Graham's defection rankles former Clairton star
Like the other members of the Pitt football team, former Clairton star Kevin Weatherspoon believed every word smooth-talking coach Todd Graham said when he was hired in January.
And like every other Pitt player, Weatherspoon feels betrayed today.
The news broke Wednesday that Graham — without the courtesy of a face-to-face meeting, or even direct contact — had left Pitt to take the same position at Arizona State.
"We're supposed to be a family," Weatherspoon said. "It was about us sticking together, about no one leaving us. All that was said, none of it was true. He left us in the dust."
In a conversation with The Daily News in January, Weatherspoon spoke highly of Graham, his optimistic style and his "high-octane" boasts.
Over the course of the past 11 months, however, Weatherspoon's mood soured.
"It was supposed to be so exciting, high-octane," Weatherspoon said. "Then you saw how it really was. As the season went along, not only me but my team, everything about him (Graham) just seemed iffy. It wasn't the same as when he took over."
Graham rubbed many the wrong way with his tendency to criticize players, especially quarterback Tino Sunseri. Weatherspoon said that, while he never had a personal problem with the coach, Graham didn't always live up to his word.
"There were people (on the team) who were buying in to everything he said," Weatherspoon said. "Promises were made. It hurts us. A lot of us really believed in him. We won't put him down now, but it hurts a lot of us."
Weatherspoon, a redshirt freshman this season, dressed for games but saw essentially no playing time.
"I was very frustrated," he said. "If I knew I shouldn't have been out there, I wouldn't have been so frustrated. I felt like I could have been out there a lot more than I was."
The next Pitt coach will be the fourth Weatherspoon has been played for in two years. He was recruited by former Dave Wannstedt two years ago, and the two had a close relationship. Weatherspoon and the Panthers survived through the drama involving the hiring and immediate firing of Pitt coach Mike Haywood, and now feel nearly overwhelmed by the latest news.
"The good thing is that we really are a team," Weatherspoon said. "We're going to stick together no matter what. We know that college and coaching is a business. Coaches come and go, I guess. But we're here to go to school and to play football, no matter who are coach is. And that's what we're going to do. Everything is supposed to happen for a reason, and we're sticking to that."
Weatherspoon will have the pleasure of a diversion on Friday. While everyone else's attention will be on the search for a new coach later this week, Weatherspoon's heart will be in Hershey.
Clairton will be playing for a third straight PIAA Class A championship. Weatherspoon was a star on Clairton's first state title team in 2009, and he can always find some peace while watching the Bears, even during such a tumultuous time.
"I know we have practice on Friday," Weatherspoon said. "But somehow, I'll find a TV."
And someway, Weatherspoon said, the Pitt football team will stick together.
"No doubt," Weatherspoon said. "It's been a tough day for everyone. But we'll be OK."Additional Information:
Check out the Arizona Republic's coverage on Todd Graham's hiring at Arizona State.