COLLEGE FOOTBALL HYPOCRISY 101

“It’s all about the kids.”

I love it when college football and basketball coaches say that right after they make a move that’s all about themselves. That’s what Paul Chryst did when he officially became Pitt’s most recent former football coach Wednesday night.

(He’s Pitt’s third coach, not counting interim coaches, since 2010.)

At the press conference to introduce him as Wisconsin’s new coach, Chryst talked about how hard it was to leave Pitt after only three years as head coach: “It was also hard because of the players at the University of Pittsburgh, and that’s why we do this.”

Why “we” do what?

Sign meaningless contracts and make meaningless promises to young men, who make potentially life changing decisions based on your promises?

Paul Chryst, who grew up in Wisconsin, played and coached for the University of Wisconsin, took his dream job and the prevailing notion is that nobody should blame him.

Many of his Pitt players supported him on Twitter immediately after the move became official.

Okay, let’s give him that. You can always be forgiven for taking your dream job when it’s offered to you, but could we be spared the “It’s about the kids,” or the “We’re in this for the players” routine?

Paul Chryst is in it for himself. If it really were all about the players, he would still be Pitt’s coach.

It’s about Paul Chryst taking his dream job.

If the players feel abandoned or cheated, or if the athletic director, who gave you your first head coaching job, is fired because of your decision to leave, too bad.

Pitt fired Athletic Director Steve Pederson about 40 seconds after Chryst was introduced in Madison.

Chryst isn’t the first college head football coach to walk away from his players or his commitments to better himself.

It’s done so often that a coach is rarely criticized for it if the job is seen as a step up for him — or, of course a dream job.

How much criticism do you think he received from the Wisconsin media?

College football coaches, many of whom are guilty of exploiting kids, who have no chance of succeeding academically, as they squeeze as many eligible seasons as they can get out of them (See the University of North Carolina.), are in it for themselves.

If they cared about the kids and living up to their commitments, they might be willing to sign contracts that actually mean something. You know, the way the national letter of intent players are required to sign, means something.
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Big time college football has been a cesspool for a long time and there is no reason to believe it’s not getting worse every year.

The University of Michigan has reportedly offered San Francisco 49ers head coach and former Michigan quarterback Jim Harbaugh $48 million for six years. That would make him the highest paid coach in college football — a million more per year than Nick Saban at Alabama.

There’s a lot of stupidity going around in college football but it’s hard to believe the people in charge at Michigan would be offering a football coach $8 million a year if they didn’t think it would be profitable for them.

Harbaugh is said to be torn between going back to his alma mater, where he can get back to having it be about the kids and listening to what’s being offered by other NFL teams after his inevitable split with the 49ers.

If he would take Michigan’s $48 million offer, Harbaugh would be getting a $3 million raise from his salary with the 49ers and he would be making as much as the two highest paid coaches in the NFL, Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints and Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks.

But, as we all know, it’s not about the money in college football.

It’s all about the kids.

PITT JUST AIN’T IT

It’s scary to think that I’ve been following Pitt football for almost 60 years and covering it for 37, and I think it may be time for people to come to the same realization that I have.

Pitt is not a national power waiting to happen.

There were a couple of decent Pitt teams (Mike Ditka) in the late 50s and early 60s and an excellent team in 1963 that went 9-1, with the only loss being to Roger Staubach and Navy.

From the mid 60s until 1973 Pitt football was worse than it is now.
Much worse.
I remember when they had to have a mercy clock in the second half against Notre Dame.

If it hadn’t been allowed to run, Pitt might have lost by 100 points.

Pitt was almost as pathetic as the Steelers, and, trust me, that’s saying something,

Things changed in 1973 when Johnny Majors was hired.
Keep in mind that, at the time, Johnny Majors was the hottest coach in the country.

He just happened to show up at the same time that a kid named Anthony Dorsett was graduating from Hopewell.

He was told to bring in as many players as he wanted and not to worry too much about their level of literacy.

That was the beginning of the nine year period that Pitt and Pitt fans keep telling themselves can happen again.

It can’t.

Not unless Pitt hires a superstar coach, who can immediately compete with the top programs for players, cheats more and/or lowers its academic standards.

The first thing everybody connected to the Pitt program –including fans—needs to do is lower the expectations.

Dave Wannstedt didn’t eliminate the impatience but he had Pitt on the way to respectability.

Respectability looks pretty good right now.

Whoever is up next has a long way to go to get there.

WHO GETS TO PICK PITT’S NEXT FOOTBALL COACH?

J. Steigerwald column for 12.13/14.14

Make a list of every person living within a 50-mile radius of Pitt’s Cathedral of Learning. Put the name Steve Pederson at the bottom of the list.

Everyone, in the order in which they appear on the list, should be given the chance to hire Pitt’s next football coach, before Pederson.

Steve, in case you didn’t know, is Pitt’s Athletic Director.
He’s the guy who fired former Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt in 2010.

He hired Mike Haywood in December of 2010.

He fired Haywood two and a half weeks later after Haywood was arrested on a domestic violence charge.

He hired Todd Graham on January 11th, 2011.

Eleven months later, in December, 2012, Graham sneaked out of town to become the coach at Arizona State.

He hired Paul Chryst eight days later.

Now, it’s all but a foregone conclusion that Chryst is about to become the new head coach at Wisconsin.

You could say it’s not Pederson’s fault that Graham and Chryst left and you would be half right. Graham’s resume showed him to be a guy who was perfectly willing to make a long term commitment to a school and then bolt after a year or two.

Chryst said all the right things about being committed to Pitt for the long term and Pederson had no way of knowing that Chryst’s dream job at Wisconsin would come open so soon.

But, Pederson fired a Pitt guy who had gone 27-12 in his last three seasons. Wannstedt didn’t want to coach anywhere else. If he had been more successful at Pitt, do you think he would have left for Wisconsin or Arizona State?

Pitt is now the punch line in any joke about college football programs that can’t hold on to its head coaches. Wannstedt wasn’t perfect, but he’d still be here if Pederson hadn’t run him off and there’s every reason to believe he could have done better than Chryst’s 19-19 the last three years.

If Wisconsin wanted to hire the most successful Pitt coach of the last five years, it wouldn’t be Chryst. It would be Wannstedt.

Fifteen days before Mark Nordenberg stepped down as Pitt’s Chancellor, he gave Pederson a five year extension through 2018.

Looking back on it, Nordenberg should have told Pederson to take a hike and extended Wannstedt.

– If you are one of the many area sports fans who believes that the only reason the Pirates don’t spend money is the Nutting family’s cheapness, you need to ask yourself if either the Rooney family or the Burkle-Lemieux partnership would be willing to cut into their profits or lose money in order to compete in a non-salary cap world.

Burkle is a billionaire a few times over and in 2003 his payroll was $50 million less than the New York Rangers and his team was involved in some serious salary dumping.

-There are life lessons that kids, who are involved in youth sports, can learn. That’s the good news. The bad news is that sometimes the lessons send the wrong message. The coaches at Douglass High School in Oklahoma sent the wrong lesson to their kids when they went to court to get the results of state football playoff game reversed.

Douglass was behind Locus Grove 20-19 and on its own 42 when Qua’Sean Sims caught a screen pass and ran up the sideline for an apparent touchdown, but while he was running, a Douglass coach ran down the sideline and bumped into an official.

Douglass was penalized 15 yards and the touchdown was called back. The referee blew it.

An automatic 15-yard penalty was the right call, but the rule book says it should be enforced after the touchdown.

Douglas lost 20-19 and Locus Grove advanced to the state semi-final, but not before the game was delayed for a week while a judge ruled on Douglass’ appeal to have the game replayed or at least resumed after counting what should have been the winning touchdown.

Maybe you can find a lawyer to tell you why the judge didn’t throw the case out of court, but the big problem is with the Douglass coaches who refused to accept the loss and took it to court.

The first lesson should have been that it’s only football and that football and life are not always fair. The second lesson should have been that the secret to not being the victim of bad calls is to play well enough to overcome them. Try not to be one point behind with a minute to go.

Instead, the coaches sent the message to the kids that, in the 21st century, instant replay is always there to protect you and there is nothing that happens to you that a lawsuit can’t overturn.

AFTER FURTHER REVIEW, GET OUT OF MY COURT ROOM

There are life lessons that kids, who are involved in youth sports, can learn. That’s the good news. The bad news is that sometimes the lessons send the wrong message.

The coaches at Douglass High School in Oklahoma sent the wrong message to their kids when they went to court to get the results of a state football playoff game reversed.

Douglass was behind Locus Grove 20-19 and on its own 42 when Qua’Sean Sims caught a screen pass and ran up the sideline for an apparent touchdown, but while he was running, a Douglass coach ran down the sideline and bumped into an official.

Douglass was penalized 5 yards and the touchdown was called back. The referee blew it.

An automatic 5-yard penalty was the right call, but the rule book says it should be enforced after the touchdown.

Douglas lost 20-19 and Locus Grove advanced to the state semi-final, but not before the game was delayed for a week while a judge ruled on Douglass’ appeal to have the game replayed or at least resumed after counting what should have been the winning touchdown.

It wasn’t just the coaches who believed that a court should intervene in the outcome of a high school football game.

After the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association said the referees mistake was inexcusable but that it was prevented by state and national bylaws from protesting the game, Oklahoma City public school officials got Judge Bernard M. Jones II of District Court in Oklahoma City to issue a restraining order preventing Locus Grove from playing in the state semi-final.

The attorneys for Douglass argued that the OSSAA acted arbitrarily and capriciously in denying Douglass’ petition to overturn the result.

Maybe you can find a lawyer to tell you why the judge didn’t throw the case out of court, but the big problem is with the Douglass coaches who refused to accept the loss and took it to court.

What’s next, asking a judge to overturn the result of a Little League baseball game based on the video on somebody’s cell phone?

Fortunately, Judge Jones ordered that Locus Grove’s win over Douglass will stand: “While mindful of the frustrations of the young athletes who feel deprived…it borders on the unreasonable…to think this court more equipped or better qualified than (OSSAA) to decide the outcome of any portion of a high school football game.”

In other words, “Rub dirt on it and get back in there and play.”

As difficult as it may be for some people to believe, there was a time when an official’s ruling was final.

The technology didn’t exist that made it possible to see an instant replay.

And the technology was around a long, long time before the NFL became the first major professional league to allow calls to be overturned based on video review.

CBS introduced instant replay in 1963. Major League Baseball waited 50 years before deciding to use it to overturn umpires’ calls.

Living with the human errors made by human officials was a part of sports.

The first lesson for the kids on the Douglass football team should have been that it’s only football and that football and life are not always fair.
The second lesson should have been that the secret to not being the victim of bad calls is to play well enough to overcome them. Try not to be one point behind with a minute to go.

For as long as sports have been played, coaches have been telling their players that one play or one bad call rarely decides a game.

Instead, the Douglass coaches sent the message to their kids that, in the 21st century, instant replay is always there to protect you and there is nothing that happens to you that a lawsuit can’t overturn.

NCAA GETS DUMBER AND DUMBER, TOO

ESPN and the other sports networks are missing the boat.

Somebody’s asleep at the network switch. Commercializing and televising the results of the stupid weekly College Football Rankings According to Condoleeza Rice and 11 Other People should make ESPN a few extra bucks, but imagine if it could televise the deliberations.

Sound a little over the top to you?

Then you’re not old enough to remember when the NFL Draft wasn’t in prime time. I’m so old I remember when it took place on a Tuesday morning in January.

Now the drafting is done in prime time, on national TV in front of a live audience.

Next year ESPN should have the committee meet in front of an audience made up of college football fans. Imagine what the crowd’s reaction would have been during this week’s discussion about Baylor and TCU, who went into this weekend ranked sixth and third respectively in the Stupid Committee Rankings.

Baylor beat TCU 61-58 back in October but then made the mistake of losing to West Virginia.

And the friendly folks at Baylor want to know how it’s possible that TCU would get a higher ranking.

Somebody at Baylor hired a PR firm to make the case for a spot in the Stupid Final Four.

What else do you need to know about the futility and stupidity of trying to pick a champion of a major sport with a committee?

The national sports media have slurped up everything the NCAA dishes out and, instead of taking every opportunity to ridicule the system, they devote entire shows to discussions about who deserves to be in the Stupid Final Four.

They will tell each other, “Yeah, it’s pretty stupid to have a committee determine who gets to play for a championship, but it’s better than it used to be.”

No, it’s not.

It’s exactly the same.

A “champion” is going to be determined by 12 people meeting in a room.

Until it’s decided on the field, it’s still a mythical championship.

The chairman of the committee, Arkansas Athletic Director Jeff Long, has told Baylor fans that their team doesn’t deserve to be ranked higher than TCU because of the 61-58 win. He says TCU’s body of work is more impressive.

Of course, that’s his opinion. If this were figure skating or the Westminster Dog Show, his or somebody’s opinion would be the only way to pick a winner.

Then there’s the old standby argument that goes like this: “Yeah, it’s a really stupid way to decide who gets to play for the championship, but it’s great because of the discussion that it creates.”
Yeah, just like all that discussion and debate about steroids was good for Major League Baseball.

Some in the media, like Jim Pagels of Forbes.com, will tell you that you shouldn’t blame or ridicule Baylor for hiring a PR firm because the NCAA made a mistake by not having it done solely by computers.

He never mentions that it might be a good idea to, eliminate voting, computers and PR campaigns and, you know, determine it on the field.

Colleges have been doing PR campaigns to promote players for the Heisman Trophy for as long as the award has existed. But it’s an award. Trophies are awarded. Championships are won.
At least they’re supposed to be.

And, please, don’t blame the committee. The people on it have an impossible job. When they pick their Stupid Final Four, the team that’s ranked fifth will squeal like an Arkansas Razorback.

A few years from now, when, inevitably, the tournament will be increased to include eight teams, number nine will squeal.

You would think that the last place where you would find this kind of stupidity is on a college campus.

Okay, maybe not. There was a video out there this week on which several Texas Tech “students” couldn’t answer the question, “Who won the Civil War?” or name the Vice President.

Picking a football champion apparently is way down on the list of problems for our institutions of higher learning.

Quick. Somebody form a committee.

RACE TO JUDGMENT ON RGIII?

Would Robert Griffin III be starting for the Washington Redskins Sunday if he were white?

Before you answer, check out his numbers. In his last four starts, Griffin’s passer ratings have been 78.9, 58.4, 41.1, and 56.0. He has thrown two touchdown passes and six interceptions.

Oh, wait. I’m sorry. Those aren’t RGIII’s recent stats. Those are Eli Manning’s stats from Games 7 through 10 in 2012, his third season.

Okay, but when a quarterback throws 23 interceptions with only 18 touchdown passes and a 75 passer rating over 16 games, that’s definitely enough evidence to bench him. But those aren’t RGIII’s stats, either. They’re Ben Roethlisberger’s stats with the Steelers in 2006, his third season in the NFL.

Neither Manning nor Roethlisberger were benched in their third seasons despite putting up putrid numbers.

This is Griffin’s third season and he’ll be on the bench when the Redskins play the Colts in Indianapolis this week.

I don’t have the empirical evidence to back it up, but it seems like black quarterbacks get fewer chances to fail than white quarterbacks. I don’t think there is anything racist or even racial about it. I think it’s just typical NFL groupthink and it’s not about skin color as much as it is about mobility.

And stupidity.
Not to mention fear of the unknown.

NFL coaches and offensive coordinators have always hated mobile quarterbacks. They freelance too much. Most of the really mobile quarterbacks have been black.

They’re almost always eventually penalized for their athleticism by having coaches and scouts diminish their passing ability.

That’s what they’re saying about RGIII now – that he’s more of a runner than a passer. But that’s not what the draftniks were saying when Griffin was coming out of Baylor.

Ourlad’s Guide, one of the oldest and most respected pre-draft publications said this: “Three year starter who is a world class athlete and polished passer. Drops the ball in the well. Griffin doesn’t hang the ball or throw it up for grabs. He has book and football intelligence. Throws a consistent spiral with a 3.4 arm release. Quick to read and react to what he sees defensively.”

Hear the experts talk about RGIII now and he’s a basket case, who has always been more of a runner than a passer.

ESPN’s quarterback guru Jon Gruden said this about RGIII prior to the 2012 draft: “Man, I don’t have any concerns about this kid. What you see is what you get.”

When asked to compare him to the eventual number one pick, Andrew Luck, who’s in no danger of being benched by the Indianapolis Colts, Gruden said, “I don’t know why we have to pick one or the other. It’s like strawberry or vanilla. You like both kinds.”

Of course, RGIII has suffered major injuries to his knee and ankle in each of the last two years and has looked nothing like the guy who had one of the best rookie seasons of any quarterback in NFL history, with over 3,000 yards passing and 815 rushing.

Analysts and scouts are saying his fundamentals are terrible and he’s not the same quarterback and that may be true, but the Redskins are 3-8. They made the decision to reinstall him as their starter when he recovered from his ankle injury.

Did he come back too soon from both injuries?

Is he regressing because he’s no longer playing for Mike Shanahan, his head coach in his first two seasons?

Maybe on both counts, but where are the Redskins going?

If it’s a fundamentals issue with Griffin, then why not use the last five games of the season to do what’s necessary to get him back to where he was in 2012?

By benching RGIII now, the Redskins, who appeared to have made their first good decision since the Clinton administration when they drafted him, give the impression that they’ve already given up on him.

Seems to happen a lot to “athletic” quarterbacks.

THE ENEMY WAS WEARING ORANGE

Sports fans can be idiots.

This is nothing new but they continue to go where no fan has gone before.

Take Tony Williams, for example.

He intercepted a pass on Sunday at the Superdome (or whatever it’s called now) in New Orleans during the Saints game with the Cincinnati Bengals. Tony doesn’t play for the Saints or the Bengals. He’s a 70-year old Saints fan who intercepted a pass intended for a Bengals, fan who was sitting next to him in the end zone seats.

She (that’s right, SHE) was wearing a Bengals jersey. Bengals tight end Jermaine Gresham scored a touchdown and when he spotted Christa Barrett’s orange jersey, he went to the back of the end zone and flipped the ball to her.

Williams jumped in front of her and snatched the ball away.

When Barrett smiled and asked him for the ball, Williams shook his head no. Then she begged him to give her the ball that was intended for her and Williams still said no.

There has been way too much violence in stadiums these days, much of it precipitated by one moron in his favorite player’s jersey picking a fight with another moron wearing the jersey of a player from the opposing team. And that really needs to stop.

But this was one time when it would be hard to blame Jarrett for a violent response.

There were several men seated around Jarrett and Williams and not one of them stood up for Jarrett and demanded that Williams give the ball back.

Apparently, chivalry really is dead.

Of course, the video of the incident went viral and Williams was trashed and ridiculed around the world, but it didn’t seem to phase him. He said he wanted the ball for his grand baby.

And won’t his grandbaby be proud when 20 years from now, the video of his grandfather shamelessly stealing a ball from a woman is still out there?

This is no small thing.

It’s another example of just how far sports fandom has fallen, but, more than that, it’s a prime example of where the human race is headed.

There was a time when a man would be not only ashamed to do what Williams did, he would be afraid of what other men in the vicinity might do to him if he didn‘t give the ball back.

He still has the ball.

And this 70-year old man still thinks he did the right thing. I hope he lives long enough to explain how it was the right thing to do to his grandson.

You would think that any adult working at a major TV network would condemn and/or ridicule Williams for what he did, but 34-year old Mike Smith, co-host of ESPN’s His-Hers said, “I’m not gonna sit up here and judge Mr. Williams for being a true fan.

“You’re a Saints fan and you got a Bengals fan trying to celebrate a touchdown and getting a souvenir ball at your home field. This is called creating a hostile environment. So, yes I would allow it.”

“She put on that jersey…you take on that responsibility of being a fan, you don’t get no kind of double standard involved here. No. You don’t get the ball. Not next to me.”

This is a grown man, working for the world’s number one sports network as a commentator and he’s telling fans that they have a right to “protect their house.”

When Smith’s co-host, Jemele Hill, asked him about chivalry, Smith said, “Hey, man, this ain’t a game here. All’s fair. This is war. You’re in the Superdome, you’re a fan. You’re a grown woman, you got a (Bengals) jersey on, you’re the enemy. Simple as that. She’s a fan, She’s the enemy. You are not there to make friends with her. You’re not there to watch her enjoy her stay.”

Once again, this is not a drunken fan in a sports bar. It’s a network commentator saying that a person rooting for the visiting team in a stadium is the “enemy.”

He said it with a straight face.

Is this the prevailing attitude among sports fans in 2014?

If so, how pathetic is that?