Graham situation tough one for Pitt parents
When new Pitt football coach Todd Graham walked past Dom DeCicco Sr., while Steelers coach Mike Tomlin and director of football operations Kevin Colbert came over to introduce themselves at Pitt's Pro Day in March, it didn't make for a favorable first impression.
DeCicco's oldest son, Dom, was a two-time All-Big East safety for the Panthers who now plays for the Chicago Bears; his youngest son, Brock, was a redshirt freshman tight end who has since transferred to Wisconsin.
"Here's a guy with two sons at Pitt, and he doesn't know who I am," said DeCicco Sr., of Jefferson Hills. "The Steelers were so classy, and that guy was just the opposite. There was never any communication with the (Pitt) coaches. I had no idea who they were. They had no idea who I was. Nothing."
DeCicco wasn't surprised to see Graham leave so suddenly for Arizona State on Wednesday after only one season at Pitt, mostly because he never believed Graham had intentions of staying long-term.
"It almost looked like he was trying too hard to convince people, with the high-octane talk and the billboards. It was all about him, not the kids," DeCicco said. "He was very cordial. I think he interacted with people fine. But Western Pennsylvania is a different place. People can see through you.
"The bottom line is, I wasn't buying what he was selling."
Graham's departure has left a bitter taste with many Pitt parents, but even more so for DeCicco. Despite promising the DeCiccos that the Panthers would employ a tight end in the spread offense, Brock saw his role reduced and felt compelled to transfer. He left a full scholarship to walk on at Wisconsin, where the elder DeCicco is paying tuition this school year.
"They lied to the kid in the spring. If they had just told him, he could have left and gone somewhere else," said DeCicco Sr., who owns a construction company. "For the kids to go through Dave Wannstedt getting fired, the Mike Haywood fiasco and this guy leaving, if I ran my business like they ran that coaching search I'd have filed for bankruptcy 10 years ago.
"And you know who got punished• Not (Pitt athletic director) Steve Pederson. Not Todd Graham. The kids. Steve Pederson still has his job, Todd Graham is making $500,000 more a year, but the kids are playing for their fourth head coach in a year. Pitt blew this program up in 13 months, completely destroyed it. It's cost me about $40,000, but I'm glad Brock got out of that kook show."