A while ago on the Pitt Blather I wrote a three-day series detailing behind the scenes of the college football recruiting game and how it pertained to Pitt football. It is pretty eye-opening when you realize just how much work goes into a process where the results are mostly driven by unseen forces.
Which means however you parse the complex makeup of a HS player at that point in his young life and then try to project what he’ll be like in college, the main determining factor lies in what is between his ears.
Something that every college football fan will agree with is the premise the talent and character are the two most important aspects of a recruit’s ability to segue from HS to college ball and succeed in moving forward in his college days… and not just on the field.
Talent, taken in this sense, is pretty much physical. You can lump skills in with that also as that also rests in the body of the recruit. Character is generated from between his ears and in his heart and is perhaps the defining need in the long run. We want our players to have a lot of both character and talent of course, but one without the other never works out in the long run.
We fans can argue forever about that need in reference to whether or not a coaching staff can build a roster which consistently wins football games. There are differing opinions about what makes good college football players and in turn good football programs.
Personally, I’m more concerned about what makes a good college student/athlete.
Believe me that phrase is not outdated, nor a myth, even in today’s big business world of college ball. At least it sure isn’t now at the University of Pittsburgh and, if you care to look, hundreds of other colleges both large and small.
A key issue to understand is the term used is “student/athlete“… not “scholar/athlete” and there is a big difference between the two.
Pitt’s mandate to the football coaching staff is that they recruit student/athletes and get them attending, and completing, classes with enough credits so as to graduate in four years… in other words keep him a Pitt student as well as a Pitt athlete The player himself is who determines whether he’ll be a scholar or not.
What is great about the Pitt football program today, encompassing the 10 years from 2005 until 2015 (the years of the latest NCAA findings shown later) and I’ll say in particular over the last five years, are all the positive changes that are happening within it.
We fans can point to the most obvious and the most recent right off the bat – we have a new HC in Pat Narduzzi who has infused the program with energy and excitement… and he gave us a winning record of 8-5 in his first season at the helm. Yeah us… good times!
Along with Narduzzi we have two new principals on the administrative side of things, Chancellor Patrick Gallagher and Athletic Director Scott Barnes, both whom have taken a new approach to Pitt athletics, football in particular, and have solid and long range plans in place. With the new ACC monies coming in to the coffers; about $27,000,000 for the year 2015 alone, we now have the money to make those good changes keep happening.
All in all we are in good shape. But all that is pretty much on the surface of the program and is what we fans and the media can easily see, read about and get a handle on. But what excites me the most are the issues behind the curtain that make me feel that Pitt has corrected its course and is on the right track.
I feel very proud of Pitt’s student/athletes and I firmly believe that what happens by them, for them and to them is paramount in the athletic department’s missions.
When reviewing the last decade – for that period is what has transpired in recent times with the program – we see advancements on many fronts. The best thing though is that we do not see any slippage or negative trends which is pretty amazing given the fluid nature of college athletics.
I’ll be more clear about that. The recruiting oversight and policies put in place by the Pitt administration after the 2010 season has really paid dividends. As with anything else the most significant changes didn’t happen right away but instead as the roster turned over. That happened with some not so subtle hints and extra pushes from the coaching staff and athletic administration in a lot of cases.
Again, we can argue about that process until the cows come home but the bald fact is that we had have many less disciplinary problems and academic failures in the last five years than we had the five years before that.
All that said, there might have been a trade off there as we started to have winning seasons in 2008, 09 and ’10. I say ‘might have’ because I think we’ll see better years than those in the very near future without all the Sturm und Drang we had associated with the program back then.
We see now that Pitt doesn’t have to lessen standards to attract good players to the program. You also shouldn’t have to raise standards so high that you have nothing but scholars and choirboys on the roster.
Pitt went through that in 1938 when Jock Sutherland quit as HC due to Chancellor Bowman’s strict and stringent academic standards he insisted for football players… which in effect ended our run of eight national championships and our true “Glory Years”.
There is a medium to it and a good program makes sure that medium isn’t exact but leans over to the positive side. We see real progress in that at Pitt from the years 2004-5 to 2014-15.
(As you read the rest of the article pay attention to how things changed under the different HCs we have had as listed in the APR/GSR chart I posted.)
The NCAA keeps track of a measurable called the “Academic Progress Rate (APR)” and holds institutions accountable for the academic progress of their student-athletes through a team-based metric that accounts for the eligibility and retention of each student-athlete for each academic term.
Wow, That’s a mouthful. In other words they keep track of who isn’t flunking out while on athletic scholarship.
While the APR is intended as an incentive-based approach, it does come with a progression of penalties for teams that under-perform academically over time.
The NCAA’s Graduation Success Rate (GSR) and the Federal Govt’s Federal Graduation Rate (FGR) differ in that the GSR takes into account players who were recruited by that college but who transfer schools get their degrees elsewhere. It is, in my mind, better take on success in recruitment.
Here we have listed Pitt’s football program’s Academic Progress Rate (APR), and the Graduation Rate (GSR).
|Played For||Recruited By|
|’04 – ‘05||943 (940 avg)||48 (66 avg)||WH||WH|
|’05 – ‘06||948||54||DW||WH/DW|
|’06 – ‘07||945||63||DW||WH/DW|
|’07 – ‘08||944||67||DW||WH/DW|
|’08 – ‘09||950||68||DW||WH/DW|
|’09 – ‘10||949 (950? avg)||69 (71 avg)||DW||DW|
|’10 – ‘11||955||65||DW||DW|
|’11 – 12||962||70||TG||DW/TG|
|’13 – ‘14||963||67||PC||DW/TG/PC|
|’14 – ‘15||970 (959 avg)
||75 (75 avg)||PC||TG/PC|
What is so nice to see with the APR is that Pitt opened the positive margin between the average APR and it’s own APR from 3 points to 11 points – no small measure of success.
But where the benefit Pitt has had in academics really jumps is the five year spans between the 2004-5 ( -18 pts) graduates to 2009-10 (-2 pts) and then to 2014-15 (even).
Walt Harris was, for lack of better wording, very poor at graduating the players he recruited… and having his recruits graduate after he left Pitt.. He came to Pitt in 1997 and the recruits he had from 2000-2004 (first set of years monitored) were consistently pretty far below the FBS graduation rates.
Dave Wannstedt came in 2005 and his recruiting classes began closing that graduation gap from (-) 18 points to a much better (-)2 in 2010… then after he left his players continued to help his predecessors even out the GSR to the national average last year.
Say what we will about the disciplinary problems we had in DW’s latter years – his kids were going to class and graduating at a better clip than players before he was hired and that’s a big, and good, deal for all involved. Wannstedt did a good job with that.
Now we are moving forward in fine shape. I have a feeling that will continue to progress and get even better as the years go on. HC Pat Narduzzi’s roster players have had very few problems off the field, either academically or disciplinary, so far.
While it is too early to tell how his recruits will do as four year students, I get the distinct impression that he’s a stern taskmaster in all areas of the player’s Pitt experience. As evidenced by the discipline he has awarded so far, albeit a small sample, he’s going to keep our players on the right track as they attend and graduate from Pitt as true student/athletes.
Note: I just ran across this old Pitt Blather article written in 2003 by a man named “Lee” and it was so good I thought I’d share it with you: Al Qaeda Strikes Penn State