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February 22, 2012

Chryst Spoke!

Filed under: Coaches,Football,Players,Recruiting — Reed @ 8:56 am

   Hmmm, not quite as an effective turn of phrase as the Bible’s “Jesus wept.” but it will do.

   Paul Chryst held his first post-hire formal press conference yesterday with the local media types.  It was pretty informative in some ways but, and I think we can expect this as long as Chryst is HC, there was nothing earth shattering divulged.

Some of his conversation was about issues that all PITT fans are interested in and some were insights into his personal approach into how he’ll conduct his business.  Here are some of the key points he talked about.

   In a refrain that we heard in his initial press conference he again attempted to quell the PITT fan’s post-Graham fears by reiterating that his approach to fielding his systems will be markedly different than his predecessor’s. The P-G reported him saying  “You never want the system to be the thing that prevents you from playing well,” Chryst said in a meeting with the media on Tuesday. “If you want to learn it, you can learn it absolutely in a fairly short time. I believe that, and I do believe that we can teach it.”  Meaning in essence that he’ll adapt to player’s strengths.

Chryst also said that many of the concepts he uses carry over between systems, but there will be new terminology for the players to master. “You are learning a new foreign language,” he said. “That’s our job, to teach it. It’s also our job to make sure we aren’t doing too much and that guys know what they’re doing.”

This last part we’ve heard before at this time last year and IMO was one of the reasons we faltered on offense as it was too much too soon for the players.  Let’s hope that Chryst’s philosophy in this matter is realistic and more simplified than Graham’s was.

   Tino Sunseri and the QB position.  He looked puzzled when Sunseri’s name was brought up and asked “Who is this Tino kid everyone is always asking about?” which brought a standing ovation and sustained applause from those in attendance.  I’m kidding obviously.  He did say that there would be competition at all the positions going into spring practice but that “I watched enough of Tino to get a feel for him a little bit, but I didn’t want to spend too much time,” he said. “I don’t want to form too many opinions. That’s what we have spring ball for.

Zeise of the P-G reported that ‘Sunseri is the starter’ but no other news venue I read said the same thing…

Zeise wrote:  “Chryst made it clear that, while he believes there is “always an open competition” for every job, Sunseri will enter spring practice as the starter, and the coaches will go from there.

The Trib-Review reported that the quarterback position will be crowded in the spring. Anthony Gonzalez and Montour graduate E.J. Banks will move from H-back and defensive back, respectively, to their high school positions, at least temporarily, and join Sunseri, Mark Myers and Trey Anderson.  “It will be hard (to get everyone enough reps),” he said. “It’s going to have to sort itself out.”  This is good news to me because it shows that he is already anticipating an open competition for this crucial position.

(Note:  I highlighted E. J. Banks’ name here because this is something I heard as far back as mid-2011 and wrote about.  Some people thought I was crazy for stating this.)

I wouldn’t read too much into this ‘starter’ thing even if he did say it because it is pretty obvious he’ll open things up there as evidenced by some early personnel moves.  However, it would be sort of naive to think that Sunseri’s name isn’t at the top of the list going in due to two years of experience.

   Regarding his approach to recruiting, which seems to be the burr in a lot of PITT fan’s pants about Chryst so far, he already said that he and his staff would be selective in their approach to recruiting and will have some ‘under the radar’ kids who they want but whose names may not be familiar to others.  In essence he’s saying that regardless of which players the general public and the media think are indispensible to PITT’s success the staff will make their own decisions.

In addition, he and his staff won’t conduct a “Junior Day” where sometimes up to a hundred HS juniors are invited to tours the campus and facilities.  His recruiting push will take a different form.  He’s doing this by inviting players to get a feel for the program, university, spend quality time meeting their respective position coaches and reviewing film in small groups. I believe they will invite five to eight juniors at a time for a full day over the months ahead rather than one mass group hug done in a single Junior Day.  Again, this approach blows the top of some fans heads off but to me it makes complete sense.

One thing we should understand is that by doing it this way Chryst is actually putting more time and effort in and actually working harder at recruiting kids than by just having one day where all the prospective recruits show up.  Again, he is doing what he said he would in being selective in his approach and wanting the recruits to get the detailed attention and information they need to make PITT their choice.

I’m not sure anything he does in recruiting is going to calm some people’s fears but he certainly hasn’t been sitting on his ass as some fans have inferred.  He’s offered three of PA’s best WRs so far in addition to other top shelf kids as Chris Dokish writes here.  It is evident that they are doing what they feel is necessary at this point in time. I don’t worry about this issue much at all.

   As to his relationships with players currently on the roster, he’s been meeting with them individually for 20 minutes to get to know each other in areas unrelated to football.  The PITT News quotes him as saying “These last couple of weeks I’ve enjoyed a lot because you get to be with the players and you get to be around them,” he said. “This building isn’t a lot of fun without the players … Each of these players has their own story and you start to get to know them and see where they’re coming from and what makes them unique.”

He also discussed the two staff coaches who left, Faulkner and Bostad and reiterated what he said after Bostad announced in that he anticipated this may happen and had hired Rudolph and Huber specially as a contingency plan.  He wasn’t real clear on the remaining two openings, QB and RB coach but the reports inferred that there should be some news on that front soon.





@Dan, your question to Pederson about budgets got me researching. Can’t vouch for the validity of these numbers, but here are some total revenue numbers I found for some of the schools you mentioned. I think they are for 2008 or 2009.

Ohio State $110 million
Florida $107 million
Texas $105 million

Iowa $80 million
PSU $76 million
Georgia $75 million

UCLA $61 million
South Carolina $60 million
Purdue $56 million
Texas Tech $53 million

Arizona State $53 million
UCONN $52 million
WVU $46 million
Arizona $45 million

Northwestern $40 million
TCU $39 million
Pitt $37 million
Wake Forest $36 million

The answer to your question appears to be that we are WELL behind that second group of schools you mentioned. Two or three tiers below them. Crazy.

Comment by Cnorwood 02.23.12 @ 4:51 am

Guys, I have felt for a long time that PITT was going to be a “second tier” football program for the most part. This is coming from a guy who was on campus during the Dorsett year and a MNC and loved how we played, and won, football games back then.

First off, I believe that the University will do whatever it takes to make sure the football program is above board and not an embarrassment to the university. I don’t mean embarrassment in a poor W/L record – I do think they want a winning program – but that the football program isn’t detrimental to the University’s reputation both locally and nationally.

There is a real reason that both Walt Harris and Dave Wannstedt were “let go” after having some good years and after successful football seasons where they both won shares of BE championships. If you believe that is was because the administration wanted to reach “The Next Level” then I’ve a bridge in PGH I’d like to sell you. They did it because some aspects of the HC and the program itself were not up to the standards the administration wanted them to be and it was affecting how people viewed the University.

Secondly, PITT just doesn’t have the monies for football as other schools do (as listed above) and it isn’t going to spend an inordinate amount to try to compete with the Top Ten schools on a continual basis. It just isn’t that important in the long run to do so.

Do we believe that PITT’s football facilities on the Southside would be as nice as they are if PITT didn’t have a deal with the Steelers to offset costs? Do we think there is a real reason that PITT has gone to renting out Heinz Field for the home games rather than even consider the idea of either an on-campus stadium or a separate stadium owned and operated by PITT itself?

Honestly, did anyone believe even for one minute that PITT would follow WVU’s example and pay the BE more than the agreed upon $5M exit fee just to leave prior to the 2012 season? Of course they weren’t, especially in this time of financial cutbacks from the State which is affecting the university as a whole. PITT doesn’t need football to bring the school into prominence like WVU and other schools do, as WVU has nothing else to hang their hat on really.

PITT concentrates on its core missions first and foremost. That being the education and enlightenment of its students and being a solid contributor to society by its research departments and other academic strengths.

With that lets also realize that PITT itself is a much different entity now than it was during the “Glory Years” between 1976-1983. Back then PITT wasn’t nearly as well know or as strong academically as it is now and, if truth be told, winning football games was probably the only reason most people in the US ever heard of PITT at all. Not so now as things have changed drastically on that front in the last 30 years. Now we are known for real success in just about everything but football and IMO there is no way the administration wants things to be different in that regard.

In other words PITT has placed the football program in its proper place for an institution that prides itself on its academics, local involvement and its national and international reputation. We may catch football lightning in a bottle and get a Top 15 finish here and there, maybe even make a run for the top spot in the future. But if we as a fan are thinking that PITT will ever sustain that type of success for a long and consistent length of time I think we’ll be disappointed.

Comment by Reed 02.23.12 @ 5:36 am

I have been trying to make this point for the longest of times on this site …. that Pitt will never return to the power it was in the late 70s / early 80s, and totally disgaree with Dokish on this issue. The primary reasons are twofold:

1) when many of us grew up, Western PA / eastern OH was the primary FB recruiting area … now we don’t even rank in the Top 10, and Eastern PA and NJ has long surpassed us. (not to mention the Southeast, Southwest and Cal)

2) we live in an NFL city with a beloved franchise. The top FB programs over the past decade in eastern US are PSU, Va Tech, FSU and Florida .. followed by WVU, Clemson and So Carolina. The common element for all of the above is that they don’t share an NFL city … they arte the king of their domain.

Comment by wbb 02.23.12 @ 8:39 am

WBB, well written and just about spot on except the part on the Steelers. Yes, they are very popular and have many fans in the tri-state area.

You can talk till you are blue in the face but facts are facts. The stadium holds about 65,000 and of that amount the league and sponsers get around 5,000. Several K are held back for game day sales and some season tickets are held by tri-state families. Simple math tells me there are less than 15,000 families in the greater Piisburgh area [w/average 4 tickets] with season tickets.

The Pittsburgh area is still a football town and that includes Pitt. Pitt had good attendance when RR was throwing the ball to Larry Fitzgerald. Provide the fans with that and they will come. There is void in football that Pitt can fill as fans like to go to games and see good football and tailgate. There are still plenty of fans left over.

Comment by joel 02.23.12 @ 10:17 am

@Cnorwood, excellent work. Those numbers are very sobering.

@Reed, even more sobering is your post.

Kind of makes you wonder what we’re all posting about in the first place.

Kind of kills the excitement for going to the ACC.

Ya, Reed, I guess I kinda believed we still wanted to be relevant in football. Silly me.

Cnorwood, wow, we’re not even in the game.

Comment by Dan 02.23.12 @ 11:44 am

Not naive, just thought there must be some football fans like us in the administration somewhere.

Again, good post Cnorwood. You hear things, we have this much, they have that much, but, at least I, never really bothered to take a good look at it, with all the schools side by side.

How can we compete?? Get lucky once in awhile I guess.

Comment by Dan 02.23.12 @ 11:47 am

Reed,
I believe that you are probably right about the thinking by the administration about the football program. In my view, their thinking is academic snobbery. It is also a case of being pennywise and pound-foolish.
I looked at the National College Rankings of US New and World Report which gives a pretty good measure of the academic standing of about 300 national universities. Pitt is ranked #58, so they are in the top 20%. Tied for number 1 are Harvard and Princeton. They don’t have very good football teams. Even in its reduced state Pitt could easily beat them.
But there are some very good football teams that have higher academic rankings than Pitt. Some of these include #5 Stanford, #19 Notre Dame, #23 USC, #28 Michigan, #38 University of Miami, #42 Wisconsin, tied for #45 Penn State and University of Texas, tied with Pitt at #58 are University of Florida and Texas A & M. I think that these schools recognize that there are many benefits to a university from having an excellent football program, not the least of which is that it increases the affinity that the alumni has for the university. A successful football program makes the university better known across the country which I believe is good for alumni and helps to attract students.
In terms of success, I believe that we are much more likely to be able to overtake Alabama on the football field if we have the will to do so. We will never, ever have the resources to overtake Harvard academically.

Comment by Houston Panther 02.23.12 @ 12:22 pm

And Houston, you’re point is extremely hard to argue with.

So, there you are, obviously, both can be done.

I’d settle for being Florida or Texas A&M like!!!

Comment by Dan 02.23.12 @ 12:36 pm

Houston – good points, but here’s where I left off (and to echo wbb). How many of those schools feature college football as their main sport in the town they are located?

The only ones who don’t are USC, Miami and possibly Stanford. Otherwise the schools listed have the attention, and the donations, of any sports fan in that community. Each of those towns and schools have tons of fans who are rabid about the program and support it – but never went to school there.

That just doesn’t happen at PITT and it isn’t the administration’s fault.

Comment by Reed 02.23.12 @ 3:39 pm

Joel – RR to Fitz was a great and attractive combo. But LeSean McCoy and Dion Lewis churning out TDs and breaking long run were attractive also. Plus we were winning game in 2008-10, but that still didn’t draw consistently big crowds

Comment by Reed 02.23.12 @ 4:04 pm

It is what it is! Is it not? Whatever all that means! The fact is ladies and gentlemen, the world has and is changing. It is no longer the 2oth Century when city university teams with an in-house mass media audience could market the college sports product. City college sports just can’t compete with the professional payrolls and advertising potentials. Pitt can’t and shouldn’t have to compete wikth the Steelers. Living in Columbus I can see every day that the Buckeyes are a pro outfit with a university mystique. They market, they sell, they win. they draw, theyh win again. They pay big bucks to hire high profile coaches and even breaking the NCAA rules doesn’t really impact because they merely continue to market, reload and win again. It is indeed, what it is–in this moment in time. Pitt is making a wise move in going to an academically and financially sound and solvent market in the ACC. Pitt will, in time, hold its own. It still can lure 40,000 to Heinz Field. But, of course, Pitt must continue to follow the rules, hire coaches who coach and have integrity. It appears the Panthers are on the right track now after a dismal(in many ways) 2011. May Pitt fans continue to be proud of their athletic history and resolve again to STRIVE AFTER EXCELLENCE. This writer is a Pittsburgher at heart while residing in the constant hype of Big “WHATEVER” country. So, from my perch. may I say “Hail to Pitt” and to the Bloggers “quit being malcontents, think positively and support your non=professional athletic programs. Rev. George from Columbus.

Comment by Rev. George Mehaffey 02.23.12 @ 4:42 pm

I am not suggesting that college sports can compete with pro sports. And I don’t believe that any school in a pro city can fill a 90,000 seat stadium. Though Pittsburgh’s “beloved” pro franchise only became so when they started winning consistently.
A winning football program benefits a university and its alumni by increasing awareness and respect for the university. This leads to tangible benefits for the school and alumni.

Comment by Houston Panther 02.23.12 @ 7:46 pm

HPanther. I agree with much of what you say, but most of those schools you listed as being great universities with great football programs are large, isolated, state schools that churn out anywhere from 10,000 to 20,000 graduates per year from. Pitt broke the 15,000 student mark (for all four classes), in the past 10 years, which equates to 3,000 new Panther alums every year. Even if half of them are avid football fans, and half of those stayed in Pittsburgh, that’s 750 new fans every year. 750 . How could the university in good conscience invest an additional $10, $20, $30 million in athletics? We’d have to double our revenue just to get to UCLA’s level. Where are all the fans going to come from to increase revenues from $37 million to $60 million? And we’d still be $60 million behind LSU.

We have the nicest hoops and football facilities BY FAR in the BigEast and just opened brand new baseball, softball and track and soccer complexes.

There are a lot of vocal haters of our AD and athletic department and some of it deserved. With the facilities we have and fact that we have any success at all is truly mindboggling when you look at revenues.

Comment by cnorwoodaz 02.23.12 @ 11:26 pm

Houston – you are talking about the Steelers from 1973 until today, almost forty years.

PITT still drew low crowds even when the Steelers sucked except back in the 1st edition of the “PITT Glory Days” back in the ’20 & ’30s.

Comment by Reed 02.24.12 @ 9:51 am

[…] gave you the reassuring POV on Coach Paul Chryst and his approach. I don’t totally disagree. It is something a little different, and if it works then […]


[…] you recall, back in February Head Coach Paul Chyrst had a general press conference. One of the topics discussed was his approach to recruiting. The emphasis was on doing it smarter […]


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