For many Panther fans Monday, September 19th, 2016, will be known as the ‘Donovan Jeter Apocalypse’. Four-star WPIAL defensive line recruit Donovan Jeter tweeted out at 10:22AM that he committed to Notre Dame over Pitt and Michigan. Yes, the young man that appeared to have a very strong rapport with head coach Pat Narduzzi opted to go elsewhere. Jeter, the recruit that has tweeted myriad ‘#H2P’ chose Touchdown Jesus over our beloved Panthers. The social media meltdown was violent and abrupt.
First let’s state the obvious. Losing a four-star WPIAL recruit that seemed to strongly be leaning towards the Panthers hurts. I haven’t discussed it with Coach Narduzzi but one has to assume this was dropkick to the groin. Jeter’s decision, from a perception standpoint, hurts as well. I won’t put lipstick on a pile of dung.
Does the decision of one recruit cause the demise of the program? Absolutely not. Let me pontificate my thoughts.
When Paul Chryst accepted the head coaching position in 2012, he became Harvey Keitel character Winston Wolfe from the movie Pulp Fiction. Wolfe was known as a master fixer. Paul Chryst didn’t have to dispose of any homicides (thankfully) but he waked into a program was had endured absolute instability and chaos. The football program was a complete mess and the fans had adopted a fatalistic attitude. I would often refer to Panther nation as the ‘abused masses’. Chryst did an admirable job fixing the dumpster fire that was left behind by former athletic director Steve Pederson but the tortured psyche of the fan base remains. It’s become a Pavlovian response. Leo Tolstoy once stated in War and Peace, ‘We are forced to fall back on fatalism as an explanation of irrational events (that is to say, events the reasonableness of which we do not understand)’.
Jeter’s rapid commitment was the kind of ‘irrational event’ Tolstoy was referring to. It’s safe to say that the majority of the fan base didn’t see it coming. The response from the fans ranged from sadness to confusion to vitriol. Based on the bulk of the social media response, we were witnessing the demise of the Pitt football program. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Recruiting is sales. You identify a prospect and sell them on your top attributes. In a perfect world, the prospect is enamored with what you have to offer and close the sale. There’s a saying in sales, ‘Every no leads to a yes’. Great recruiters spend little time lamenting their losses and directly move to the next prospect and aggressively try to close them. Donovan Jeter did Pitt one big favor. He didn’t wait until late December or early January to go elsewhere. Pitt has five months to identify top defensive tackle prospects and land them. If you’re going to lose a recruit, lose them early. Jeter could have pulled a Wade Freebeck (former quarterback recruit) and jumped ship on national letter of intent day. Amir Watts and Keyshon Camp, both four star defensive tackle recruits a year ago, were landed late in the process. It’s abundantly clear that the current coaching staff has a strong eye for defensive talent. They have displayed tenacity and resiliency in the past. Give them the opportunity to prove themselves yet again.
The Narduzzi regime, only in its second year, has brought excitement back to Pitt football. Pitt chancellor Patrick Gallagher and athletic director Scott Barnes are clearly attempting to support his efforts and create a stable and winning environment. Perhaps it’s time for the fan base to assume a bit more positive attitude as well. The chaos and instability that adhered itself to Steve Pederson are long gone. It’s time for a paradigm change in thinking. On September 10th, I sat in the stands and watched the Panthers defeat the evil empire known as Penn State. The pride amongst the fan base was palpable. I’m hoping in the future to see more of that attitude and less of the vapid, fatalistic attitude that I witnessed on Monday. Coach Narduzzi is attempting to change the culture of the football program. Perhaps it’s time for the fans to look in the mirror and do the same.
“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change,” ~ Dr. Wayne Dyer
Harry Psaros can be found on Twitter at @PittGuru