The NFL Draft came and went this weekend with no Panthers getting their names called. I, I'm sure like most, was a bit bummed, mostly because I want to see fellow Pitt men do well in the world (so I was happy to see seven Panthers sign with teams after). That said, I really couldn't care less if Pitt gets players to the NFL, especially via the draft. Yes, constantly sending guys into the pros certainly has its positives -- excellent players on your roster, increased brand equity for the school's athletic department, and a huge selling point for recruits, to name a few.
Yet these are all secondary matters to me. As a college football fan, I care about one thing and one thing only: winning big, at the college level. Sending players to the NFL year after year is nice, but it doesn't necessarily translate into success at the college level. Unfortunately, Pitt is the prime example.The Panthers had five players selected in the 2011 draft, including Jon Baldwin in the first round, Jabaal Sheard in the second, and Dion Lewis in the fifth. Sounds like a star-studded crew, but Pitt finished that season a measly 7-5 and without a head coach.
The 2010 draft followed Pitt's 10-3 campaign, their best season in nearly 30 years. Yet that year they had only two players drafted -- Nate Byham and Dorin Dickerson, both in the seventh round. The best season I've witnessed as a Pitt fan wasn't very impressive from an NFL standpoint.
Stellar running back LeSean McCoy headlined the 2009 draft for Pitt, along with three other Panthers who were taken. Pitt finished a solid 9-3 that year, but sputtered in the Sun Bowl and had embarrassing losses to Rutgers and Bowling Green during the regular season. Alright stuff, but I want BCS bowls, not impotent Sun Bowls.
Back a little further, in the 2007 draft, Pitt had stud cornerback Darrelle Revis selected 14th overall, as well as bullish linebackers Clint Session and H.B. Blades. 6-6 and an awful 2-5 in the Big East is where the Panthers finished that year. Ugh.
Even with the legendary Larry Fitzgerald, the third pick overall in the 2004 draft, Pitt couldn't finish better than third in the Big East and ended the season on a whimper with a loss in the Continental Tire Bowl.
The point is clear. Sending championship players into the NFL doesn't necessarily produce championships at the college level and that's what matters. Think programs like Alabama, Texas, and Wisconsin pride themselves on being a stepping stone to the NFL? Nope, they most definitely do not. Just win and everything else -- the fans, the brand equity, the school spirit, the recruits -- will take care of itself.