Over the weekend, Kevin Gorman of the Trib wrote a good piece about football administrators Chris LaSala and Bob Junko, and the huge role they played in keeping this year's impressive recruiting class intact during the coaching turnover. I've always been a fan of the two, knowing they were loyal Pitt men who worked tirelessly behind the scenes to make the program go. I was unaware, however, of how special they really are.
Junko and LaSala are in their 15th year at the university, working for their fifth head football coach. They have survived Walt Harris' shove toward Stanford, Dave Wannstedt's protestation over his forced resignation, Michael Haywood's New Year's Eve arrest and New Year's Day firing and, now, Todd Graham's hammer-down departure for the desert.
Once the defensive line coach and assistant head coach, Junko, 65, moved into an administrative role officially known as director of football relations and program enhancement after health issues for his hand. After 14 years running football ops, LaSala, 46, was pushed aside by Graham in favor of Blair Philbrick and given the title of associate athletic director for sports administration.
First off, just the fact that both held onto their jobs through all that turnover is impressive, as new coaches tend to bring aboard their own personnel. Even more impressively, the duo stuck around after seemingly being spurned by Graham in favor of his southwestern cronies. And most impressive of all is how crucial of a role the two played in building and saving this recruiting class. Linebacker Deaysean Rippy, a coveted prospect out of Sto-Rox, credited Junko as the reason he ultimately signed with Pitt at the eleventh hour.
"The only reason I stayed in contact with (Pitt) was because of Bob Junko," Rippy said. "So, everyone can thank him for getting it done."
Quarterback Chad Voytik, who rallied the recruiting class together on Twitter following the Graham departure, also had high praise for Junko and LaSala.
"They played a huge part," Voytik said. "The minute I met coach Junko, I knew he was a great guy, one of those guys where the first thing you think of when you think of Pittsburgh is coach Junko. He is the face of the program, especially in recruiting. Multiple guys have told me (Junko and LaSala) are why they stayed committed."
Man, you have to hand it to Junko and LaSala. If that's not allegiance then I don't know what is. LaSala has been reinstated by Chryst to his former role as Director of Football Operations and Junko remains aboard the staff as well. I'm happy that this story has a happy ending; these guys deserve it.