Monday, December 13, 2010

Look Yourself in the Mirror

When you think of Pittsburgh, what do you think of? You think of steel mills. You think of a town with a blue-collar attitude. You think of the Steelers, the Terrible Towel, the Rooney family, and Troy Polamalu's hair. You think of Sidney Crosby (deservedly so or not). You think of PNC Park (but not necessarily the team that plays there). And if you've ever been there, you think of Primanti Brothers. You know what you don't necessarily think of? College football.

That's not a knock on the Pitt Panthers' program, because they've been more than respectable over the years. What it is, is an indictment of those who essentially ushered head coach Dave Wannstedt out the door this week. It's not that I'm a huge fan of Wannstedt (or "Wannstache," as the popular nickname goes), although as defensive coordinator with Dallas he presided over the best defense of the first half of the '90s. He was also the one who, during the 1992 NFC Championship Game, noted the 49ers' defensive backs were slipping in the middle of the field and urged Norv Turner to try to take advantage of it (skip to the 1:00 mark) at a key moment, resulting in the play that singlehandedly put the game to bed. My problem lies with college football programs that have an inflated sense of self-worth.

Wannstedt had a 42-31 record in six seasons at Pitt, including a 26-12 mark in the past 3 years. Not bad, right? Right. And when you consider it was the best 3-year run that Pitt has had since Dan Marino led them to three straight 11-1 records from 1979-81, it's certainly not too shabby. I know they play in the perennially weak Big East and failing to grab that chip-shot of a BCS berth is a slight disappointment, but come on. Have a sense of perspective. Understand that your program has not been successful enough over the years to have the right to thumb your noses at 26-12. If you're Oklahoma, Alabama, or Texas, then 26-12 might not cut it. At a place like Pitt, it should be considered a nice step forward. Yes it's a double standard, but it's nonetheless true.

Remember Jaff Jagodzinski? Sure you do. He was the head football coach at Boston College two years ago when he got fired for interviewing with the Jets for their then-vacant head coaching position. I went nuts about this when it happened and it still riles me up. Who the hell is BC to be offended if their coach pursues a chance with an NFL team? You do realize that these guys start out as grad assistants working for peanuts in hopes that one day they can sit down in a room with an NFL owner and GM for a few hours, just to have that chance, right? Boston College, which is on a similar level as Pitt - a competent program in a weak conference that has produced a fair share of NFL stars - does not have a leg to stand on when it comes to this stuff. Once again, if you're a school like LSU, Michigan, Florida, Ohio State, then ok, your head coaching job is almost as big as an NFL job would be. But no one grows up saying their dream is to be the head coach at Boston College. It just isn't the way things go. Probably about 85% of FBS coaches are working right now to try to make a big score on their next job. No one likes being a stepping stone, but if your coach wins for you and does things the right way while he's at your school, you have nothing else to really ask for.

The other thing is, college programs rarely can justify firing a successful coach on the grounds of a lack of a championship. It's just not the same deal as it is in the pros, especially considering the rate at which you have to constantly replenish your team's talent. If you win consistently and keep your program visible for the right reasons, you're doing your job. Remember, the underlying purpose of college sports as a whole is to bring positive attention to the academic institution itself. Of course it's big business, but not as big a business as the professional ranks are (at least in theory - I'm sure if you looked at the NBA's books they'd suggest otherwise).

Like the title says, Pitt needs to look itself in the mirror. OK, you're a respectable program. But you play in the Northeast, where college football is not nearly as big a priority as it is in other parts of the country. You play your home games at the Big Ketchup Bottle and don't exactly fill it. The athletic department's meal ticket, for the most part, is still basketball. Who do you think you're going to get to replace Dave Wannstedt that is really going to be any better than he was? To paraphrase Rick Pitino - Bob Stoops is not walking through that door. Mack Brown is not walking through that door. Nick Saban, Les Miles, Mike Gundy, Chip Kelly, Jim Harbaugh - none of them are walking through that door. I do know a guy who'd come through that door, but you may have to widen it first. And he might not be actually "walking" through that door, he may be cruising in on a little motorized shopping cart.

1 comment:

  1. Where can I fill out an application? I'll take this job in a heartbeat. If you know of any other jobs, I'll take them too.