Random Thoughts on Pitt’s Past

In a sort-of coincidence I have been drafting up an article that discusses the peripheral aspects of Pitt’s football program as opposed to what happens between the sidelines on game day.

I say coincidence because of the strange baiting by some media outlets and Pat Narduzzi himself about Jordan Whitehead and/or possibly some other Pitt player(s) personnel issues.

Right off the bat I will say I have heard nothing concrete about anything so what I am about to discuss below isn’t about young Mr. Whitehead or any other player.  I’m sure that if and when Pitt decides to let slip whatever is roiling the media waters we’ll find out about it then.  But there is a ton of speculation…

But if there is personnel problems making them public may not happen at all.  Just yesterday morning I posted this bit  in our Monday Morning QB article in response to a question from a reader…

Ike – not really. Just saying that there is some form to personnel issues in college ball.

“Suspended for the season” usually means failed a NCAA required drug test; “suspended for one or a few games” usually means that the player missed meetings, classes or just misbehaved in some way.

All those will not have the disciplinary  reasons made public.

If a player is injured that is one thing. But if he’s on the sideline without an injury and not in uniform it is probably something either academic (failed class, missed classes) or internal discipline – hence no uniform.

If a player doesn’t play but is in uniform on the sideline that usually means 1) some sort of injury or illness (Whitehead’s flu?) or 2) a minor disciplinary issue where the HC wants to keep him out but could play him in an emergency or 3) the player just sucks at his position or pissed off the coaching staff (lazy at practice, etc…) and someone is playing ahead of him.

If a suspension is announced internally only – that is only to the others on the team – then that player will most likely not be in uniform… but if it is something just between the coaches and the player – like an attitude adjustment – then he could be in uniform and available to play like I just mentioned.

As to drug tests there are two kinds – the NCAA required random test (once or twice a year) where a positive result is an automatic suspension and loss of one year eligibility by the NCAA. Or the other is a University’s football program’s drug test where any discipline can be awarded by the HC – in the past few years that usually meant a suspension for a year at Pitt…. but it doesn’t have to.

Past Pitt HCs didn’t stick to that at all and let kids play pretty soon after a failed test.

Who knows what this “disturbing news” is, if any, – but there is a good chance Narduzzi will either not address it or will call it an injury that he still won’t talk about.

But on further research the NCAA has changed their drug policy a bit.  It now reads:

The penalty for a positive test for a performance-enhancing drug (PED) is strict and automatic: student-athletes lose one full year of eligibility for the first offense (25 percent of their total eligibility) and are withheld from competition for 365 days from the date of the test. A second positive test for a PED results in the loss of all remaining eligibility.

The penalty for a positive test for a substance in the street drug class (Heroin; marijuana; tetrahydrocannabinol (THC); synthetic cannabinoids (e.g., spice, K2, JWH-018, JWH-073) is withholding from competition for 50% of the season in all sports in which the student-athlete participates.  A second positive test for a street drug results in the loss of a year of eligibility and withholding from participation for 365 days from the test.

Again – this is non-situational info but put out for readers to understand the testing process better.

I’ve started reading a great book called “Playing Through the Whistle” by S.L. Price.  In this book the author examines how sports and life working in the steel mills was intertwined in Aliquippa, PA., especially after the mills closed.

Here is a Sports Illustrated article about the book – it is an excellent read on its own and has some very good info in it.  This part pertains to what we wrote about above.  It discusses ex-Pitt football player Tommie Campbell and whet he expected to happen in college and what our college football program expected of him:

Of all of the great athletes on that ’03 state championship team, Tommie might have been the most gifted. But he flunked out of Pitt, lost a full scholarship after two years of missed classes, practices and football meetings. His last-chance meeting with coach Dave Wannstedt?

Campbell didn’t show; didn’t even call. He had narcolepsy, tended to skip his medication and never saw why the world couldn’t soften up its pesky rules, schedules, commitments. “Like a lost little boy,” he said. “I never had a plan. I just thought things were going to be handed to me.”

Such entitlement was rarely discussed on the Next One side of the divide. If football presented Aliquippa’s flashiest alternative to drug dealing and led to scholarships, too often its players went off ill-prepared and returned without a diploma—never mind a pro contract.

What really jumped out at me was this sentence: But he flunked out of Pitt, lost a full scholarship after two years of missed classes, practices and football meetings.   How in the world did Pitt allow that situation to drag on so long?

There are two ways of looking at that.  I know Pitt fans want the best for recruits who come here so the train of though among them is that a player is entitled to multiple chances to correct his behavior.  Obviously Dave Wannstedt felt that way about Campbell and many other players on his rosters. He gave his players 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc… chances all the time.

But I look at it from a different point of view.  How many times does a leader allow a player to thumb his nose at authority before he cuts him loose so that the scholarship can be used by a kid who will not only take things on and off the field more seriously but also will use that open scholarship to earn a degree?

And there is the rub between types of head coaches.  We have seen both Paul Chryst and now Pat Narduzzi use discipline – both formal and informal – much more frequently than in the past here at Pitt.   We see the positive results in way less arrests, less turmoil in the clubhouse, less stain on Pitt’s national reputation and perhaps most importantly more players getting degrees in their time as a Pitt student.

Dave Wannstedt did some thing very well; fans loved his 9, 10 and 8 win seasons, but applying discipline quickly and having a consistent approach to it wasn’t one of them.  What he did do, and this is something a lot of college HCs won’t do or even care about, was work with other, smaller, college football programs to allow the players who flushed out of Pitt on his watch have another chance at a different institution.  And that is truly commendable.

On another note the speculation is flying around Jordan Whitehead not playing but in uniform last Saturday.  Here is the latest teaser from PSN:

The questions surrounding Pitt All-American safety Jordan Whitehead and why he didn’t play versus Marshall have surrounded the Pitt football program this week.

Multiple sources tell PSN that injury wasn’t the reason Whitehead didn’t play on Saturday. But Like Coach Narduzzi yesterday, I’ll be a bit vague about the exact reason, since, as of now, it’s just speculation.

The question now is whether this is a one week “absence” or if it’s multiple weeks.

 With the problems the defense is having and considering his importance to the team, a long-term absence would be a huge blow to Pitt’s team.

Whether Whitehead is on the field this morning will be a big indicator.

So – now that is three different media outlets that are inferring that Whitehead is under a disciplinary suspension.  That is what this sentence;  The question now is whether this is a one week “absence” or if it’s multiple weeks infers.

Again – even if that is the case Narduzzi won’t talk about it unless it has been made public in some other form.  Case in point:  Both Blair and Boyd’s arrests were a matter of public record – via the news media and more formally the Allegheny County Courts system. 

So Narduzzi didn’t have privacy issues to adhere to – in a way that forced his hand to 1) levy formal suspensions and 2) make them know publicly.

We’ll have up a “Bits & Pieces” article tomorrow.





105 thoughts on “Random Thoughts on Pitt’s Past

  1. I think it is a stretch to say had the ACC been looking to expand in 2010 “we wouldn’t have been invited”. This is the same conference that subsequently invited Lville. A university that is geographically and academically a bad fit for the ACC and is an off the field/court problem machine…I understand why Pitt fired DW, but one does have to wonder where our program would be if DW was still HC with the money and stability of the ACC to recruit with.


  2. If we weren’t invited to the ACC, we may well be a member of the B12 as a partner to WVU. We were actually invited before WVU, and the B12 would have loved it if for all sports but FB, they could schedule a 2-school road trip back east.


  3. Agree wwb those two were incompetent and should have done it much in advance. I heard that SP hired Haywood based on one booster saying he was the up and comer.
    Have spoken to several WVU people and they are not happy Luck put them in B!2 and fled town and oddly even though they are undefeated Holgerson is not a popular coach with the fan base. Apparently he has an abrasive personality. Ah hoopies……
    Beat Tech


  4. As bad as the last decade has been for Pitt Football, it is absolutely amazing that we find ourselves in such an overall good situation. We are in a great conference (ACC), we are getting great exposure, and we have a very competitive team and a HC that fits the Burg very well.


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