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.