Mehno: Pitt football program has major problems
PITTSBURGH — Pitt lost to North Carolina on Thursday night in a mostly empty Heinz Field, and two truths were immediately evident on social media:
1. Pitt needs a new head football coach.
2. Pitt needs a new on-campus stadium.
Pat Narduzzi is the coach, and he was the coach last year when Pitt had a glorious home win over Penn State, then went to Clemson later and knocked off the nation’s No. 1 team.
Pitt is losing because there’s a shortage of good players. It’s OK to hold Narduzzi responsible for that because recruiting is a huge part of his job. He’s in his third year at Pitt, which probably isn’t enough time to build the base he will need to have.
Narduzzi’s sideline demeanor may be an issue. He seems to be raging often, and at the slightest provocation. How can players have poise in tough situations when their coach is 10 yards on the field, waving his arms and ranting like a madman over the slightest issue?
Does all that yelling do any good, or does it lead to stress that creates more mistakes?
Narduzzi is in the potentially awkward position of working for an athletic director who did not hire him, but there’s no logical reason to start working on his dismissal papers. The lack of stability is one reason Pitt football has been on the downswing for so long.
Of course, it’s easier to change coaches than it is to change addresses.
Talk of building a stadium on campus is insanity. There’s no room for it, there’s no money for it and there’s really no demand for it.
A new stadium is the irrational pipe dream of a handful of hard cores who fantasize about sunny days when old Pitt Stadium was packed. Those were few and far between, and usually limited to opponents whose fans bought plenty of tickets.
If the coaches can’t sell recruits on playing in an NFL stadium, they’re doing a lousy job. Heinz Field has too many seats for most Pitt games, and that’s an ongoing issue.
This is a pro sports town consumed with the Steelers. Even among those who follow college sports, loyalties are divided among Pitt, Penn State and West Virginia (not to mention to ubiquity of Notre Dame’s subway alumni).
Winning more games will sell more tickets for Pitt football. A home game against a 1-8 opponent like North Carolina should be an easy victory, not the source of more angst among a fan base that is continually disappointed.
If it’s taking the Penguins time to figure things out, that shouldn’t be a surprise.
Unlike last year, the team had changes in the offseason. It takes time to figure out who the replacements for Nick Bonino, Chris Kunitz, Matt Cullen and Marc-Andre Fleury should be.
The Penguins don’t have to worry about winning their division or their conference. They just need to get into the playoffs.
They’ve shown they know what to do from there.
Mehno can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org