And just like that, Pitt football is back in the news - for all the wrong reasons.
Word broke Tuesday that backup quarterback Anthony Gonzalez was suspended indefinitely. For a while, we weren't sure why, but as mentioned by contributor Adam Bittner on this site, the cause was an apparent arrest for marijuana possession.
Now, I'm not going to be 'that guy' and proclaim that Pitt's woes are beginning all over again. The spin from the media outside of Pittsburgh that pick up the story is likely to be that discipline is still absent at Pitt. But the fact is that some things are simply out of a coach's control. Todd Graham can't be expected to keep a short leash on nearly 100 players in the middle of summer, when classes aren't even in session. But what Graham can do is use this as an example.
With all of the talk about high-octane offenses and transfers (it's still remarkable to me, by the way, that Pitt has landed several transfers while losing barely anyone from the program after the coaching change), it's easy to forget that Graham has only been here for about four and a half months. Pitt fans aren't yet familiar with how he'll operate in off-field discipline. Heck, Graham himself probably isn't all that sure. He's been a head coach before, but with Pitt's many off-field issues last year, it's safe to say that Graham may do things a bit differently at Pitt than he did at Tulsa - especially because the University has been so adamant about insisting the program reign itself in after last year's multiple fiascos.
So in a nutshell, what can we expect Graham to do? I think it's too early to make even an educated guess, but you can be sure that the world (well, Pittsburgh at least) will be watching closely.
The other side of things is, of course, the impact any discipline would have to next year's team on the field. Gonzalez had a very successful spring and was named one of the winners of the Ed Conway Award - given to the team's most improved player. He was viewed as the likely backup to start the season behind Tino Sunseri, and this could change that.
If he is suspended for some game action, that would force Mark Myers into duty should Sunseri get injured or be ineffective. Myers has a strong arm, but is not as mobile as Gonzalez, who should be a good fit in Graham's new offense. Graham could also go the route of demotion, similar to what Dave Wannstedt did to Dan Mason last season after his involvement as a passenger in the hit-and-run, and move Gonzalez to third-string behind Myers. That, again, could put Myers into the spotlight sooner than expected.
It's not as if Gonzalez has actual game experience - he doesn't. But he was viewed as the best quarterback behind Sunseri, and therfore should give the team a better chance to win if Pitt needs to go to its bench.
Another option would be to suspend Gonzalez through the summer. There are still several months left before football season, and Graham could decide that is a long enough 'punishment.' If that happens, that could also affect the quarterback rotation because Myers may start the fall as the backup and never relinquish that spot if he impresses.
Regardless of what you think Graham should do, he needs to make a quick decision and not let the situation linger. He needs to be fair but also be consistent with the University's promise to clean up the football program's off-field issues.