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August 15, 2013

Thomas’ Return: Media Review

Filed under: Chryst,Coaches,Football,Players — Chas @ 11:31 am

Okay, the news came out of Todd Thomas officially returning to Pitt football. Justin and I were both out and not able to do a real post at the time. Now, with 24 hours to digest, it’s time to review.

Starting by looking back since there is controversy over the whole thing. It started with Thomas being “demoted” to second unit on the first day of practice. An admitted motivational tactic taken by Coach Paul Chryst. Clearly unhappy with it, Thomas nonetheless said all the right things about needing it and using it.

Then came the news that he left the team abruptly.

It surprised everyone, but opportunity knocks for some.

Thomas’ high school coach at Beaver Falls, Ryan Matsook, said the news surprised him. He said he received six voice mail messages from Division II coaches wondering about Thomas’ availability.

IUP on line one. Please hold.

This stands out to me as very interesting in the issue of the demotion as a motivational tool. Thomas’ high school football coach said right after it happened that this sort of motivation has worked before.

“I speak quite frequently with Chris Haering (Thomas’ position coach at Pitt), and he never had anything negative to say,” Matsook said. “Todd is competitive. Every kid will get complacent, but the thing that always motivated Todd was if you put anyone in front of him or sat him for a quarter, he always responded positively.

“The more you dangle that carrot, the better Todd gets. “I am just surprised. It seems like a knee-jerk reaction.”

A “knee-jerk reaction” is what it appeared to be a day later as news came out that Thomas was set/wanted to return. But days went by without clarification. Moments when it seemed like it was about to happen, and then silence.

The longer this continued. With Coach Chryst not saying anything. And nothing from anyone else, the worse it seemed with the chances of Thomas actually returning.

Then yesterday, Thomas was back at camp.

“I was able to talk to Todd actually every day,” Chryst said. “We had continued discussions, and he’s back on the team. That’s all I’m going to talk about there.”


[Tangent time:

You know, a little more “talk about there” would go a long way in settling this issue. At the very least it cuts down the chatter and questions of what was going on behind the scenes.

For good and bad, news out of the Pitt football program is remarkably tight on leaks. For Chryst, I’m sure it seems like a positive. But it has a major down side.

With a coach reticent to say much about things beyond the basics in practice it creates a lot more speculation, rumors and other problems. People will try to fill in the blanks. They (and I include myself here) will try to lay out scenarios that make sense to themselves and their own biases that fits the facts they do have. It doesn’t cut down on questions and rumors. It merely changes the nature of them.

So when the press starts to ask about reports that Todd Thomas wants to come back and you say things like:

“What’d I tell you guys yesterday? I told you, when something changes, I will talk about that. And I promised you that.”

And once Thomas returns your “talk about that”  is:

“We had continued discussions, and he’s back on the team. That’s all I’m going to talk about there.”

That’s really not helping. Technically true, but not worth it.]

Back to Todd Thomas

Beaver Falls High School football coach Ryan Matsook said he received more than a half-dozen calls from other colleges inquiring about recruiting Thomas as a transfer. Ultimately, though, Thomas wanted to stay at Pitt.

Thomas, a Beaver Falls graduate, spent practice Wednesday in just a jersey and helmet and did not participate in 11-on-11 drills. Per NCAA rules, he must spend two more practices in just a helmet and shoulder pads before donning full pads. He missed the NCAA-mandated acclimation period his teammates went through last week.

Thomas’ high school basketball coach had helped in the media for Thomas’ side to indicate that Thomas was contrite and serious about wanting to return to Pitt.

Thomas wanted to return a day after leaving, according to Doug Biega, his basketball coach at Beaver Falls High School.

Biega said he has no problem with Chryst waiting to reinstate Thomas.

“He wanted to come back almost immediately,” he said.

“But I don’t think it should be that easy. When you make a decision, there tends to be consequences. Coach Chryst knows what he’s doing.”

Part of that appears to have been multiple discussions with Coach Chryst. Meeting/talking with senior players on the squad.

Now I suppose, depending on your bias it can be spun different ways. My bias is not simply as a Pitt partisan. It’s as a parent that has dealt with a child that feels like they are being singled out for “torture” by a teacher.

My daughter, in one instance, felt that it was being treated badly by the teacher. The reality was that the teacher saw she could do better than her peers in the subject matter and was trying to push her to get there. Of course she couldn’t just quit school, so there was no fallout beyond some tears that night. Feeling hurt and betrayed by a teacher she liked. She didn’t get it until I explained it, and even then the resentment lingered for a few days.

To me, Doug Biega sounds as much like a parent as he does Thomas’ old coach.

He is making sure to publicly back Chryst’s handling — the same way Chryst publicly made it clear that Thomas’ demotion was pure motivation — so that there isn’t any confusion for Thomas as to where Biega stands in what happened. He clearly supports Thomas or he wouldn’t have worked publicly to try and resolve the issues with Chryst and Thomas.

Just to go back to the Thomas situation, everyone is assuming that it was PC’s motivational tactic to move TT down to 2nd string. Any chance it was the idea of our rookie DC who got the job having never accomplished anything in his career to justify his position? Maybe I’m wrong but wouldn’t surprise me if this tempest in a teapot was the brainchild move of House who has never been the coordinator of a D1 institurion. Just sounds like a rookie coordinator move, and PC is no rookie as a coordinator.

Comment by Taxing Matters 08.16.13 @ 1:34 pm

You might be right Taxing Matters.

And PC was ‘covering’ for him.

I thought it was strange that no mention, anywhere from what I could read, mentioned House in any of the TT articles. Haering either (the LB coach), only the BF coach mentioned him.

One of them might have dreamed that up and PC of course being the boss had to be the front man.

@ Doc Tom

We as PITT alumni can create a little excitement, we don’t really need to wait for the team to do something. For if that was the case, I think a lot of us would have given up many many years ago.
And since the PG is read more than Pittblather or any other Pitt blog, it would be nice to have more than 1 comment over there.

Comment by EMel 08.16.13 @ 6:21 pm

Wbb – If you are responding to my post above about Chryst and his lack of sharing info I don’t see how being in the military influences my thoughts on that at all.

Sorry, but theory that military members ‘blindly follow’ authority is very old hat and in truth isn’t even wanted much except when the members are in boot camp. I’ll speak for the service I was in and say that had I anyone under my command who felt they had a better way to do something or felt that things weren’t right in some important way and they didn’t speak up, that is where my attention would focus.

Of course that is situation depending on the severity, urgency and importance or the situation at hand just as the difference between practices & off the field issues and being on the goal line with :10 seconds to go and down four points.

With both Shell and Thomas I have maintained a constant stance of how I viewed the situations and how I though things should be handled. No one person has the right to shed their responsibilities to their ‘teammates’ and to the mission (football team’s work over all) for selfish reasons without ramifications.

Those ramifications might be a simple as pulling a kid aside after practice and telling him it looked like he was dogging it on some drills up to and including separating that person from the program for the good of the team. In truth I think Shell made his own bed over and over again and Chryst reached the point where he felt Shell needed to go. I have no problem with that and would have done the same – in my case transferred that member to a probationary unit prior to discharge.

Thomas’ case was, IMO, almost 180 degrees different in content. That was a rash reaction with heavy external influences at work on the player’s decision making. Thomas didn’t pull himself out of the practice that day nor did he complain about what the staff did. We can debate the decision to move Thomas down a peg forever but his immediate reaction to it was fine. Chryst met with him the very next day and told him the door was still open on his return as long as certain things were done – apparently in the form of a week’s suspension as it has come out.

I’ve no problem with that and might have done the exact same thing or something along those lines. It is a poor leader who keeps a closed mind to the energy and resources he has with the personnel under his authority. I felt very strongly about that because I knew that I spoke up when I felt something was sideways, either personally or in the Command. Notice Chryst met with Thomas everyday AND went to the Seniors to discuss Thomas’ situation with them. That is keeping an open mind and is just the thing to let both Thomas know he is still valued AND to bolster team cohesion because you know those seniors are going to be impressed and happy to have been given a voice (not a vote but a voice).

Comment by Reed 08.16.13 @ 6:45 pm

Sorry EMel, yours, mine and everybody else’s input in the media is nothing more than a blip on the radar as compared to Pitt producing on the field of play. This program has the opportunity set before it to make a significant impact on the national college football scene. The stage is set for us in two weeks. Can Pitt step up to the plate, point to the left field wall and slam it out of the park? It’s a long shot against the likes of FSU but that is what keeps me addicted to major college football. Anything is possible. Johnney Football wins the Heisman at Texas A&M, get serious! Happened!

Just win baby, win.

Hail to Pitt!

Comment by Dr. Tom 08.16.13 @ 6:55 pm

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