Todd Graham Reverses Course, Decides to Stay at Pitt
Pittsburgh, PA- Todd Graham is headed back to Pittsburgh, that is assuming he ever left. As we reported here over the weekend, Graham was set to return to the Tulsa Golden Hurricane due to “personal issues,” taking a drastic cut in pay and a position as a defensive assistant. Ironically, it turns out those personal issues may have just been that the 2 million dollar salary he was to receive was not enough.
Faced with the prospect of a year of dwindling attendance and fan apathy, University of Pittsburgh Athletic Director Steve Pederson reached deep into the athletic department’s budget to find an additional sum of money, rumored to be north of one million dollars, to entice the enigmatic coach to stay. When asked where the money would come from, Pederson claimed many of the funds had been set aside for performance incentives that had been missed.
“(Panther’s head basketball coach) Jamie Dixon had a large amount of incentive pay that had been set aside in anticipation of a deep tournament run. Though he received some money for reaching the round of 32, increasing bonuses for reaching the Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight, Final Four, Championship game, and for taking home the title will fortunately not have to be given out. Combining the reality that the team didn’t get out of the first weekend of the tournament with the fact that these bonuses were set to be paid to everyone from the head coach to the players to the assistants and other staff, and the total sum saved was quite large. Therefore, the net effect of the renegotiated contract to the department should be negligible.”
When asked about paying the players, Pederson quickly responded.
“Oh. Expenses. Player’s expenses, yes.”
Sources close to the situation who had originally believed Graham timed his departure to coincide with the Panther’s excruciating loss to Butler in the second round of the NCAA Tournament so that he could get out of town under the radar sang a different tune when it was announced Graham was returning. One source spoke on the condition of anonymity.
“Todd knew about the incentive pay for the basketball team. He even arranged for Tom Bradley, who he had met during his time at West Virginia, to issue that bull**** statement about the bridge being burned so that he could get at that money after Pitt lost. I don’t know what was in it for Bradley, but I’m guessing a fat check.”
The source, who is close to Graham, offered this insight into why the coach went to such lengths and put so much at risk in order to get a raise.
“Todd has an ego issue, and he needs money to stroke it for him. If he isn’t paid like the top dog, then he isn’t the top dog in his mind, and that’s a big issue for him. He believes that he led Rice to their best season ever (7-6 in 2005) and led Tulsa to their best win ever (last year at Notre Dame), so he’s entitled to whatever he wants. Never mind that neither of these statements are even remotely close to true, this is what he told me and what is in his head. When I tried to explain to him that he hadn’t done anything for Pittsburgh yet, he tried to tell me that he gave the greatest introductory press conference speech in the history of Pitt. The guy has issues.”
If these statements are true, they might not necessarily even mark a significant departure from Graham’s past negotiating tactics, which most notably include using bathroom breaks during contract talks with Rice University to leverage a better deal with Tulsa via cell phone in 2007. Graham also reportedly got Pittsburgh to raise their initial offer to him in January by nearly half a million dollars by convincing the Pitt administration that he had nearly unbreakable ties to the Tulsa community. He even went so far as to claim that his wife, Penni, would leave him if he left Tulsa, and had his wife write Facebook and Twitter status updates meant to mislead the Tulsa community as to his whereabouts during communications with Pitt officials.
Graham’s self-described “spiritual issues” seemed to also be addressed in the deal. Included in Graham’s new contract was a provision to fund a new position in the football department, Spiritual Adviser, a position that will be filled by Pastor Bill Scheer, formerly of GUTS church in Tulsa. Scheer had worked with Graham at Tulsa but had severed ties with the school in Graham’s last year amongst allegations that he had provided some players with equine growth hormone. Scheer, a well known motivational speaker in his former church, said he was excited to be involved in the Pittsburgh program.
“In the end, this turned out to be little more than a hiccup.” said Pederson. “I think people will forget all about this once they see the team play.”
Pederson just forgot to mention that also in the end, Todd Graham is slightly richer.