Folks the bowls kick off this weekend and if you haven't already registered for the Bowl Pick'em get on that! We're running it with my the folks over at Crystal Ball Run and that means prizes and plenty of fun. Get in there, get registered, use your confidence points and we will get our smack talk and fun times on y'all.
Now we're going to get into some meandering thoughts on the un-fetch Todd Graham and coaching changes and players left behind and whatnot BUT first get this suck in your head.
It has been stuck in my head thanks to copious amounts of air play during my daily Today show viewing. #anncurryswag
And they oughta be when it comes to the "how" Todd Graham left. It was absolutely despicable. As a guy that loves what Larry Fedora is doing with Southern Miss, seeing the job through until the end of the season, this is the absolute opposite of that on my scale. Those men in that locker room have bled for you this year. They've torn up their bodies. Been concussed. Shredded ligaments. Played hurt. Recovered from injuries.
Their backs are your means to an end.
They bleed and you get a pat on the back. They sacrifice and you get an opportunity at another job. They work and you get cash.
I'm not big on "deserve" generally, most people use that so wrong but, in this instance, those boys sure as hell desereve to be looked in the eye. They deserve a thank you. They deserve an "I'm leaving" out of your mouth, not their cell phone or blackberry or droid or iPhone. They deserve a "this is better for my family" from you, not from ESPN or the local news. They deserve better than to find out second hand.
I think we're all in accord on that facet of this move.
Now we can get into the rest of this entire mess and start to sort it out. First and foremost, Pitt. I'm not a fan of the "no you can't talk to anyone" move. I didn't like it when Boston College's AD did it with Jeff Jagodzinski and I'm not a fan of it here either. Stifling someone's career aspirations through disallowing for them to see if they can improve their situation just stinks of insecurity and selfishness to me. Make it worth their while to stay. As an employer your job is to secure the best and brightest for your school, if you think Graham is worth keeping then prove it.
If you think he's going to skip town, that's what buyouts are for in a contract. That's what extensions and improved job security are all about. Virginia Tech has gone through it with Frank Beamer. UNC had to do it with Butch Davis. Georgia is going through it right now with Mark Richt. Wake Forest has had to do it with Jim Grobe more than once. It's the cost of doing business at the big time level.
Next up is the whole "liar" and "commitment" angle. The issue here? Assigning a static value to a fluid situation. This is where I do tend to be on the side of a coach. When you walk into a new situation you are "into it." You do want to build a champion. You do want to win. You do want to beat the rivals. You do want to recruit that state hard. It is the place that you want to be.
None of that is a lie.
Does that mean you don't want to achieve more? No. Does that mean you don't have other or better jobs that you'd want? No. It means that for your current situation this is what you want, where you want to be and you're going to do your best to make it a success. When the situation changes; a job you'd prefer opens, a place you'd rather be calls, your family gets a chance to be happier, your assessment of the situation changes. It is fluid folks, not static.
Enter the "dream job" ridiculuous, pardon my French, bullshit. Everyone stop. Coaches, stop saying it. Media, stop asking it. Fans, stop trying to understand if it is or is not true. There are so few jobs out there that fit the "dream job" designation. For some it is their alma mater. For some it is one of those coveted Top five or six gigs in the college football world. For some it is an NFL shot. For some it is just a better job than the one they already have.
No one is ever going to be able to hammer down a definition for each coach and even then, given the fluidity of the situation the idea that it stays the same forever is not necessarily true. If you buy the "dream job" rhetoric at this point, then it is on you. Seriously, if you're the person who buys that in the presser you pretty much deserve to be duped. Take it with a "wanking motion" and just worry about some mutual happiness from the program and the coach so you can achieve at a high level before he inevitably leaves or gets fired.
Which brings us to "new job vs get fired" in the whole coaching dance. What I mean by that is the utter lack of give and take when we're talking about a coach. He's supposed to give you everything and your institution is, apparently, supposed to give him nothing. As I've said before, unless this commitment you speak of is a two way street with equal expectations, you don't actually have a commitment leg to stand on.
To be fair and honest I don't really care about the upset-ness of the media or Pitt fans over the move itself. Yes, I hate the way he left, the "how" of it all is incredibly distrubing. However, the leaving of Pitt for Arizona State is not something that baffles me. Tempe vs Pittsburgh. A southwestern guy getting back to the southwest. The certainty of the Pac-12 and their new money vs the Big East and the ACC transition to come.
As for the kids, that's another story. I hate this for them. The initial reaction to the "how" Graham left is bad but the worst part of this all is being lost in the outrage over the "how." Worse than Graham not having the stones to face the players is the guys being lost in the shuffle. The bulk of the players are "leftovers" from the Dave Wannstedt era. There is a class of guys that came in to play for Todd Graham. None of them signed up to play for whoever the Panthers bring on as head coach.
This is where I get ill. I've lived through a position coach change; it sucks, real bad. New guy comes in and wants his guys and his type of players and guys who fit his system. If you work out great and he'll use you but if you aren't waht he's looking for, sucks to be you. I've got good friends who lived through the Butch Davis transition. While a lot of guys had their careers buoyed by Davis others were not so lucky.
That's why I have long been a supporter of a transition waiver in college sports. Your head coach leaves then you get through spring to decide what you're going to do. Stay and work it out or leave for a situation that suits you better. Either way no year of sitting out or having to transfer down a level to get to play ball. Guys get to stay and build or if they don't fit into the situation they get to leave and finish somewhere else.
People worry about a max program exodus but the fact is most guys, once they get to a school, are happy there. They don't want to leave. Leaving means picking everything up, starting from scratch, learning a new system, reestablishing themselves in another location and trying to transfer credits (the weird science that, that is).
Folks talk about picking a school and not picking a coach and that holds true for some people if they have a pre-disposed reason for selecting school A or they fall in love with a school during recruiting or their time there. However, for a guy who goes to school to play ball that coaching staff has a plan for him and that plan is what he's buying into when he signs on the dotted line.
There's a reason you work with the football staff during recruiting and not the schools standard tours and guides. They are getting you to buy into what they're selling at the football center.
So spare me the "pick a school not a coach" rhetoric. Ask Ryan Mallett how picking Michigan would have worked out for him if he had held true to that ideal. Ask Colin Peek how great staying at Georgia Tech would have worked out for him had he elected to stay at GT for the sake of staying at GT. This romanticized ideal of "falling in love with a school" just doesn't hold true with real world application when a guy loves playing football or wants to become a better player more than he wants to be at university A or B.
All in all it is a situation that sucks. Pitt doesn't have a coach and must find their fourth coach in year. Players are going to be trading one system for another yet again, which means a spring of learning instead of a spring of fine tuning. Arizona State has a coach that clearly is focused on being upwardly mobile. Todd Graham has the tough job of selling himself to 25 quality ball players while the rest of the coaches remind kids he's already cut and ran on three schools before a recruiting class has even gone through the program.
Just not a situation you want in general.