We all have opinions on how and why a University’s football program should exist and how the employees of that University should conduct themselves. I am not one who thinks that any sport, amature or professional, should be above adhering to basic ethical standards. Never, and I’m worried about that now with Pitt football. Allow me to explain why.
I have been associated with the University of Pittsburgh in various ways since my birth 62 years ago. I’ve written before on here how Pitt has been a part and parcel of my very extended family’s life since my grandfather, Dr. Henry Kohberger, received his Medical Degree in 1899, then as a faculty member taught at The University of Pittsburgh’s School of Medicine when it changed over in 1910.
My father, Dr. Paul Kohberger was graduated from Pitt in 1939 then after the war came back as a Grad student, was made a tenured Full Professor and finally Dean of the Graduate School of Business Administration at Pitt. My mother graduated from Pitt and then was the Assistant Dean of Women for the university in addition to being President of Pitt’s Alumni Association in a few successive terms and stayed involved with Pitt until her death.
My brother Paul is now the Assistant Librarian for the University’s library system. That’s the Executive Officer in military terms. He started shelving books part-time at Hillman Library as a freshman at age 18 and has been walking into that same building to work for 47 years – which freaks me out, but different strokes for different folks I suppose.
There have been multiple Kohberger’s and extended family members at Pitt ever since… uncles, aunts, brothers, cousins, etc… it’s like Pitt’s blue and old gold runs in our familial bloodline.
The reason I mention all this in so much detail is to provide some verifiable background for what goes into formulating my opinions on the issues that take place within the university, and in turn as we read on The Pitt POV, the school’s football program. I am opinionated and that doesn’t just spin out of thin air but comes from 55+ years of immersion.
I have always been very proud of Pitt and still am. I love everything about it and even when my military career took me away from Pittsburgh for 33 years and my now living in Maryland I have always made sure I stayed it touch somehow. Most of that was of course through being a fan of the football program – and I sure am one. Believe me – no one puts the time, energy and money into writing a blog about a college football program unless it is made into a labor of love – and that is what this blog has been, is and always will be.
I’m cynical sometimes, skeptical when necessary, give kudos and praise at other times and I refuse to believe that the athletic tail wags the academic dog at Pitt – which is pretty laughingly self-evident given the state of our athletics now.
But damn, when I saw that our Head Coach Pat Narduzzi hired the father of a rare 5* and highly sought after high school recruit to be in a minor position in his program’s staff… and after I had time to read all I could on it and talk to some others within the university system about that move… It kinda broke my heart a bit.
Well, bruised my heart is maybe the better word. It ain’t the end of the world and I know that. It just feels like the earth shifted a bit under my feet.
Not to take anything away from the new Pitt football staffer Mr. Paris Johnson SR. He’s probably an OK guy and might be a good addition to the program. But, as in all of Narduzzi’s hires it seems, he’s a FOP (Friend Of Pat) who came with a large scratch-off bonus in the shape of his stud football playing son.
This move by Narduzzi is pretty much is the end of my beliefs that even though he is an average football coach on the sideline…he was still a sterling one doing all the right things off the field. His leadership and discipline (mostly enacted behind the public scenes but well delivered) were attributes that I have pointed to many times on here as traits I feel young student/athletes need to be exposed to in the form of realistic leadership. I question that now.
Any that matters to me as much as winning football games. It truly does.
And please don’t say this hire was a coincidence and that these two things, the hire and the 5* recruit, are unrelated – that insults all of our collective intelligence. Narduzzi knew exactly what he was doing; knew exactly what it would look like, and went and did it anyway.
There are supposed to be NCAA regulated measures in place to ensure family member hirings aren’t done to sway recruits to the hiring school but I have done some pretty deep research into it and can’t tell for sure what can and cannot be done.
As the Post-Gazette sees it:
And indeed, the NCAA has taken steps to prevent it, but Pitt could certainly be a landing spot for the younger Johnson anyway. A rule that was approved along with the early signing period last year states that a school can’t hire someone with a prior relationship to a recruit (parent, uncle, guardian, high school coach, etc.) to a non-coaching staff position for two years before that recruit’s “anticipated enrollment” or two years after that recruit’s “actual enrollment” at that school. In other words, no, Nick Saban can’t hire Freddy Fivestar’s dad as a quality control coach in January just to get his son’s letter of intent in February, and he can’t promise to do so in March, either.
But because Johnson is a 2020 prospect, he likely wouldn’t enroll at Pitt until the summer of that year, so two years from now. Or, Pitt could eventually make Johnson Sr. an on-field assistant coach — not unreasonable given his experience — and then Pitt’s allowed to recruit his son, by NCAA rule.
But either way I don’t really care. It just should have been given a very wide berth and the hiring not been done. I know other football fans will think I’m overreacting and that this situation is just… well… “Other schools do it!“.
Frankly my dears, I don’t give a damn. I do not care what Michigan does, nor what Notre Dame or Alabama or WVU or even Penn State does (except for the elephant in that locker room). They are not the University of Pittsburgh and they are not the Pitt I love. Regardless of the letter of the NCAA law – it was a bad decision.
To me this hire smacks of borderline unethical conduct and at the least reflects very poor decision-making not only by Pat Narduzzi himself in doing it but by Athletic Director Heather Lyke in allowing it.
It is also seems a desperation move to get future talent on-roster and that just isn’t worth risking our reputation for the off-chance the kid turns out to be a star player for us – that is if Narduzzi will be able to land him even with the father depositing Pitt’s paychecks every two weeks. But I’m also not naive, I know that sometimes corners are cut in private at every school when millions of dollars are at stake through athletics. But I’m pretty well tuned into what happens at Pitt via my friends and acquaintances inside the university’s administration – and know this went down with a thud and elicited a sense of antipathy.
Look – we Pitt fans jumped up and down, and still do, about how shady it appeared when Kevin Stallings was hired via Scott Barnes’ connections and machinations, and we all feel that was shaky at best – so we should look at how this football hire went down with the same critical eyes.
If for no other reason than to avoid any sense of impropriety Narduzzi should have hired someone else and not dragged this issue under a microscope – but either he’s too egotistically vain or too dumb to have thought long and hard about it… and I don’t think he’s dumb.
This was a minor hire into a minor position on his staff – it sure as hell could have been filled by hundreds of just as qualified people without raising clouds of suspicion.
So that is how I feel – I’m building a mountain out of a molehill maybe but I believe it’s a step in the wrong direction for Pitt to take. It impinges on the reputation of the university and for no other reason than that I wish it hadn’t happened.
NOTES: Sorry but I have to call out POV readers for pretty much revising history when it comes to what we all thought our regular season won/loss record and quality of play was going to be in 2017 before the season started. In reading a recent comment I was prompted to go back to the POV’s 2017’s season’s prediction article and review what POV’ers thought would happen.
Of all the 177 comments on that thread only two (2!) POV readers felt we’d have a losing season in ’17 – UPitt had us at 6-7 with a bowl loss and JoeKnew had us at flat out 5-7.
So can we please stop saying in retrospect that “Well, we all thought we’d have a down year or We knew that was going to happen.” How many times have I heard that since last season started sliding into the crapper? It isn’t true at all.
The majority of formal predictions was at eight or more wins followed by seven wins. A smattering had us at nine wins and two (or so) had us at 10 wins. I had us at 7-6 with another bowl loss. That’s the last time I err on the positive side with this current program.
Rereading the prediction comments you can see they were very optimistic on the whole also. It tires me out when we start reading commenters bitch about ‘negativity’ on this site when it truly is a much more realistic approach to Pitt football then those who want to fool themselves about what they thought would take place last season.
They like to think they were way more pessimistic about last season then they really were – just because that is the way things turned out. It was a crap year and a poor job of coaching save one singular game at the end of the year and readers now want to think they were prepared for that when the reality is they weren’t.
Let’s try to be more honest on here about the true state of Pitt football and how we truly view it please, both before and after the season.
Here is how the local pundits saw Pitt’s 2017 team before the season started. The guy everyone loves to hate was spot on:
LOCAL MEDIA’S PITT PREDICTIONS:
Paul Zeise (Post-Gazette/93.7 “The Fan”: 9-4
Josh Taylor (KDKA-TV): 8-5
Chris Adamski (Tribune Review): 8-5
Jeff Hathhorn (93.7 “The Fan”): 8-5
Adam Crowley (ESPN Radio 970 AM): 7-6
Andrew Fillipponi (93.7 “The Fan”): 7-6
“Pitt is one of the least experienced teams in America on defense and the non-conference schedule is a challenge.”
Rob Rossi (Upgruv/Trib Live Radio): 5-7
Rich Walsh (KDKA-TV): 7-6
Bill Bender (Sporting News): 8-4
“It’s all about momentum for Pat Narduzzi in his third season. Max Browne should settle in, and the running game will be there. Will the defense be more consistent? If the Panthers can pick off Penn State and/or Oklahoma State in non-conference play early, then that momentum would carry over into the ACC Coastal race. How much of that can Pitt build heading into decisive games against Virginia Tech and Miami to end the season? That’s the challenge.”
Bob Pompeani (KDKA-TV): 7-6
Andrew Stockey (WTAE-TV): 7-5
“A new offensive coordinator. A new quarterback. A secondary with nowhere to go but up. A young team trying to maintain its recent string of 8-win seasons. It’s going to be tough but under this coaching staff, Pitt has been able to pull out some unexpected wins and should do so again. The question now is can they avoid the mind-blowing losses (remember North Carolina).
Looking at the schedule, I think the Panthers will go 5-3 in the ACC, but thanks to consecutive games against powerful top 10 teams (Penn State and Oklahoma), their non-conference record will be no better than 2-2. I see a 7-5 season in 2017, enough to get them to the post-season and be a building block for a young team which should be back at that 8-win mark or better in 2018.”
Chris Dokish (Panthers Prey Blog): 8-5
Lance Lysowski (DK Pittsburgh Sports): 8-5
Anson Whaley (Cardiac Hill): 8-4
Chris Peak (Panther-lair): 8-5