I find that as time has passed in the new era of Pitt football under coach Pat Narduzzi, the hype has seamlessly transitioned into expectations. Which occurred whether we wanted it to or not. Lost in the hype and eventual expectations, Pitt faithful closed their eyes on the notion or the ability to garner bad news.
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Besides Tyler Boyd and his alcohol related incident, the Panthers have had a flawless off-season. That is up until the last seventy-two hours.
On Friday evening, the most notable of all 2016 Pitt recruits to this point, defensive back Tony Butler (St. Edwards HS) had rescinded his verbal commitment to play at Pitt.
What Butler possesses is nothing short of incredible talent. He ranked in the 99th percentile of all Nike Football Athletes in his class while currently being designated as a three star prospect heading into his senior season at St. Edwards in Ohio. So of course, it is painful to see him go.
If you’re a fan, the interpretation of this decommitment can go in various directions. We can be angry. We can be hateful towards the young man. Also, we can mope around being sad and downtrodden. To be honest, it’s not really worth our time to do so. Its only July, things like this are going to happen. As I alluded to before, collectively Pitt-Nation has become lost, including yours truly, in the aspirations and the ongoing changes that are occurring for the program. We didn’t believe bad news could exist. It does and we have to get over it.
If you’re the coaching staff, their is only a single way to interpret this situation. Even at the college level, it is a business. You have to approach each day looking for a way to brand, market, and sell the product. The equity has to pay off in the end and those that invest in that product have to live and breathe that tradition. In the case of Butler, that was never fully the case. Where he committed to play for Pitt, it was nothing more than a verbal agreement. Easily able to be broke.
With the First Pick
What I gather from the staff and Narduzzi as a whole was, “I won’t waste your time if you don’t waste ours.” Unfortunately time was wasted and I truly believe that Butler’s scholarship offer was only about two weeks away from being pulled after flirting with the idea of playing elsewhere. The coaching doesn’t begin when the freshman move in, rather when the commitment to play is received. The first lesson was bitter but apparently needed.
In the eyes of Tony Butler, I blushed at the initial opportunity to play in a major conference without taking the due time and patience to elaborate on the best position for myself.
Looking at his path, it is convincingly easy to understand his position. Pitt came along and offered early, so he didn’t want to bypass that opportunity. After several camps and his performances at each, he became a blip-on-the-radar to other programs. Ohio State, Arizona State, Maryland, and Michigan to name a few. With Butler residing in Ohio, it’s clear to see how difficult it would be to turn down a potential opportunity to play at either OSU or UofM. Both of which are more polarizing markets than the one he could find at Pitt.
Where I am sad at the outcome, I am confident that it was only a matter of time for it to come to fruition.
I truly understand why fans of the program are bashing and criticizing Butler, but I must ask a simple question, “What portrait are we trying to paint for other prospects viewing Pitt as a football destination?”
A message to Tony: I appreciate and am thankful for your early dedication to Pitt and their vision. I hope for nothing but your health and success wherever a scholarship might lead you in the near future. To take a line from Liam Neeson, “Good Luck.”
- Summer workouts rage on in Oakland.
- OT Jarod Jones-Smith is out for the season after suffering a knee injury.
- Pitt’s South Side complex is showing progress in the rejuvenation of their facility.
- Myself and fellow City of Champions staff writer Brett Tunno will be cooperatively presenting Pitt position group/player/coach insights in the future in anticipation of the upcoming season!