STEVE PEDERSON OPENING COMMENTS:
"The number of incidents involving football student-athletes is totally unacceptable. Certainly, this was an unusual year. We had so many high-profile incidents in such a short period of time. We are committed to running a great program here."
"I'm very proud of the student-athletes we have here. We have a lot of great people, who day-in and day-out, do such a terrific job for us. They make us proud every day. We have had students that have made mistakes. When they've made mistakes, they've paid the price in all of the cases."
Coach Graham and I talk about every day, the opportunities for our student-athletes. We're excited to help support his efforts to be successful here. We are committed to correcting this particular situation and moving forward, and we're grateful for the support we have throughout this department to help young people reach their very highest goals here, and achieve great things while they're at the University of Pittsburgh.
We certainly understand the situation. We're addressing the situation, and we're ready to move forward.
Todd Graham OPENING COMMENTS:
"Naturally, the article that came out today was unacceptable for us. We take accountability for that, pressing forward. From day one, from my very first meeting, we're very aware of the situation. It's not something we just started talking about today. We started talking about it at the very first meeting. I've been very, very impressed with the young people here, with the players that we have. There's some great young men in there with some great character. We're going to emphasize the Pitt way, which is character, integrity, discipline and accountability. All is we can do is press forward from here. I'm very excited about that. I'm very excited about our football team and how they've responded to this point."
"I know you guys are aware of the Fernando Diaz situation; a young man who left the program for personal reasons back in August. He had re-enrolled this semester, and was working his way back into the program. In light of the latest events, that will not be possible. He will no longer be a part of our program."
"I'm excited to be here. I want to make sure I get an opportunity to talk about all the great things and the the great young men that we have in the program and the things that we're doing. We're excited about the future, and we're excited about what they're going to do on the field, off the field, in the classroom, and naturally in the community."
Was it unfortunate that there were a number of arrests while CBS was doing this investigation?
Pederson: "I think over the course of time, we've been very proud of how our students have reacted in areas that you want them to react to; what they're doing in the classroom, what they're doing off the field. We've had 2,700 hours of volunteering community service work over the last year. We had 290 students we honored the other day with a 3.0 grade point average or higher, 25 of them with a 4.0. They've succeed in their sport as well. We have a lot of great young people here. Unfortunately, last year was just an unusual year for us. Coach Graham and I aren't going to be satisfied until the number is zero. We're going to work at that every day."
Are you going to do criminal background checks?
Pederson: "We started more intensely doing what we're calling background research. We're asking more and more questions. We're asking our coaches to answer more specific questions as we recruit the student-athletes. I think the discussion of criminal background checks is probably a national discussion to have; commissioners and athletic directors getting together and talking about how you do that. There are a lot of things that go into that, that don't make it as easy as one might think. I think anytime you can do that, where it would be fair and equitable to everybody, including the student-athletes, we would certainly favor having that big discussion."
To be at the top of this list, is it embarrassing? Are you alarmed?
Pederson: "This is a great institution. I'm vefry, very proud of how the athletic department has operated inside this instituition. I think it's very untypical of our football program and this athletic department. Anything that reflects in a negative way on the University is very disappointing to us. We're going to double our efforts and get this fixed."
Who is to blame?
Pederson: "We've looked at this and said we've got to move forward. Looking backward, I don't know what purpose that's going to serve. Other than the fact that we have to continue to work every single day to educate and mentor and work with our student-athletes. I've talked to them about numerous times, they have a responsibility to ourselves, that they are upholding the standards they have set for themselves. They're representing their family and they're representing the University. We take that seriously. Certainly, they feel as bad about this as anybody. A lot of them have paid a very high price for mistakes.
Does this cause you to review your like skills program?
Pederson: "We're going to continue to evaluate everything. Back in October, we really did institute some more in-depth procedures in terms of evaluation prior to the arrival on campus. It still is so dependent upon the coaches going into the schools and into the cities, and know as much as they can about people. Then, the hardest part in all of that, is it's very hard to predict human behavior. From time-to-time, people make mistakes. We're trying to do the very best we can while they're here and helping them grow into the people they want to be, and we want for them."
How important is it to move forward with a new head football coach?
Pederson: "It's interesting from the first time Coach Graham and I talked. He was talking about how he runs his program and what he believes in. When I heard the things he was talking about, I thought, ‘That's the University of Pittsburgh.' This institution, for 120 years of playing football, has had certain things that it's held in very high esteem. In addition to success, it was doing this with integrity, doing this with class and doing this with character. That's the way he's run his programs. That's the way he's responded in his times as a head coach, and in his times as an assistant coach. It seemed like the perfect mesh. This wasn't a change that he had never done, and it wasn't a change from anything we've ever done here.
When did you find out about this list?
Pederson: "We did know ahead of time they were doing this study. The story, just like the rest of you, we didn't really know what it was going to say. Certainly, we were aware that we would have a number of incidents. The actual story was new, but the discussion of this was not something we hadn't been addressing for a period on our own."
You didn't know you were No. 1 on this list until (Wednesday)?
Pederson: "We didn't know specifically what the story was going to entail. It did give us an indication that we were at the top of the list, though."
This string of incidents, was this part of why a coaching change was made?
Pederson: "I don't want to go back and re-look at anything that we've done. We're giving every bit of support we can to coach Graham to move this program forward. He's said it, and I agree, that we have a lot of good young people on this football team. I thought they showed tremendous character in the bowl game. They pushed through that and had a successful experience. They're up studying here every day and doing really good things. We're excited to see what the future holds for them."
Are you concerned this will affect recruiting?
Graham: "I'm not. You reap what you sow. I think kids will meet whatever expectation you set. We set very, very high standards. The standard is that you did not get arrested. Our standard is much higher than that."
"One of the things that sold me when I sat down and met with Mark (Nordenberg) and Steve, is you have to fit a place. This was something that was the foundation of our conversation; how do you approach it each day? I consider myself an educator and a teacher. I started off 26 years ago coaching seventh grade football. I do not want to win if we don't have character and integrity in our program. There's only one one way we're going to win, and that's with character and integrity, and accountability in our program."
"I feel very confident that this is a great place and a great university. This university is about excellence. You have to fit a place. That's why I felt so confident about coming here. I feel great about how our kids have embraced the Pitt way and the things that we've talked about. We have good kids here. We have great young people."
"It's all about being proactive and educating the whole student-athlete. The worst thing that I could do is bring someone here who doesn't fit. If you don't have a passionate work ethic, you're not going to like being here because we're going to work you. The academic part of it, the community part of it; it's a whole student-athlete. That's what we're trying to develop. I think that's where we're at, and we're moving forward. From here forward, I've got a lot of confidence that this is a great place and I think people know if you're genuine, or if you have a passion and know what your beliefs are. Your actions speak louder than your words. I think that's something, as we move forward, we've got a program to be very, very proud of."
After this incident, do you tell the team anything different?
Graham: "From the time you come in, you establish your foundation of your program. One of the things we taught is that we coach and we play from the heart. I want young people that have a passion for the University of Pittsburgh, and have a passion for doing things right."
"Winning is not just about winning on Saturday. It's about winning every day. I feel good about where we're at. It's not something we're being reactive to. It's something we came in and talked about. Whether there were incidents or not, that's how we run our program. That's what our program is about. I think the key to winning football games is getting 11 guys to do what you coach them to do, right, the first time you ask them to do it. That requires character, discipline. I think those are talents, and I think we have a bunch of that here."
Is it frustrating as a coach having to dismiss a player after setting guidelines, or an opportunity to set an example?
Graham: "One of the things we wanted to establish is what the expectations and what the standards are. (Diaz) left the program for personal reasons. He was actually trying to work his way back into the program. He hadn't practiced with the team, but he was trying to work his way back. Unfortunately, made a mistake."
"There's going to be accountability. That's why he's not in our program anymore. I can tell you this. The thing with me, is you hurt for the kid. That's something that's very difficult to make those kinds of decisions. At the end of the day, we're not just trying to win a game. We're not just trying to develop one winning season. We're trying to build a program. What I did from day one, just like I did this morning, and every day that I talk to them. This program is bigger than Coach Graham. It's more important than me."
"We're building a program. We have a strong foundation to build that on. I have a great confidence in the young people here. I have a great confidence in our staff. We think that there's bright days ahead."
Are you ready to take a more public stance in discipline?
Pederson: "I have always relied on our coaches to make good judgment calls, the discipline of our players and I have full confidence in coach Graham and our other coaches, that they'll continue to do that in the right way. Certainly, they always do in consultation. We have fine coaches, they're going to make good decisions and lead this program forward."
Where does the accountability exist?
Pederson: "I hope that the first accountability starts with our student-athletes. Then, to a larger extent, it's us holding them accountable for what happens here. I think that's significant. I think we've got a good team plan, and a good future with working together."
Did you start the background checks before the investigation?
Pederson: "We started that before. We didn't know the investigation started (when they started background checks). Like with anything we do, we do this based on our program needs regardless of what everyone else is doing, or what anyone else might say."
Why didn't you defend Pitt in the SI story?
Pederson: "We just said we were not going to participate in that particular interview."