After Sports Illustrated released their report in the winter that the Pitt Panthers were the nation’s worst program when it came to players running afoul with the law, new Panthers head coach Todd Graham has made it a point to send a message to anyone planning on wearing a Pitt uniform.
That message was clear: Nothing will be tolerated.
Graham had to put his words to the test again; this time with a player he had high hopes for, backup quarterback Anthony Gonzalez.
Gonzalez was suspended indefinitely from the team last week after was arrested in his hometown of Bethlehem, PA for possession of marijuana.
Gonzalez, who redshirted last season, was really impressive during spring practice running Graham’s “high octane” offense. He was awarded the Ed Conway Award for the most improved player of the spring. He was competing against returning starter Tino Sunseri and another freshman reserve, Mark Myers, for the starting job.
After a slew of incidents painted a black eye on the program during Dave Wannstedt’s final season, the Pitt administration wanted its coach to have a strong disciplinary policy; something Graham takes very seriously.
In his short tenure as Panthers head coach, Gonzalez is the second player Graham has suspended.
During spring practice, starting tight end Mike Cruz was suspended for a violation of team rules and subsequently quit the team.
Gonzalez is someone who, after a stellar high school career at Liberty High School in Bethlehem, including being named the Associated Press Class AAAA Player of the Year in 2008, probably could have played a major role in Graham’s offense for the next couple of seasons.
While it’s still too early to tell what the future holds for Gonzalez as a Panther, the mountain for him to climb to become the Pitt starter likely just got a lot steeper.
Chances are that he will be reinstated at some point, but he’s likely starting out the season in Graham’s dog house.
It’s one thing for a coach to sit around and preach change. It’s entirely something different for him to act on those words.
That’s something Graham has shown thus far that he’s willing to do.