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The Phillips File- Graham Next Best Thing For Pitt, But For How Long?

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(Photo by-  Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

(Photo by- Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

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It wasn’t supposed to be Todd Graham accepting this job.  That honor was destined for Tom Bradley.  I guess it was never really in the cards. Bradley was never going to get the Pitt job.  I should have known better to think that Pitt officials would hand the keys of their sports car over to a Penn State guy.

In the end, Pitt went with a man who has done  the type of work that is needed at Pitt.  Resurrecting a dormant football program, begging to return to its past glory.  For Graham, he has worked miracles at Rice and Tulsa the past five years.  My only problem is that if he can do the same for the Panthers, what’s to say he won’t leave for greener pastures elsewhere?

Hiring the right personnel is so critical for the long-term success in any company.  College athletics are no exception.  In the hiring process, you need to make sure who you hire has the potential to stay with your company for the long-term.  It creates greater value in who you hire.  If you have to keep replacing the same position ever three to six years, you are not doing your job as an administrator.

Ultimately, I think Graham will do what Dave Wannstedt couldn’t and that is create an exciting brand of football in the Big East that should yield a championship.  The only problem with this is the aftermath.  You know that other schools with more money will try to lure Graham away to do the same thing for them.  You know its inevitable right?  Can you see Todd Graham here in Pittsburgh after 2015?  I can’t.

Do you think you would say the same thing about Tom Bradley?

I thought the answer to that was no also.

The bottom line is that Pitt hired a good football coach, one with a proven track record.  The irony is that Graham was in the hunt for this job a month ago, but Pitt didn’t want to pay up and settled for Mike Haywood. 

How did that turn out again?

Oh yeah, not well.

The phrase ‘you get what you pay for’ fits this situation perfectly and is a good example of why Steve Pederson should be examined as the man best fit to run the Panthers Athletic Department.  Personnel decision are not easy to make.  That’s why it’s so critical to have good management people on staff to make these tough hires.  Based on recent trends, Pederson does not grade so well in this area. 

His handling of the Dave Wannstedt dismissal was nothing short of a hatchet job.  Pederson didn’t have the onions to admit that he wanted Wannstedt gone, so it was presented to the media and fans as a ‘resigination.’ 

Then you conduct a pseudo coaching search, one that featured a pool of candidates who had ‘head coaching’ experience.  Except for Dana Holgorsen.  Apparently he was approached.  And why not speak to him?  After all, he was the conductor of the most explosive offense in all of college football at Oklahoma State. 

But I guess Tom Bradley didn’t cut the mustard for some reason at that point as a viable candidate for the job.  I mean, 32 years at Penn State makes him a lifer there.  Somebody to do Joe Pa’s bidding.   As it turns out, Bradley has been acting as head coach the past few years.  Do you really think Joe is ‘coaching’ anybody at this point? 

After the Haywood debacle on New Years weekend, Bradley’s name came up rather quick.  So did the stories that Bradley reached out to Pitt during its first coaching hire a few weeks prior, only to be snubbed by Pederson.  News also leaked that the Steelers front office, including Dan Rooney, Art II and coach Mike Tomlin suggested to Pederson that he talk to Bradley about the job.  That Bradley would be a great fit for Pitt and serve the University well as its head football coach. 

Apparently that wasn’t good enough for Pederson.  He knew better and passed on the advice.  Now the Steelers are angry with Pitt and Pederson.  It doesn’t help that the two entities share a practice facility and a football stadium. 

You knew it wouldn’t take long after Haywood was jettisoned that Pitt would extend an olive branch and meet with Bradley.  It didn’t take long for the rumors to fly that he was going to be Pitt’s new head coach.  John Meyer from WTAE-TV said as much on Wednesday night. 

Not so fast my friend.

It’s hard to say if that premature story hurt Bradley’s chances at the job.  Even after writing last week that Pitt would hire him, I began to feel as if that shipped had sailed long ago.  That ultimately, Pitt was never going to allow a Penn State guy to run their football program.  Who’s to say how Bradley would have done. 

My hope is that he takes the Connecticut job and stays there for a long time, building an even stronger program long after Todd Graham has left Pitt after guiding them to short-term success.  And then where does that leave you?  Looking for another coach once again. 

You only get so many chances to get it right before your time is up.   Pederson’s clock could be close to striking zero if Todd Graham doesn’t pan out.

John Phillips is the author of this article and a former ‘Greek God’ winner at Edinboro University.  In his spare time, you can catch JP hosting talk shows and anchoring sports updates on weekends for 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh. 

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