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.