Pitt's athletics department has some sort of fetish with dropping bombshell news on Fridays and, well, here you go:
PITTSBURGH—Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi announced disciplinary actions for four players prior to the Panthers’ opening of training camp on August 1.
Senior defensive end Rori Blair has been dismissed from the program for “conduct detrimental to the program.”
Junior offensive tackle Alex Bookser will be suspended for the season opener for his involvement in an offseason legal situation involving a motor vehicle.
Senior linebacker Quintin Wirginis and junior safety Jordan Whitehead will both be suspended for the opening three games of the season for violation of team policy.
When it rains, it pours.
What this means, basically, is the team:
- Loses Blair (a starter) for good
- Loses Bookser (a starter) for the opener against Youngstown State
- Loses Whitehead (a starter) for the Youngstown State, Penn State, and Oklahoma State games
- Loses Wirginis (a backup/potential starter) for the Youngstown State, Penn State, and Oklahoma State games
That opening stretch was already going to be a rough one for Pitt. I'm not saying that these losses mean the Panthers can't win any of those games but they unquestionably put the team at an unnecessary disadvantage. This shouldn't affect the Youngstown State game. If it does, things are worse off than we all knew. But it makes pulling off an upset of Penn State and Oklahoma State more difficult. If you're looking for any kind of a silver lining here, it's that the Panthers' ACC hopes aren't severely damaged by these suspensions. Save for Blair, everyone else should be back and ready for the conference season.
Taking Bookser's case first since it's the least complex, one game seemed like an absolute bare minimum. Seeing two or three wouldn't have been a surprise, so if you're a Pitt fan looking for the least-worst news in terms of who will be back the fastest, that's it. Of course, that's not to suggest that the discipline fit the crime. That's not for me to say. My only point is that, he'll get back onto the field in a relatively short amount of time.
Blair seems to have committed the harshest penalty since he was dismissed from the program altogether. While we don't know what he did, it's obvious that his issue was different from the others as the terminology in the release was different. Counting Jeremiah Taleni, that's now two senior defensive linemen that have been booted out this offseason. Blair would have been a three-year starter for Pitt and it's a really unfortunate incident all the way around. Considering how far he'd come, from being a questionable recruit that suffered a stroke in high school to a three-year starter, it's even more disappointing.
The cases of Whitehead and Wirginis are equally as fuzzy. The Pitt release didn't state their infractions but, well, there are plenty of rumors out there. As I try to do here, I'm not going to address those since it's not quite fair to run with unconfirmed or sensitive information. But, obviously what they did was seen as a significant no-no by Narduzzi who suspended them three games.
Seeing Bookser get one game for a very public DUI while they got three games makes you think their incidents were three times as reckless. But that's not necessarily accurate since certain incidents could trigger certain lengths of games they would have to miss.
My overwhelming thought here is that none of these guys are rookies. This type of stuff simply cannot happen. As I said on Twitter, if you're going to be a team leader (which all of these guys were to some degree), then be a team leader. It's similar to what Tyler Boyd did in 2015 as a junior. At some point, guys have to be responsible. Whenever you have a team of about 100 young adults, things will happen. But it shouldn't be happening with upperclassmen and guys that are in key roles where they know that they are being heavily relied upon.
Not the way Pitt wanted to start the season with camp opening just around the corner.