Soiled Savior

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What goes around comes around. All spiritual debts must be paid in full. Karma not punishment or retribution but simply an extended expression or consequence of natural acts. If you do dirt you may have to eat dirt or least take a hot soapy shower somewhere along the way.

On or around Jan. 1, the short lived tenure of Michael Haywood the first African-American football coach “hired” at the University of Pittsburgh came to a screeching halt after barely more than a fortnight.

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The media immediately began doodling away as they circled the wagons preparing to scalp Mr. Haywood. They hunkered down and began the process of devaluing and degrading Haywood, his coaching staff and his family. Bob Smizik wrote; “Acting swiftly, boldly and correctly, Pitt chancellor Mark Nordenberg today fired football coach Michael Haywood. The firing, announced in a statement, came little more than two weeks after Haywood had been named the successor to Dave Wannstedt.”

Pete Hamel of the NY Times chimed in; “The firing [of Haywood] and its aftermath are likely to place significant pressure on Athletic Director Steve Pederson, who hired Haywood and praised him at the time by saying, “Most importantly, Michael is a man of character and integrity.” When Pederson was at Nebraska, he hired Bill Callahan as the Cornhuskers’ football coach. After four seasons, Nebraska fired Callahan after he compiled a 27-22 record—an unacceptable mark at a university that expects to compete for national championships. Pederson himself was fired by in 2007, shortly before Callahan.”

H’mm, Pederson himself was fired by Nebraska, yet he comes back to Pitt and he is immediately restored to sainthood? If Pederson can be rehired and exalted after initially abandoning Pitt to pursue his “dream job” at Nebraska then why shouldn’t Haywood be rehired as the next head coach of the Panthers after Todd Graham, the man that they praised as the next “Savior” of the program hopped the nearest camel and moseyed on out to the Arizona desert? Would bringing back Haywood be the right thing to do? Hell yeah! Would Pederson and the powers at Pitt ever remotely consider doing it? Hell no!

Was the confluence of the Mon, Allegheny and Ohio rivers too much for Graham to bear or was the addition of a few million more pesos the deciding factor for him to abandon ship?

There was no respect or empathy for Haywood displayed by anyone even remotely associated with the University (not that he deserved any for his alleged actions). However, it seems a travesty that a student/athlete who never played one down for the man would be given a forum to gloat. Pitt usually controls the interviews of its players but according to a story written by Jerry DiPaola of Tribune Review on Nov. 29, Pitt Senior defensive lineman Chas Alecxih had this to say regarding the downfall of Heyward. “I was happy [that he was fired]. [He was] a real (jerk). You should have seen our first meeting. He came in with a wrinkled suit, the worst suit I had ever seen. It looked like he had picked it up at Goodwill. [He was] very arrogant.”

Alecxih also said; “[Todd Graham] came in and said, ‘You had a great coach before (Dave Wannstedt), which we did, but we’re going to take this program to the next level. He told us he had a plan and we needed to trust him.” After Graham broke camp for Arizona, Alecxih only had this generic comment about his defection saying, “How is it in college football, if a player wants to leave he has to do all kinds of stuff, he has to fill out paperwork, he has to sit out a year but if a coach wants to leave he can up and leave without so much as a moment’s notice?” Chas also forgot to mention the apparel of his now former coach.

There is a dark tar-like substance oozing from the pores of college athletics. The elements of this hideous material are racism, cronyism, nepotism, sexual discrimination and all of the things that embody the opposite of what college athletics are supposed to be about. Standout running back Ray Graham had a season ending injury running his heart out for Todd Graham. No one gives a damn if he ever receives one penny as a professional athlete. Let the NCAA put the “boy” on the auction block, fake like they care if he gets an “edu-mication.” As far as his injury, oh well he knew the risks. However, I cannot with a clear conscience totally blame Todd Graham for “getting ghost.” Pitt considered it strictly business to fire Haywood while snickering behind the scenes. It was also a business decision for Todd Graham to do what was best for him and his family by accepting the job as the head football coach at Arizona State. But ya know what guys and dolls?

The man that Pitt had undiluted faith and trust in to lead them to the next level, had the last laugh.

(Aubrey Bruce can be reached at: abruce@newpittsburghcourier.com or 412-583-6741. Bruce is also the NFL/AFC North analyst on the “Odd Couple Sports Show” streaming live on Fox Sports radio; WCWA 1230am, Toledo, Ohio, Wednesdays from 11-11:30 a.m.)

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