We all had fun watching everything that went down at Pittsburgh in the off-season in regard to the coaching changes. First Dave Wannstedt, the butt of many a mustache and solid wall jokes over the last few years, was forced out the door and had a bizarre press conference with the entire team standing behind him. Then Pittsburgh’s new coach, Mike Haywood, was canned after being arrested for an alleged assault and dispute in Indiana. Every Penn State fan cracked a smile at the misfortune of those in Pittsburgh, but I am here to tell you that the Panthers should feel good about the situation they are in now.
I was up in Newport, Rhode Island the past couple of days to cover Big East media days for Examiner.com and FOX Sports. The conference has a tradition the night before the actual media sessions of holding a traditional New England clambake the night before, making it one of the more unique traditions in media days in this country. For anyone with an opportunity to check out the Big East media days, plan on attending the clam bake. All of the media covering the conference get a chance to mix and mingle with others, Big East officials, all of the coaches, the players representing their schools and more. The Orange Bowl had a few officials on hand who shared a couple old Joe Paterno stories with me and Bowl Championship Series Executive Director Bill Hancock was on hand as well. The BCS may be criticized for a number of things, but the politeness of Hancock should never be attacked. The guy is as nice as can be and he quickly makes every conversation about you and he is genuinely interested in what you have to say about a number of topics. He asked for my take on who the Big East should consider as a tenth football member. At one point I joked that Penn State should be considered, and suggested that Texas A&M should also be in the mix, which got him to laugh a bit. He has a sense of humor.
But the highlight of the evening must have been when I sat down at the table with my plate full of lobster, clam shells, mussels, spicy sausage and a piece of chicken. I was joined by Mark Ennis from Big East Coast Bias, Joshua Guiher from Collegiate Stadiums, a couple folks from Sirius Satellite Radio and Penni Graham, the wife of Pitt’s new head coach Todd Graham. She coudl not have been any nicer as far as I am concerned, and she came off looking and sounding like a true ambassador for Pittsburgh football.
I was fortunate enough to get the insight of what it is like being the wife of a head college football coach and she seemed to be really excited about where their family is situated now. She shared a number of stories about their time in Tulsa and even shared a couple thoughts about Joe Paterno, who she said she would love to have a chance to meet at some point.
At one point Graham said she felt bad for Joe Paterno because of all the negative things people say about him. Folks, the wife of Pitt’s new head coach has a heart for Joe Pa. What else needs to be said here?
The next day I got a chance to listen to what Todd Graham had to say about a number of topics, including his views on sportsmanship.
“I’m an old-school kind of guy who believes in good sportsmanship,” Graham said. When asked how he would react if one of his players violates one of the new rules this season with a celebration penalty, thus taking a possible touchdown off the scoreboard, Graham said “He’ll need some counseling.”
Sometimes it is hard not to get wrapped up in these media day events and come away liking a number of guys, whether they be coaches or players. I have to say, Pittsburgh came away looking like one of the better schools at Big East media days.
They also ate 14 lobsters, more than any other Big East school. So they have that going for them.
In case you were wondering, 1,855 days until Penn State vs. Pitt.