Tonight, as expected, Pitt named Todd Graham as its next head football coach. The move brings to end a month of turmoil...well, hopefully anyway.
Pitt made the hiring of Todd Graham official tonight with a statement:
So where does that leave us?
Well, this isn't the hire I (or many fans, it appears) wanted. Tom Bradley was my choice for a variety of reasons. But, if you take one thing away from this, Pitt made a better hire this time around than it did the first time.
Mike Haywood was an unknown with little coordinator experience and someone who managed to put together one good season as a head coach. Graham, love him or hate him, has several years of proven head coaching experience. In 2007, 2008, and 2010, he had at least wins in each season. There was the 2009 5-7 hiccup (which, by the way, I'm interested in finding out more about), but for the most part, he had a lot of success.
So whatever you think of the hire, I think Pitt is probably in a better spot than they would have been under Haywood.
The next obvious question is, where does the hire rank, in general - Haywood out of the picture?
I think the pros are that Pitt ended up with someone pretty qualified to do the job. He had experience at Tulsa and, to a lesser degree, Rice. Yes, I'm aware that the Owls had been dismal before that, but truthfully, it's hard for me to get real excited about a 7-6 season. Sorry.
Another positive about the hire is that Graham obviously runs offenses that score a lot of points. Combine that with the fact that Pitt has better talent than Tulsa and you could see some really high-scoring games.
Now onto the negatives...
Graham doesn't appear to be a great recruiter from what I've been able to dig up. So even though Pitt may have had a lot of talent come through the past few years, Graham needs to be able to continue bringing in players. That leads me into my next concern - the type of players that Pitt needs.
Whenever you switch systems, you recruit different players. Graham is going to need a couple of seasons to get his own guys in that are capable of playing his style of football. Unlike Bradley where Pitt could have seen very little difference in style, Graham could need a few years to be successful. And given the animosity of the fans, I don't think they'll be happy with a few years of mediocrity...or worse. My biggest concern in all of this is having Pitt win 7-8 games over the next two seasons. Then where does that leave Pitt?
Graham also has no ties to the area and while that's not everything, established connections with high school coaches are nice. And no ties to the area means that he won't hesitate to leave, maybe even for comparable money.
And speaking of money, Pitt ante'd up to reportedly get Graham to about $2M per. That's nice and shows the university is willing to spend money. But what do they do if he's successful? Do they pony up more money after they practically dug around in couch cushions to scrape together enough change as if they were heading to Oakland to buy a pizza from the O?
Lastly, as I've stated over and over, you can't build a program on hiring someone that sticks around for 2-3 years then bolts. The question I keep hearing everywhere I go is, "Well, if Graham delivers a Big East championship then leaves, wouldn't you take that?"
Actually, it depends. Several Big East Championships? Yes. National championship appearance? Obviously. One-loss season? Okay. But, I'm sorry, if Pitt goes 10-3 and gets to the BCS, I'd rather have the stability.
It may not sound like it, but I'm not bashing this hire. I just don't see Graham as a long-term solution, and unless he comes in, repeatedly wins ten games and leads Pitt to multiple BCS games, this will be a failed experiment.
If Graham is spectacular, I'll have bought in. Just good? Not so much.