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.”
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.