the disaster of a defense he had more influence in as a coach.

This search wasn't any different than the first, except Pederson had the cronies in the adminstration interview people that never would get the job. Meanwhile, he basically picked his second or third choice after Golden, and was given the money to pick him to avoid further embarrassment by the university.

Get behind it? Sure, if they prove me wrong. Until then? The only thing missing is bobbleheads and fireworks.

BurressWithButterflywings said...

Graham certainly has his work cut out for him, but if anybody sees the 6 season under Wannstedt as anything more than mediocre, then maybe I wasn't watching the same team.

Wanny is a great guy, yes. He is a heralded recruiter, but either a.) the recruiting classes were extremely overrated or b.) he consistently got outcoached. Probably a little of column A and a little of column B and the results are there to prove it.


On a somewhat related note, I love hearing the Pitt players pining for Wanny and are still so upset over his departure from the program. I can understand that to a degree, but maybe if they played better for him, this never would have happened in the first place.

JW said...

BURGH-- Ten games last year and eight games this year, and I ask... WHO did they beat? Nobody of any significance. No important games.

And I'm not implying that Graham is the answer because he won those games, because he didn't (but he also didn't have the same opportunity/playing field). But I am willing to have a six or seven-win transition season this year if it means actually getting to watch an aggressive, modern philosophy put in place. My concern is with Graham's defensive history, but when your supposed staunch defense gives up 45 points in a de facto conference championship game (Cinci '09) then really what are we losing?

That said, I do not expect a non-winning season this year, even with all the transition. He will have a tough task of implementing his philosophies while still meeting fans' expectations.

Scott said...

I don't get where it keeps coming from that Haywood was an 'affordable' or cheap hire. My source - a friend on his Miami staff (who is a Pitt alum) says his offer was for $1.6/year. That is pretty close to what Wannstedt got and what they offered Graham.

Starting to realize that 99.8% of Pitt fans are either: delusional, misinformed, or completely ignorant to their program.

sshisheng said...

I totally disagree also, all reasons have been rehashed.

Scott, your friend is most likely wrong. We delusional, misinformed fans got our info from the Pitt Beat Writer Paul Zeise who reported that "Michael Haywood (he was paid a base salary of about $950,000 despite what some reports said he was set to make)". (http://blogs.sites.post-gazette.com/index.php/sports/pitt-redshirt-diaries/24359-you-know-there-is-a-game-going-on-here-today). He was the "CHEAP" hire.
So get bent.

John In South Carolina said...

Totally agree with the comment that we need to get behind the new coach. I personally am taking a wait and see attitude but no one can call Pitt cheap anymore. Too bad we had to go through the Mike Haywood experience to get to this point.

I also find it interesting how the current players are lamenting the firing of Wannstedt. Either they laid down on him or were improperly coached to end up at only eight wins. They were much more talented than that.

BURGH08 said...

JW: Read my original post again. I noted they won those games despite losing ones that could have put them over. I think we are on the same page, and as long as the 'transition' isn't a non bowl season. They should still be able to challenge for the Big East next year in my opinion.

I was fine with Wannstedt being let go, but figured there was a solid plan to have him replaced and they would put the money together to go get him.

I think we can all agree the first attempt was a big whiff.

Now, I'm supposed to feel better because 'he doesn't come cheap'? It reminds me when the Pirates traded for Matt Morris. All the talk initially was how the Pirates were now willing to spend, not what they spent the money on. In fact, I'm willing to wager that if Pederson/Pitt was willing to spend the money on him the first time, it wouldn't cost nearly as much now. Again, poor management.

In all honesty, I think Graham was a better hire than Haywood. I think I'll even feel better once the press conference is held. That said, I don't have to 'get behind' anybody.

Dude is getting paid serious coin. I'm a season ticket holder and donor (though hardly a significant one). As far as I'm concerned he has to give me reason to get behind him.

I'll support the move and the choice when I see results.

Eric said...

I guess we'll find out in 6 years. By then everyone will be looking for the next coach to take the program "to the next level."