A bunch of Pitt fans/alumni writing and ranting about the University of Pittsburgh Panthers and anything sports and entertainment related. Other than being alumni, the writers of this blog have no affiliation or official connection with the University of Pittsburgh, the Pitt Panthers, and related entities. The views expressed on this blog are solely our own. You can e-mail us: PittSportsBlather-at-sbcglobal.net.

Sunday, August 31, 2003

Al Qaeda Strikes Penn State 

The following article, a front-page story by Walt Frank in today's Altoona Mirror, is entirely too funny. It seems that despite having sold out its home football games for decades, Penn State is suddenly having trouble filling the stands. For instance, this past Saturday's game against Temple drew just over 101,000 fans. Impressive. However, Beaver Stadium's capacity is 107,282.

Penn State's sudden inability to sell out Beaver Stadium would be entertaining in and of itself, given that Pitt just sold out all of its season tickets for the first time in years. However, Penn State's official spin on the problem is perhaps even funnier. Get a load of this.

Penn State University officials say the events of September 11, 2001, may be one reason the university has been finding it more difficult to fill Beaver Stadium, the university's 107,282-seat football stadium. "For the last two seasons, college football programs across the country have noticed that fans have not been traveling... as in the past," said Bud Meredith, Penn State Athletics ticket manager. "There are several factors. Some of it is still the after-effects of 9-11. Some of it is the economy."

Apparently the after-effects of 9-11 and the ailing economy are being felt more by Penn State fans than by Ohio State or Iowa fans.

While Penn State officials say they are seeing a decline, that does not seem to be the case at Ohio State, which captured the NCAA football championship in 2002. "Our fans are traveling. We almost always use about all of our allotment for away games," said Steve Snapp, Sports Information Director and Assistant Athletic Director... Snapp said Buckeye fans will fill half of the stadium when Ohio State travels to Indiana October 25. Fans of the University of Iowa, coming off of an 11-2 season in 2002, also are traveling in large numbers.

Hmmm... I wonder what Ohio State and Iowa have in common that they don't share with Penn State? I suppose that winning a lot of games recently may be a part of it. But who knows? Bud Meredith has another, particularly interesting, answer.

Penn State, which always has been known as one of the best "traveling" schools among college football teams, also is seeing a decline in the number of fans traveling to away games. The change from playing an independent schedule, which included many eastern teams, to joining the Big Ten in 1993 has played a factor. "I think going into the Big Ten had an impact on traveling; the closest game is Ohio State, and it is about 6.5 hours away," Meredith said. "It is not like in the old days when you could just hop in the car and drive to Pittsburgh, West Virginia, or Temple."

I liked this answer because it implies that Penn State is paying a financial price for refusing to play the likes of Pitt and West Virginia. Furthermore, I genuinely wanted to believe it. However, I can't. Penn State has been in the Big Ten for ten years now. They never had trouble selling out either their home games or their allotment of away tickets before. If Lion fans didn't mind traveling to Iowa City in the late 1990s, why should they mind now?

The difference is most likely just winning. Penn State is finally paying a price at the box office for losing so often on the football field, just as Pitt is finally reaping the rewards for winning more often.

I try not to gloat too hard at Penn State's apparent misfortune, because I remember how embarrassed I used to be at the far, far smaller crowds in Pitt Stadium during the early 1990s. However, all of the taunts that I've heard over the years from Lion fans regarding Pitt's inability to sell out makes it hard. I am hardly a saint.

Hail to Pitt's Taking Full Advantage of its Sold Out Home in 2003.

Recap: This Weekend's Games 

Last Wednesday, I picked four games against the spread on this site. They were the games that I was most interested in this week. Unfortunately for anyone who may not have wanted a "Matt Hayes wannabe" on this site (see Chas's comment under here), I went 3-1. My only loss? My other school, my beloved Buckeyes. Let's review these vital games, as well as one additional game...

(Washington (+9) at Ohio State): The Buckeyes were more than OK without suspended tailback Maurice Clarett. They were dominant, crushing Washington 28-9. Maurice Hall, Lydell Ross, and Craig Krenzel were just as good of a rushing attack as Clarett, if not better. And any one of ABC's 300 close-up shots of Clarett patrolling the sidelines showed that he knew it (incidentally, the game highlight was clearly Keith Jackson's chastising the media for running the Clarett scandal into the ground as ABC's camera's zoomed in on Clarett and continued to do so, over and over again, all game long). The Buckeyes strong passing game was a nice addition, although not nearly as smooth as Pitt's will probably be.

In any case, I, like the Associated Press and most of ESPN's analysts, overestimated the effect that losing Clarett would have and decided that Ohio State would not cover. Damn. Now we'll see how the Buckeyes do against a much stronger North Carolina State team in two weeks.

(Wisconsin (-3) at West Virginia): I was genuinely rooting for the Mountaineers here. West Virginia, Pitt, Syracuse, and Boston College (we'll talk about you losers later) need to win every out-of-conference game that they can in order to guarantee the Big East's inclusion in the BCS after Miami and Virginia Tech leave. And the Mountaineers looked like they were going to pull off the upset for most of this game. But then Wisconsin's high-octane rushing and passing attack scored 17 unanswered points and pulled out the win: 24-17. I predicted that the Badgers would cover, but only because I thought that WVU was overrated. I'm not so sure about WVU's being overrated now.

And one more thing... your new home uniforms suck, hoopies. The Denver Broncos's side stripes have been done to death. Plus, road sign yellow is not the better of your colors.

(Southern California (+4) at Auburn): Damn, were me and my boy Trev Alberts right about Auburn's being overrated or what? USC 23-0.

Incidentally, I'm watching the 8:00 AM edition of College Gameday Final as I write this. Trev Alberts was entirely too smug about his being right -- and Mark May's being wrong -- about Auburn. I can't stand being on that a-hole's side for once.

(Temple (+24.5) at Penn State): I said that PSU wouldn't cover because of the extent to which the Lions are rebuilding this year. But even I was surprised at how much rebuilding they have to do. I mean, only being able to get ahead of Temple 7-3 by halftime? Only beating them by 13 (23-10) in the end? And if not for a few key mistakes by the Owls, this would have been a lot closer.

Of course, the Lions can easily recover from this -- just as Ohio State recovered from barely beating Cincinnati last year. But what's so chilling is how the Central PA media is portraying this win in such a largely positive light. You barely beat Temple, fer chrissakes. (Incidentally, this is even more chilling.)

By the way, the College Gameday Final crew agrees with my assessment of Oregon's "lightening" yellow uniforms. And I would like to make a second nomination for "The Oregon Award." The University of Illinois and their all-orange uniforms. Appalling. Especially for a Big Ten team.

Finally, my additional game. I would like to especially thank the Boston College Eagles for laying down at home and giving up 20 points in the 4th quarter to let their underdog opponent and proud ACC member, Wake Forest, walk all over them. Way to stand up for the integrity of the Big East Conference and its loyal members, guys. We're guaranteed to keep our slot in the BCS now. At least West Virginia tried. And at least UConn beat a Big Ten team... albeit the conference whipping-boy Indiana.

Hail to St. Mary's Byzantine Catholic Church's haluski, clearly the best food of Johnstown Folkfest 2003. And hail to old steel towns who have never torn down their steel mills. Young Pittsburghers have to drive to Johnstown to see what their town once looked like.

Friday, August 29, 2003

The New Season's Cusp 

We actually have to wait another week before Pitt plays its season opener. For just about everyone else, the college football season opens this weekend (or last night). This means a veritable cornucopia of articles for "previewing" the upcoming season of football in Pittsburgh. Quick summary of the articles today:

A couple articles out there on Big East transitions (again?) with Miami and VT leaving, and how that can be good for the other teams starting next year -- provided they get to stay in the BCS after 2005. The PG article also predicts the Big East this year: Miami, Pitt, VT, WV.

A coaching puff piece on rising coaching star, Defensive Coach Paul Rhoads (who also turned down the same position at Nebraska during the offseason).

A couple stories about how Pitt has been rising -- it's the talent, stupid -- and that the national media is noticing -- along with a companion column, that may as well be titled, "Don't Get Cocky, Kid."

Pitt Sports Blather: We summarize, so you can read less.

What the...? 

First off, I'm going to send the Fab Five from Queer Eye for the Straight Guy over to Dan Shanoff's place. Anybody who thinks that Oregon's "lightning" uniforms are hot has got to be either a moving fashion violation or blind. Remember, wearing something different (e.g., wearing nothing while streaking down Craig Street) is not always a good thing.

Second, if you look quickly at ESPN Motion, you should be able to catch their list of the Top 10 games of 2003. Ohio State at Michigan is number two. Who could beat that? Number one, Miami at Pitt. If Pitt makes it that far either undefeated or still in contention for the Big East title, I'll have a hard time not calling the season a success already. But if they beat Miami, I might even stay out past 10:00 PM.

But the biggest reason for this post is a question. Can somebody with better access to the Pittsburgh media explain this to me?

Huge running back Rashad Jennings of Lynchburg-Christian Academy, Va., committed to the Pittsburgh Panthers over Virginia Tech. The Panthers withdrew an offer to defensive lineman/linebacker Chenry Lewis of Paterson-Catholic, NJ., who recently indicated a verbal commitment.

I mean, beating out Virginia Tech for the services of a Virginian is pretty awesome. It impresses me a lot more than just beating out Rutgers or Boston College. But what's with that second part? Why did we withdrawal an offer to somebody who had already verballed. I've never heard of a school doing that before.

Hail to Players Picking Pitt over Penn State and Virginia Tech.

Thursday, August 28, 2003

Hot or Not 

I think I just heard the sound of a brainpan hitting the floor in Altoona, after seeing this list.

Category ----- Hot -------------------------------- Not Hot
Uniforms ------ Oregon's "lightning yellow" -- However Nebraska is tweaking 'em this year

More Watch Lists 

QB Rod Rutherford has been put on the pre-season watch list for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award with 25 other candidates. Rutherford is also on the watch list for the Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award.

Realistically, I don't think he's got much of a chance. The QB awards tend to favor the traditional, pocket passer over scrambling, dual threat quaterbacks.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Not the Complete Answer 

The ESPN/Beano Cook chat was completely predictable. Note the following

Jordan (State College): Hey Beano, Notre Dame, Penn State, Florida State. Will we ever see these traditional powers back to form? Will any of them be "back" this year?

Beano Cook: Well, let's take ND, first -- they will finish 10-2. Penn State will finish 9-3 with a chance at 10-2. Florida State will win the ACC. FSU has a very very tough non-conference schedule, unlike Penn State, they like easy non-conference games.
Adam (Gainesville): Three things you can always count on every year: Beano hyping Notre Dame and Penn State, Beano never picking Miami to win the NC out of either spite or jealousy, and the Clippers missing the playoffs. Sound right?

Beano Cook: Let's get one thing straight ... I like Miami. The biggest story in the last 20 years in college football is Miami. 5 national titles out of 8 tries. That is absolutely unbelievable. Picking teams is not about me liking them or not, it's about who I think will win. If Germany and France are fighting a war, I root for France ... and pick Germany.

Notice he didn't respond to the comments about ND and PSU. The fact that there is a press room in the Peterson Event Center named for this man is just galling.


The cover-boys for the Post Gazette HS football preview are Morelli and Johnson, both Pitt recruits and both in the top 10 in the nation for their respective positions according to Super Prep.

It seems Pitt is doing well with the Pennsylvania in-state HS prospects. The Post Gazette ranked their top-30 PA football prospects today, and several are on their way to Pitt.

Of the top 30, only 11 are undecided (4 are considering Pitt, with 3 undecideds only being recruited by inferior programs like Syracuse, BC, UVa, Maryland, etc.).

Of those making committments, 7 chose Pitt, 7 PSU, 2 Michigan, 1 TOSU, 1 BC, 1 WVU.
Not too shabby!

Interesting, but Wrong 

Matt Hayes is one of my favorite sports columnists. He covers college football for The Sporting News, and his weekly "Pickin' and Grinnin'" columns during the season are must reads. This column, though, just plain misses the mark. It's a somewhat defense of the present have/have not system of college football and the BCS. Well, it's not so much a defense as a caution of how things could be made worse.

Here's what is happening. There are BCS and non-BCS schools. The BCS schools are schools in major conferences that have an automatic bid to the lucrative Bowl Championship Series. They are a slight majority of the 117 Division I-A football programs. The non-BCS schools are seeing themselves minimized and excluded from the BCS (read: money). You can see where this is leading -- mostly pious, self-righteous posturing.

The non-BCS schools have wrapped themselves in the noble sounding group, the Presidential Coalition for Athletic Reform (PCAR). It is headed up by Tulane University President Scott Cowen (Tulane narrowly averted giving up it's football program because of the costs this year).

Both sides have highly educated, well-connected members. This being America, and involving money, university institutions and football (and alumni pride) -- well members of Congress are getting involved. On September 4, the House Judiciary Committee will hold hearings on how all of this works.

Hayes warns that could cause a seismic change in the landscape of college football, but not in the way the PCAR wants.

Here's another way to look at it: The more the have-nots push, the more they lose. And the ramifications could change the face of college athletics profoundly.

"If they continue on this course and Congress gets further into this," one prominent BCS source says, "at some point, we have to draw a line in the sand."

That line could end the NCAA as we know it. The sport's governing body has no real power over the universities other than to police their practices, which is why it has been conspicuously silent in this offseason of turmoil. What now is being discussed quietly among BCS athletic directors and conference commissioners is the top 50 to 60 teams in college football breaking away from the NCAA and forming their own league, forcing the rest of college athletics into the ice age. Don't think it can't happen. When money is the mitigating factor, there are no rules and no reason.

The have-nots want greater access to the multimillion-dollar BCS system and are hoping to build a case with antitrust laws, saying the system has monopolized the postseason because no non-BCS team has played in a BCS bowl since its inception in 1998. Now, the BCS schools don't want to break away, don't want the headache of forming a new governing body and dealing with logistical nightmares in other sports, particularly men's basketball and its highly successful tournament. The have-nots know this, but their case gets stronger in the public eye when Congress is debating it live on C-SPAN.

The first thing, and Hayes knows this, is this isn't BCS schools versus non-BCS schools. It is BCS Conferences versus non-BCS Conferences. A small but important difference, I will expand on later.

I won't say, no way that this break-up would happen, but it is a little too far-fetched. The BCS conferences need the NCAA to confer the legitimacy and illusion of the student-athlete, no matter how hypocritical, eye-ball rolling inducing, snickering causing that phrase evokes in people. Breaking away solely for the money strips away their last argument against paying college athletes. They would be leaving themselves open to new litigation, problems and costs. Since Hayes is talking about unintended consequences, he should also consider the ones the BCS conferences would be facing.

As for the top schools leaving, does this mean the Big XII abandons Baylor? The ACC lets Duke go? The SEC, Vandy and Kentucky? No. Of course not. So you will still have programs that only serve to suck money from the better programs (and in Duke and Vandy's case help make the Conference's academic ranking of student athletes look better).

The small-school presidents want a national playoff modeled after the basketball tournament. But that tournament works because the competitive gap can be squeezed when a school has a dominant player. One such player means next to nothing in college football. Consider this: Four years ago in the NCAA Tournament, Wally Szczerbiak carried Miami (Ohio) to the Sweet 16 and scored 43 of the RedHawks' 59 points in a win over Washington. Ben Roethlisberger, the RedHawks' current quarterback and a potential No. 1 pick in next year's NFL draft, faces a huge task to get his team's offense to score at all in Miami's season opener at Iowa.

Whether we want to admit it, there are certain teams that can't cut it in I-A football. That's why the NCAA recently set up Division I eligibility requirements to weed out those who don't belong. Yet these are the same teams the non-BCS presidents believe deserve access to the more than $500 million in annual income the BCS conferences are paid. In their dream, each conference champion would earn a spot in the tournament, and No. 16 seed Middle Tennessee could lose to No. 1 seed Oklahoma by 50 and still pick up a couple million for its troubles.

By focusing on the fantasy, extreme version of a playoff, Hayes makes the whole thing look ridiculous. That plan wouldn't happen. Just because that is the system in Division I-AA and II and III, doesn't mean the BCS Conferences would go with agree to it. Obviously, there would be a compromise.

AS for admitting some teams can't cut it in Div. I-A football, no question. So what. There are teams that don't belong in BCS Conferences -- Rutgers, Vanderbilt, Duke, Baylor, Indiana -- but because they are in the BCS conferences, they always have a potential to get better and get a chunk of the BCS money. Kansas State went from bottom dwelling, joke team to perennial BCS/Big XII potential in 10 years. In part, because they play in a national, BCS conference.

Understand this: Television drives the BCS deal, and advertisers drive the BCS. Advertisers don't want to shell out huge chunks of money for Oklahoma's jamboree against North Texas. And ABC doesn't want to show Tulane vs. Tennessee in a BCS bowl; it wants Tennessee vs. Southern California. Those who direct the deal and pay the bill want major teams or major television markets -- preferably a combination of both -- in those four games.

The BCS conferences have the product, and they're selling it to the highest bidder. That's free enterprise, not a violation of antitrust law, which is defined as a group monopolizing trade or commerce through unreasonable methods. This is a waste of taxpayer money by a group of university presidents who are upset because the mean men at the BCS won't let them play with their ball.

Actually, there is a plausible antitrust argument. Just because "free enterprise" is involved, doesn't mean antitrust activity doesn't occur. Ever hear of Microsoft?

They are freezing out any other competition. Tulane, Toledo and Marshall could be as good as any team in a BCS Conference in a given year, but they wouldn't be allowed to prove it, because they aren't allowed to compete. The system, as set up keeps them from getting the shot. If a mid-major school gets better, the bigger schools won't play them and risk a loss. This keeps the mid-major's strength of schedule down, so they can't get high enough in the calculations to qualify for the "at-large" BCS bid. I won't disagree that it's a waste of taxpayer money, but you could say that about most of the hearings Congress holds.

My personal views are on the fence over the whole thing. In part because Pitt is in a weird limbo at the moment. They are in the BCS right now, but there is a chance (maybe 25%) that they could be locked out in a couple years. Even the chance that could happen chills me.

This Weekend's Games 

Unfortunately, I may not be able to watch too many college football games this Saturday. It's Jen's birthday, and she wants to go to Johnstown FolkFest. FolkFest may be Western and Central Pennsylvania's premier jazz festival, but it is definitely Central Pennsylvania's best party (screw you, RiotFest). And it has the best Slavic foods anywhere.

[The Cambria City neighborhood of Johnstown sits across the Conemaugh from the steel mills (which were never town down), and is packed with one massive Catholic or Orthodox church after another. Each one was built by a different immigrant group, has masses in its original language, and could architecturally be a cathedral if it was located anywhere else. And during FolkFest, each one's cadre of immigrants's daughters in their 70s sells old world, homemade halushki, halupki, and pierogies (if you don't know what those are, you didn't go to Pitt and you can find your own damn school's blog here) in a vicious competition with every other church's cadre of old ladies. The result? At least 10 pounds of weight gain.]

But I digress... (obviously, my little Nittany Lion isn't the only one who likes FolkFest) Here's the games I would most like to watch this Saturday.

The Scandal Bowl (Washington (+9) at Ohio State): Which is worse? Losing your often overrated but always shady head coach, or losing your often overrated but frequently shady tailback? I suspect that it's the former, and that Ohio State will be OK without Clarett for this one (they were fine without him for three games last season, and he didn't do much in the Fiesta Bowl). Nevertheless, I'm giving the points. I'm guessing that Washington's aerial attack will keep it close.

And I will be watching that one, as it is on later Saturday night.

The States Towards the End of the Atlas Bowl -- or the Head Coaches with Oddly Hispanic Sounding Last Names Bowl (Wisconsin (-3) at West Virginia): I like Rich Rodriguez. I think that he may be about the only guy that could distinguish Mountaineer Football enough to actually make decent recruits want to live in and be associated with the State of West Virginia (which has an even worse and more unfounded reputation problem than Pittsburgh does). That being said, I can't help but think that Rodriguez and his Mountaineers -- even more than Walt Harris and his Panthers -- get a little overhyped. They never really impressed me last year, even when they were beating Pitt. So I'll take the always-solid Washington County native Barry Alverez and his Badgers here.

But if the Hoopies can beat a legitimate Big Ten contender like Wisconsin, I will finally be impressed.

The Two Schools with Absolutely Nothing in Common Bowl (Southern California (+4) at Auburn): If I strongly disagree with Trev Alberts over how overhyped Kansas State is, I strongly agree with him over how overhyped Auburn is. I'm taking the admittedly depleted Trojans.

And finally, the At Least We Aren't the Only School in PA Who Schedules Cupcakes Bowl (Temple (+24.5) at Penn State): I highly suspect that this may be the worst Penn State team in decades. They graduated most of their skill positions and offensive linemen. The Lions almost certainly will surprise at least one Big Ten contender. But they will not have their A game for Temple. Temple, meanwhile, often seems to play in-state opponents tough (see Pitt last fall). So I'll take the 24.5 here.

Hail to Steel Town Halushki and the First Real Weekend of College Football

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Retro Looks 

This may make our resident uniform fashion critic envious and happy, but at least one school will be doing a retro uniform day. Naturally, it isn't Pitt. No. The University of Oklahoma will be wearing old unis from the Bud Wilkerson era for the first game of the season.

Opportunity Like No Other 

The 2003-2004 season could be a big year for Pitt sports. Not just as far as what they can accomplish on the field and the court. I'm thinking about their place in the local Pittsburgh sports scene. Locally, no one has given much ink or airwave time to Pitt outside of complaints of how they don't measure up to teams of yesteryear. It didn't matter because there was always a pro team to hold the interest at any time. But look at things right now.

The Pirates are an embarrassment, selling off the expensive talent and rebuilding yet again on the cheap.

The Penguins, well, outside of Mario Lemieux, is there any real interest in this team. They are just trying to keep afloat financially, trading players for draft picks, until the lockout/strike comes after this season.

The Steelers. Ah, the Steelers. The lifeblood of all Pittburghers (Pittsburghians?). Aside from the fact that they are playing in a weak division, there is hope but a lot more questions about the team. The defense. The running game. Special teams. Lots of questions.

Meanwhile at Pitt. There are potential top 10 teams in football and basketball. Definitely top 20. There should be a lot of excitement and expectations for both teams. Everyone loves a winner, and bandwagon jumpers should be lining up around the 'Burgh.

If. If, Pitt can meet those expectations. Then this could help reshape the dynamic in the area.

Not Everyone Believes 

Well it seems there are some other doubters as to how Pitt will do this year.

1. Pittsburgh will wilt under the weight of expectationsAfter last season's surprising second-place finish in the conference standings, the Panthers are a fashionable choice to win the Big East this year. But talking about it and doing it are two completely different things. To win the conference, Pittsburgh will have to beat Miami and Virginia Tech, something the Panthers have done only once (1997) in the same season since they joined the Big East in 1991. Pittsburgh will also have to prove it can sidestep the upsets -- West Virginia last season and South Florida in 2001 -- that have been an obstacle to greater success the past two seasons.

There is a reflexive, defensive part of me that just wants to be snide and say this is because the Big East beat writer for ESPN is also a sportswriter at the Palm Beach Post, i.e., he's a Miami homer. But I'm not going to do that. Instead, I'll concede the possibility, but disagree and hope he's dead wrong.

The rest of the list of 10 things to watch in the Big East is mostly rather obvious. It's more an overview of story lines for the year, for those not following the Big East.

How Did I Get Here? 

PSB has only been up and running a few weeks, but the search engines are moving us up. Here's how some search results have arrived here (the number in parenthesis is where we ranked on the search).

Pitt Panthers (#52)

Pitt is It! and Sports Illustrated (#8)

pennsylvania+hoopies (#9)

pitt panthers recruiting (#8)


Pitt Panther Brandon Miree (#5)

pitt panthers "webster" (#1)

pitt panther font (#2)

pittsburgh panthers cheerleading (#10)

kirk herbstreit hates penn state (#3)

You can draw your own conclusions about the state of mind of whoever reached that conclusion for the last search.

On the List 

Pitt Running Back Brandon Miree was named one of 39 pre-season candidates for the Doak Walker Award, that goes to the top college running back. Here's the full list and Pitt press release.

They Must Be Buying What He's Selling 

Pitt and Walt Harris has landed a couple more verbal commitments for the 2004. A solid all-state DL from New Jersey, Chenry Lewis

Lewis, who chose Pitt over Boston College and Rutgers, is the Panthers' 12th recruit from the Class of 2004. He is the third player to commit in the past week, joining Penn Hills quarterback Anthony Morelli and Upper Merion offensive lineman Dave Weber.
He was named first-team all-state by The Associated Press and first-team All-Passaic by the coaches. While Tom Lemming ranks Lewis the No. 14 linebacker in the nation, SuperPrep ranks him the No. 20 player in New Jersey.

A huge 6'4" 310 pound OL, Dave Weber, from the Philadelphia area committed to Pitt over Syracuse, Georgia Tech, Northwestern and Rutgers.

Pitt now has verbals from 12 recruits for 2004. Apparently the BCS fear isn't stopping Harris.

Monday, August 25, 2003

Puffing the New B-Ball Coach 

This story is already a month and a half old, but I just noticed it. A CBS Sportsline story on Pitt's new b-ball coach, Jamie Dixon. Most of it is spent focusing on his acting in TV commercials to give him the human, light touch story. That would have been fine, but it's the rapid revisionism that the piece does in how Dixon got the job.

Which is why when Skip Prosser turned the Panthers down to stay at Wake Forest, the Pitt administration turned to Dixon despite interest from a number of proven head coaches.

"As anticipated, some very high-profile parties expressed interest in the job," said Pitt athletic director Marc Boehm. "In the end, discussions on who would be the best fit kept coming back to Jamie. Over the last four years, our basketball program has reached heights some people once considered impossible. In Jamie, we have a person who helped us reach those heights and will help us reach even higher in the future."

The run that Dixon was a part of the past four years is, indeed, amazing. The Panthers were a struggling, almost forgotten power in the Big East. But the past two seasons, they captured at least a share of the Big East title, reached the Sweet 16 twice and put together a ridiculous 57-11 overall record.

No wonder UCLA made Howland its first choice. And Pitt had few reservations about handing over its program to Dixon. That's something Dixon, who figured his first head-coaching job would be at a good mid-major or a rebuilding big program, is grateful for. All the work he did to get Pitt to this level, he now gets to reap the benefits of.

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

Pitt totally flubbed the hiring so many ways. Dixon may work out, and I hope he makes me look foolish about this, but my main problem was and still is with the way they went about the whole damn thing. This article makes it seem like the administration had a solid plan the whole time.


I may have worried needlessly and thoughtlessly at a potential WR curse at Pitt, after reading about how Pitt WR and best in the Big East lost his mother to breast cancer last spring. More important things for Larry Fitzgerald than that. Also, nice to note that he is carrying a better than 3.0 GPA in school -- living amongst Buckeye Fans (Motto: "classes and exams, optional") it's nice to read.

Holy Crap 

Pitt sells out. 62,644 tickets, including two that belong to my father-in-law, a long-time Pitt fan (his father played for them in the 1920s), who never bought season tickets before. We're going to have more fans than Woodland Hills-Mt. Lebanon. I can't believe it. A far cry from the mid-1990s, when it was just Chas, Pat and 226 other fans sitting in the big bowl on Cardiac Hill. It's nice to finally be one of those people who can scoff at the Johnny-Come-Latelys.

Now we've got to start playing some real opponents in the early season. They're drawing up the 2005 schedule as we speak: Homewood Montessori in the first game and a tough match-up with Chatham's field hockey team in the second. I think we can take 'em.

Hail Ball State!

Pitt sells out... 

What? Pitt has sold out to corporate America, becoming the boot licking capitalist running dog lackeys we always knew they could be? Well, yes, but that's not what I mean in this post.

Pitt's season ticket allotment is now SOLD OUT.

There are still some club seats left for you capitalists out there - $240 per season PLUS an extra $500 per seat donation to the athletic fund.

Pitt has already sold 62,644 season tickets; that number includes 10,000 student tickets as well as corporate sponsor tickets and club seats. There are still some single game tickets left for each game, plus there may be additional seats depending on whether the away teams use their whole allotments. Virginia Tech, Miami and Notre Dame are sold out (standing room tickets will go on sale for ND in September).

This may not be a big deal to fans of the Tennessee Volunteers, but for Pitt, this is huge.
Our record for attendance was against Fordham back in 1938 - only because they put up additional bleachers in old Pitt Stadium (capacity 56,000).
To get 65,000 or more for each game? That rules.

Hooray for Hoopietown 

So here I am back in Morgantown, after spending an enjoyable Saturday evening with Pat and Shawn in the 'Burgh. Since moving here two months ago, I've gotten used to the dearth of Pitt info in my new hometown paper, the Morgantown Dominion Post. (I know I could just log on, but as an ex-newspaperman, I like to hold the damn thing as I read it.) So it was a shock to open the DP sports section and see this headline in bold across the top: "Pitt Panthers Roaring: Harris seems to have everything on his No. 10 team." (Sorry, I just don't care enough to learn how to link this story. Beside's it was just a wire story -- both readers of this site have probably already read it.)

[Chas, here. Learn damn it. It really doesn't take much effort.]

Two thoughts come to mind. One, running this story above the fold in this town is the most courageous act of journalism since Jayson Blair decided that you don't really need to interview people in order to quote them. I mean, folks here hate Pitt. The way we hate Penn State. I told my class the other day that I graduated from Pitt and spontaneous boos broke out. This was the first day of class. And I'm the freakin prof.

Two, I don't know about the headline: "Harris seems to have everything." Everything? What about a modicum of play-calling ability?

Hail to Shawn Reading This Blog Someday

More Notice of Pitt 

Pitt and coach Walt Harris are getting more national love. A piece in the Sunday New York Times. The focus is on two aspects. The rebuilding of Pitt to national prominence by Harris; and the loss of Miami and Va Tech from the Big East as a danger to Pitt's future football prominence. Nothing earthshatteringly new in the piece except for this nugget.

Despite the departure of Miami and Virginia Tech, the Big East will have a Bowl Championship Series berth through the 2005 season.

A split, in which the six remaining Big East universities with football teams would recruit two programs to form a new conference, remains a possibility.

With a new B.C.S. contract due to be negotiated about a year from now, officials from Big East universities need to find a solution quickly, and [Pitt Athletic Director, Jeff] Long said the conference had a timetable of Sept. 1.

"Some people perceive us to be in limbo," Long said, referring to the remaining members of the Big East, "but it's not really limbo. It's a question of what our new direction is going to be."

A week to a decision. I hope so. And it better be the right decision.

The NYTimes also put out it's preseason top 20. Pitt is #11. The NYTimes is always a little weird -- Auburn #1, VA Tech #2 (?), NC State #5(??), Miami #6, Ohio St. #7. It just gets stranger.

The Oregon Award 

As has been noted previously on this site, we will bestow an award (non-monetary, of course) on the Division I-A college football team with what we feel are the worst uniforms this season. This award will be named "The Oregon Award."

Why Oregon? Because of the University of Oregon's long standing tradition of having absolutely butt-ugly uniforms, a tradition made even more inexcusable given that Oregon is practically Nike's home team. For instance, take a look at Oregon's home uniforms from last season.

Nice work, guys. Somebody should have sued Phil Knight. Fortunately for Oregon -- which is a solid football program underneath it all -- they decided to redesign their uniforms for this season. Furthermore, they decided to get rid of the two-tones-of-green-at-once look. Unfortunately, this is what they came up with.

As if the contrast between the dark green (called "thunder green," by the way... and anytime you have to start making up names for colors, you know you're in trouble... see "Vegas gold") and bright yellow (called "lightning") wasn't shocking enough, Oregon had to go one step further. Like all too many major league baseball teams, they had to make a "alternative home jersey." Brace yourself...

Yeeouch!!! That's the most painful thing that I've had to look at since Willis McGahee's injury in the Fiesta Bowl. Once again, nice work guys. Now go sue Phil Knight. NOW!

(Incidentally, I love how enthusiastic the involved model looks about his threads.)

Thus, given their brand new alternative home uniforms, I would like to humbly submit for consideration... for the 2003 Oregon Award... the University of Oregon. Way to dig yourselves out of a hole, fellas.

So why does a Pitt fan care so much about the University of Oregon and bad uniforms in general? Only because Pitt used to have the best uniforms in college football. Then, we threw them away so that we could look more like Notre Dame, apparently (and a cheesy, corporate version of the Irish at that). I feel Oregon's pain.

Bring back Pitt's old unis now. At least for one game.

Hail to Shawn Posting Something Someday

Saturday, August 23, 2003

B-Ball Side Note -- Filling a Need 

After letting a good recruit walk -- since he had second thoughts, Pitt has depth at his position and, probably most important, he has yet to academically qualify -- Pitt has used that freed up scholarship to get a point guard to back-up Krauser this coming season.

They have signed, Antonio Graves of Mansfield High School in Mansfield, Ohio. Graves was first-team all-Ohio last year. He's 6-3. He was a late qualifier. Not a blue-chip recruit -- his main offers were from Rutgers, Charlotte and Bowling Green (though Ohio St. and Cincinnati started showing some late interest). Still, he fills a big need for Pitt.

Corso and Herbstreit's Big East Picks 

For those of you who didn't see the ESPN College Gameday Pre-Season Special, Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit's picks for the Big East championship went like this:

CORSO: (confidently) "I like Pittsburgh. They get both Virginia Tech and Miami up in Pittsburgh."

HERBSTREIT: (very dismissively) "Yeah, we'll see if their fans show up. I'll take Virginia Tech."

Was that a dis, Kirk? Well, I'll be there. The rest of this site's contributors will be there. According to what I'm reading about Pitt's ticket sales this summer, a $#%@load of other Panther fans will be there. And, given that we play Virginia Tech on November 8 and Miami on November 29, Old Man Winter may be there as well.

Yes, even Herbsteit can tick me off every now and then.

Hail to Heinz Field Sellouts

Friday, August 22, 2003

Compliance, Hubris and Splitting Hairs 

Living in Ohio in just the last couple months has led to much in the way of thoughts on NCAA compliance. So, it partially amused me to note that the Pitt Athletic site has a section on "Compliance." Most of it appears to still be under construction, i.e., no content.

Of course, when talking of compliance and NCAA violations, there is no one that knows it better than the man that leaves a trail of slime wherever he goes, a man who causes other attorneys (like myself) to say about him, "sure he went to law school, but he's not really a lawyer. He's not one of us." I'm speaking of course of Rick Neuheisel.

Neuheisel is now suing his last employer, the University of Washington, and the NCAA over his termination for cause. This comes, just as Washington released a series of tapes, pursuant to public disclosure laws via requests from The Seattle Times and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

The tapes tend to show Neuheisel lying to direct questions.

Former Washington football coach Rick Neuheisel told NCAA investigators he never gambled, then later acknowledged his involvement in neighborhood NCAA basketball pools.

Audio tapes released Thursday showed Neuheisel lied when initially questioned by the NCAA about gambling. The organization considers gambling a major rules violation.

The tapes support handwritten notes, released last month, from the meeting. Neuheisel was fired July 28 as Washington's coach for participating in the pools and for not being forthcoming with NCAA investigators.

"I never placed a bet on anything," Neuheisel said early in the tapes, recorded June 4 when NCAA investigators first met with him.

A short time later, he was asked whether he had any concerns about going to the event in 2002 and 2003. Teams of neighbors pooled money and bid on NCAA Tournament teams in an auction-style setting.

"I won't go again, if that's the question," Neuheisel said, laughing. "No, I didn't have any concerns at all. I know we can't gamble. I know I can't place a bet or anything like that, but I wasn't. I was just there watching."

He kept changing his story the deeper it got. His lawyer is arguing in the lawsuit, much the way Neuheisel did when he was publicly fighting to keep his job (actually, he was just trying to get a buyout rather than dismissal for cause). That he never really violated any rules, and if he did it was based on mistaken advice given by the University of Washington's compliance officer.

It's consistent with Neuheisel's violations of recruiting and ethics at Colorado and Washington. Skate up to the razor's edge of the line, and maybe fall over it just a little, but not so much that it can't be argued that there was a gray area -- thus precluding major penalties, only continual paper cut, minor ones.

I've always thought that was in part because of Neuheisel taking the wrong lessons from law school (the majority of it is because Neuheisel is a slimy, corrupt, and doesn't think the rules apply to him kind of guy) -- the line can be blurry and as long as you don't go over a clear line, you can wriggle free.

Penn Staters Think They're Penn, Again 

Quick, before they fix the error, look at this website. It belongs to WTAJ-TV, Channel 10, a television station in Altoona, Pennsylvania (Altoona is the nearest TV market to State College, by the way). This is how the top story reads as of 4:15 PM, August 22, 2003.


The University of Pennsylvania is in a four-way tie for fifth place in the U-S News and World Report annual ranking of ``America's Best Colleges'' released today. Princeton tops the list for the fourth consecutive year -- this time sharing the top spot with Harvard, which was second last year. Yale is third and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology fourth. Penn State shares the fifth spot with the Cal Tech, Duke and Stanford.

Apparently, some overzealous Nittany Lions at the station failed to recognize the difference between the Ivy League's University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and the Big Ten's Penn State in State College. Easy, Lion fan. You ain't in Stanford's league academically, at least not yet. Heck, you may not even be in Pitt's league.

Hail to Penn... heck the Quakers may have a better football team than the Nittany Lions too.

UPDATE: WTAJ-TV has now fixed this error. But not before I print-screened it.

Maisel and Wojciechowski's Take on the Big East's Future 

In Ivan Maisel and Gene Wojciechowski's column on ESPN.com this morning (click on the "For Argument's Sake" link on this page), there is a brief discussion on the future of the Big East Football Conference after Miami and Virginia Tech leave.

Will the Big East be football irrelevant in three years?

Let's see: Rutgers will be looking for another head coach -- again -- if Greg Schiano doesn't start proving he knows an X from an O. The Scarlet Knights are 3-20 during his tenure, 0-14 in league play, and gave up 34 or more points in nine of 12 games last season (including a 37-19 loss to D-IAA Villanova). UConn (which joins the schedule in 2004) is finding it a challenge to find buyers for its big-money seats at new Rentschler Field. Pittsburgh, West Virginia and Boston College are tracking upward, but Syracuse has won six or fewer games in three of the last four seasons. Temple is about to become Big East history.

League commissioner Mike Tranghese, who didn't exactly have his finest hour during the ACC raid of his conference (a little too much finger-pointing and verbal hysterics for our tastes), says the Big East will survive. Tranghese is a smart guy, so you know he'll do what he can. League athletic directors have had recent meetings and teleconferences to discuss the conference's future makeup.

For now the Big East is good to go in the BCS for three more seasons (that's when the BCS pact expires). Then the BCS powers have to decide if the Big East is worth the trouble.

Right now, the vote appears to be a tentative and polite yes. But that could change, depending on what direction Tranghese and the school presidents point the conference.

In other words, Commissioner Tranghese, stop pointing fingers, rebuild the Big East Football Conference with the best teams you can realistically get, and you'll probably stay in the BCS. Chas and I would both argue that splitting the league's non-football-playing members off might be a good fiscal move.

But either way, Pitt will most likely continue to have direct access to a BCS bowl after 2005. I've been arguing this for a while now. The BCS needs the Big East to maintain its majority over the Division I-A schools, and to maintain a presence in the most populated corner of the United States.

So once again, Mr. Rudel, forget about Pitt begging Joe Paterno for forgiveness and admittance into the Big Ten. We're probably going to be better off where we are.

Hail to Tranghese Getting Off His Butt And Doing The Right Thing

Thursday, August 21, 2003

A Left-Handed Compliment from Neil Rudel 

Neil Rudel is the Sports Editor of the Altoona Mirror. He is also one of the most read, respected, and published commentators on Penn State sports. He is frequently heard on the Penn State Football Radio Network during the season.

Mr. Rudel, like all good Penn State fans, completely hates Pitt and disrespects our current renaissance. I can't begrudge him that. But I will make fun of him and his always-left-handed compliments from time to time. Here's a snippet from his column in today's Altoona Mirror, apparently inspired from Morelli's commitment to Pitt.

Pitt's apparent rise in stature, followed by better recruiting and signs of improved attendance, has to be viewed as bittersweet in that the Panthers, unless they can get into the Big Ten, will be playing in a second-tier league beginning in 2004 -- abeit one they should be able to win every year.

Rudel seems to be once again suggesting that Pitt's long term survival depends on its admittance to the Big Ten. I completely disagree. The Big East will remain in the BCS because the BCS needs the Big East and its members to maintain its slim majority over Division I-A schools. Thus, the Big East will not become a second-tier league after Miami and Virginia Tech leave -- although it will admittedly become easier than the Big Ten (and how many times have your Lions won that conference?).

Penn State fans love to think that Pitt has no choice but to beg for Joe Paterno's forgiveness and mercy, so that Pitt may save itself from a dying Big East and jump to the glorious Big Ten. But not only does Pitt not have to join the Big Ten, but Pitt shouldn't want to. The road to a BCS bowl is much easier from where we are. Besides, I seriously doubt that the Big Ten is going to expand anyways. Nobody outside of Pennsylvania -- not even the ADs -- appears to want it.

But of course, I think that even if the Big Ten did expand, they'd take Syracuse first.

But anyways, knock off the paternalistic attitude, Neil. We're ranked much higher than you in the polls, we're beating you in the classroom, we've got the better coaches, and we're out recruiting you. We're no longer in Lion country, you're now in Panther country.

Hail to Pitt.

Herbstreit and Alberts 

This is why ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit continues to be my favorite college football analyst.

Best Quarterbacks [innovator's category]
#4 Rod Rutherford

Best Running Backs
#1 Maurice Clarett

Best Wide Receivers
#1 Larry Fitzgerald

Best Clutch Performers
#1 Craig Krenzel
#4 Larry Fitzgerald

#5 Rob Petitti

Offensive Geniuses
#2 Walt Harris

Defensive Wizards
#3 Paul Rhoades

Fear Factors (DE's)
#3 Claude Harriot

Moving on Up Schools
#3 Pittsburgh

Herbie then picks Traitor Tech to win the Big East, thus proving that nobody's perfect (Why do ESPN analysts always pick Virginia Tech? Does Disney own Blacksburg or something?).

Meanwhile, Trev Alberts continues his reign of idiocy and Big XII worship with this piece.

First and foremost, there will be the excitement generated by Kansas State and Oklahoma, two legitimate national championship contenders. Those are the two best teams in the nation in my mind, and it's just too bad they will likely have to meet in the Big 12 championship game rather than the national championship game.

Sure, Oklahoma is for real. But Kansas State? Are you serious? Nothing -- not Ford Mustangs, sloppy wet kisses, Bush's pre-war intelligence on Iraq, the observation windows at the top of the Cathedral of Learning, or even Virginia Tech -- is as perennially overrated as Kansas State. Every freakin' year, they play nobody for the first half of the season, and then get promptly decapitated by either Colorado, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, or Texas A&M. Whose leg does K-State rub up against to keep getting in the top five?

No team in America is as overrated as Kansas State, no conference in America is as overrated as the Big XII, and no analyst in America has gotten so far on pretty-boy looks alone as Trev Alberts.

Hail to Mark May, The Most Intelligent, Brainiest, and Best Spoken Analyst on ESPN

Take That, Lion Fan 

Anthony Morelli's verbal commitment to the University of Pittsburgh is indeed huge, especially since Penn State made such a significant run at him in the end with such an attractive package.

According to the Altoona Mirror, Penn State had been chasing Chad Henne for years, and had refrained from recruiting any other blue chip quarterbacks to practically insure Henne of a starting job in Happy Valley. After Henne -- like all too many other Pennsylvanian prospects -- turned down a Pennsylvanian university for Michigan, this package -- guaranteed starting quarterback job and all -- was thrown at Morelli.

Despite the fact that nobody would have been in front of Morelli on the depth charts at Penn State (Tyler Palko is still in his way at Pitt), despite the fact that the Big East and Pitt's link to the BCS are both in turmoil, despite the fact that Penn State sells out a 105,000 seat stadium every Saturday, despite the fact that Penn State allegedly has the most legendary college football coach ever, Morelli chose Pitt.

Lion fan, that's gotta hurt.

Incidentally, I just overheard on Sports Radio 1460, WBNS, Columbus that Rich Rodriguez will be using a constant hurry-up, two minute style offense this year. The consensus on Herbstreit and Fitzsimmons was that WVU was getting little desperate to distinguish itself from the other Big East schools -- and especially Pitt.

Finally, has anybody seen any early rankings of recruiting classes yet? I'll bet Pitt is in the top 15 now.

Hail to Pitt, and Mr. Morelli, beware of the ball tee retriever guy

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Yeah, Baby! 

Anthony Morelli, highly recruited QB from Penn Hill High School, annouced that he will attend the University of Pittsburgh next year. He made a verbal committment this morning.
Oh, yes!

What does this mean for Pitt? It means we went after, and got, one of the top QB's in the country in spite of the Big East debacle. Pitt beat out Notre Dame, UCLA, Tennessee, Florida State and Ohio State to win this kid. According to Rivals.com, Morelli is #2, with Theinsiders.com listing him at #3 in the country. It also means Walt Harris has been doing a better job of keeping the local stars home.

This committment follows Pitt's other local recruiting coup, North Hills RB Andrew Johnson. Johnson is also highly touted nationally.

Penn State has landed some local linebackers and defensive linemen, but other than their "linebacker U" reputation, PSU has missed the boat on most of the top PA recruits - especially the skill positions.
Good news all around.

A Big Verbal 

This was phoned into me on my way out the door Shawn, but now that I'm back I can confirm. Anthony Morelli, one of the top HS QBs in the country has made a verbal commitment to Pitt.

Morelli was part of a heated recruiting battle that saw the superstar QB receive an amazing 43 scholarship offers. He chose Pitt over Notre Dame in the end. Morelli had offers from schools such as Florida State, Ohio State, Tennessee, Notre Dame, and UCLA, among others.

The "others" included a late in the game run at him by Penn State after their targeted QB, picked Michigan.

Depending on which recruiting site and/or "expert" you look for this sort of information, Morelli is either the #10, #14 or #41 (subs. req'd for this one) overall recruit in the country (ranking as the #2, #3, or #9 QB in HS).

It's still a great commitment for Pitt... when he actually signs the letter of intent.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Flutie Flakes II 

Remember when Jimmy Johnson stomped all over a box of "Flutie Flakes" after the Dolphins beat the Bills? It was a double bonus for me. I found the action amusing and childish, and well deserved after seeing way too many Doug Flute "10-10" commercials; but then I got to watch Johnson -- who I intensely dislike -- squirm as he was berated for being insensitive because the proceeds of the BC legend corn flakes were going to autism research and treatment. Well, now members in the Big Eleven can line up to stomp some cereal boxes.

Penn State coach Joe Paterno will join the legions of sports heroes who have been honored with one of the sports world's most recognized awards -- the front of the Wheaties cereal box.

I can only imagine the carnage if Pitt and Penn State actually played against each other.

Questions About Who's Number 2? 

In light of the injury to Mike Vick of the Atlanta Falcons, there is a good question being asked: what happens to Pitt if QB Rod Rutherford goes down?

The highly anticipated 2003 season could quickly dissolve, unless backup quarterbacks Luke Getsy or Tyler Palko proved capable of leading a team that some project as a BCS contender.

"Rod can carry us," senior wide receiver Chris Curd said Monday, the eighth day of training camp. "We just hope the other guys can do the same thing."

It would be difficult for sophomore Palko or redshirt freshman Getsy to duplicate what Rutherford did last season in leading the Panthers to a 9-4 record and No. 18 ranking. He passed for 2,783 yards, ran for 398, and amassed the third-highest combined total in Big East history.

It was his emergence that prompted many preseason prognosticators to deem the Panthers national championship contenders.

With Palko or Getsy at the controls, those aspirations might be far too ambitious. That's not to discredit either, but Palko has thrown only three college passes, completing two, and Getsy has thrown none. He's never even played in a collegiate game.

This is where I worry. Harris never seems to give the back-up much work. Even in mop-up duty. This leaves them ill-prepared to do much when they do get into games. Looking back on the 2001 season, a season of much frustration. Harris would make a big show, of subbing out the starting QB (David "Jason" Priestley) for Rod Rutherford. The problem is everyone in the stands and the field knew that Rutherford was out there to run the ball. Rutherford was the second leading rusher on the team in terms of carries (81) and yards (255). He only made 59 attempts the entire season (completing a paltry 19 and 4 interceptions). Rutherford was never given more than 2-3 plays in the offense before he was yanked back out of the game. You could hear audible groans from the fans the minute he started running -- because everyone saw it coming. It took Rutherford a couple starts in 2002 before he really started getting comfortable in the game situations.

Now Palko (a much heralded recruit) has gotten practically no game experience -- despite a couple games that Pitt had complete dominance and would have been perfect scrub time. Hopefully, Harris will have figured out the importance of giving Palko or Getsy some real playing time before it becomes necessary.

Basketball Note: Mid-Major Risk 

So Pitt has decided to host a basketball tourney this December. Forgive me if I'm not exactly overwhelmed with the teams competing.

Florida State, Murray State, Eastern Michigan, Chicago State and Wagner. I see at least two teams where the net effect of playing is to drag down Pitt's RPI (Chicago State and Wagner). There are two teams that have been good mid-majors, thus being a risk to play; and don't hurt/help the RPI (Murray and EMU). Then there is the name school, but in the wrong sport -- Florida State -- does anyone know if there are any expectations for FSU this year?

Couldn't Pitt have wrangled an invite to a better tournament, rather than hosting this dink?

A Post from Northwestern PA 

Greetings from Meadville, Pennsylvania and the 58th annual Crawford County Fair -- the largest agricultural fair in Pennsylvania (including the State Farm Show). That, alone, should make this the most interesting post since Chas wrote us from the highest point in Indiana.

The relevance to Pitt? Only that at practically all of the novelty crap places across the Fairgrounds, there is -- for the first time ever -- more Pitt junk on the tables then Penn State junk. In an agricultural county like Crawford, this is a shift in popularity of seismic proportions.

Heck, for all I know, all the Penn State junk may have already sold out. But it cheered me up a little. My hometown could possibly be coming around.

Hail to Meadville

Monday, August 18, 2003

ECU Cheerleaders 

Thanks for the ECU Cheerleading Team link, Chas. Matt and Biff are really hot, but I think my favorite is Jake ...

Big East Rumor Mill 

An ongoing concern at this blog will be the reformatting of the Big East and beyond. This is something we've been arguing over since May.

Basically, it's a given that the Big East will raid at least two schools from Conference USA for football. Most likely Louisville and Cinci. Of course other members of C-USA that play both football and b-ball are looking to get in on it.

Schools are positioning themselves for another shakeup of the conference landscape once the Big East completes its expansion plans, which could happen as soon as late October. C-USA member East Carolina is interested in joining the Big East, and it took a serious step toward making that happen when it hired former SEC commissioner and BCS czar Roy Kramer as an athletic department consultant.

I don't care who they freaking hire. East Carolina would be a pathetic choice to include in Big East survival expansion.

I have nothing personal against ECU. I don't even know ECU -- but what are they, the sixth choice for North Carolina kids (Duke, UNC, NC St., Wake, UNC-Greensboro). The last thing Big East expansion needs is another team that really pines to become a part of the ACC. On the plus side, they actually have a real site with pictures for their cheerleaders (pay attention, Pitt).

Besides that, they bring absolutely nothing to the basketball side of things. Football wise they have been better than I thought, but they are a poor fit. No name recognition; no cache; nothing. The Big East would be better served keeping Temple.

Useful and Smart 

It used to be that a fan of Pitt would only get to glance at the team media guide, unless you knew somebody in the athletic department or won a free copy on a local sports radio show. Then, it evolved to where you could buy your own copy -- which still seemed unfair since the media and the entire athletic department got the propaganda free.

Now, the entire Pitt media guide is available for free download in PDF. It's great to actually have all the historical information and present roster and coaching information easily available. The 386 page media guide is broken up into separate sections, with the 386th page containing the vital information "NCAA Guidelines for Panther Boosters." Maybe it's related to reading too much about Maurice Clarett and OSU out here in Cleveland, I just like that at the end of the media guide.

I don't know if other schools do this, but it makes a lot of sense.

A little off season B-ball blurb... 

There may be a silver lining to losing recruit Walter Walters, a 6'9" center from Detroit. Since Howland left for UCLA, and took assistant coach Ernie Ziegler with him, Walters changed his mind about attending Pitt. Our loss? Sure, although he has yet to qualify academically.

The up side for Pitt is we already have 3 other big men coming to Pitt next year - Chris Taft, Dante Milligan and Aaron Gray, all top 100 center/forwards in their own rights, AND all academic qualifiers. New coach Jamie Dixon didn't have any scholarships to spare, but now he can go out and try for a backup point guard. Carl Krauser will start now the Brandin Knight has graduated, but as of now there is no adequate backup PG. Maybe we can get a JUCO transfer?

Sunday, August 17, 2003

Football Uniforms, Part II 

Not to kiss anybody's butt, but great post, Chas. I don't know how you ran across that website, but I couldn't agree more with 90% of what they said (the main thing that I disagreed with them about being the coolness of Penn State's uniforms).

The weird thing is that when Pitt first changed its unis, I remember mostly being happy about it. I mean, I definitely liked the old colors better (Vegas gold? What, are we in Nevada or something?). But I used to think that the old script Pitt was so gay looking that the new unis were positive in the balance. Now, I love the old script Pitt. I don't know what changed. Maybe I just got old.

Incidentally, as the self-appointed Fashion Critic of College Football, I will hand out my first annual "Oregon Award" for the worst dressed team in Division I-A later this year. My only nominations so far are Penn State, Pitt, Purdue, and, of course, Oregon (Has anybody seen their new home unis yet? They're even worse than last year's. The jersey is a shocking, bright yellow with John Deere green trim. It's appalling.). Any other nominations?

Also, I will be handing out a "Princeton Award" for the best unis. Nominations are, once again, welcome. So far, we have Oregon State and Princeton (keep in mind that you can't be nominated for just copying somebody else's uniform, Michigan).

And damn, I wish that I had bought a Billy West jersey before it was too late.

Hail to Increasing the Number of Posts that This Site Can Hold to Over 25

Saturday, August 16, 2003

A Reality Check on Pittsburgh 

First off, we have to watch bragging up Pittsburgh too much. Remember that most of America thinks that Pittsburgh -- as much as Cleveland or Detroit -- is a rusted-out, half-abandoned, polluted, depressing, terrible place to live. Pittsburgh is still a joke at the national level. While visiting my little cousins last week, I overheard a Pittsburgh joke on "The Fairly Odd Parents," a Nickelodeon cartoon of fairly recent vintage.

And you know what? Most of Pittsburgh IS rusted-out, half-abandoned, and somewhat depressing. Who could say that the Mon Valley, the South Side, or even the North Side is an uplifting, cheery place? Look at all the grey hairs. Look at all of the young people moving away. Didn't Maxim or some magazine like that just rank Pittsburgh as the worst place in America for young, single people to live? We have to be realistic here. Pittsburgh, and all of Western Pennsylvania, has some serious long-term problems.

Columbus, on the other hand, is new, clean, post-war, demographically young, and the fastest growing city in the Northeast quadrant of the United States. Does it necessarily have the character or architecture of Pittsburgh? Of course not. But I can understand why so many people, including both my own fiance, do prefer it to Pittsburgh. Oh, and does everybody remember Richard Florida? He ranked Columbus way over Pittsburgh.

Now I'm not really sure how to respond to you guys's definitions of what really is a city, as opposed to a sprawling suburb. But Columbus is classified as a Metropolitan Statistical Area by the Department of Commerce. Ergo, it is a city.

And it does have a skyline, a dense urban core, and suburbs. Yes, the suburbs make up a larger proportion of the MSA than Pittsburgh's suburbs do. But that's mostly because most of Columbus was built after World War II. And not everything about post-war development is bad. Don't each of you want a driveway and a garage? Personally, I would never want to live where Pat lives. I could never have a nice car there. Hell, I don't like parking my mediocre-at-best Pontiac there now.

I would suggest that what makes a university urban is the physical campus itself and where it is located within a city. Pat seems to suggest that what makes a school urban is who attends it. I would suggest that everybody look up the word "urban" in Webster and see if it refers more to physical geography or demographics.

But arguments about America's Rust Bucket vs. A City That People Actually Move To aside, this is allegedly a sports blog. So lets compare Pitt and Ohio State on the football field. Win a national championship or actually sell out your stadium this side of the Ford Administration, losers.

Hail to Cities, Regardless of their Style

Columbus Sucks, Part III 

Columbus is Washington DC minus the DC, Tampa minus the beach, Dayton plus a few hundred thousand more suburbanites, Boise minus the urban funk.

If the blackouts had occurred in Columbus, nobody anywhere else in the country would have bothered to turn the lights back on. What would be the point? Does anything ever happen in Columbus? Has anything ever happened since the day it was founded in 1976? You would think that something, sometime would have happened in a place that so many humanoids clustered in their pod-like housing tracts call home, for lack of a better word. (Sorry, I'm excluding that exciting period when they built all the malls.) The local newspaper is an excellent reflection of this homogenous suburban wasteland.

Columbus is not a city. Granted, it is a region. It is an economic enterprise zone. It is a humongous planned community for active adults. But it is NOT a city. Cleveland, a place I truly hate, is ten times the city that Columbus is.

On the plus side, Columbus is not Morgantown. But as bad as it is, when you're driving into Morgantown, at least you know you're in Morgantown. If you woke up in Columbus with no knowledge of how you got there, you'd need a Global Positioning System to tell where you were. You certainly couldn't tell from any local dialect, topography, architectural characteristics, etc.

But Columbus does have Ohio State (little-known fact: when TOSU was founded in 1982, it was called Penn State-Columbus). And Columbus is growing, spreading ever larger. But so is the irregularly shaped black mole on my ass. And, as with the mole, more Columbus is not a good thing.

Sanitized for your protection 

First of all, I have been on TOSU's campus (it sucked, by the way), and I have dined at a restaurant that featured one of Archie Griffin's Heisman trophy's.

And since I have seen Columbus from both the ground and the air, I can assure you that in MY universe, a giant suburb-of-itself is not a city. If Pittsburgh were to somehow waive a magic wand and annex Mt. Lebanon and Upper St. Clair, they would still be suburbs - they would happen to pay taxes to the city, but they would still be suburbs. Any city who has gained such a large percentage in its population since 1980, consisting of quarter-acre-per-lot house farms and melrose-place apartment complexes called Hampden this or Summerglen That or Orchard the-Other-thing, is not a city. Phoenix at least gets our homeless people in the summer time - what does Columbus get (other than the tax dollars of the rest of Ohio)?

As for the second largest county spewing TOSU students being Cuyahoga, NO S**T! Once you clear the post-apocalyptic wasteland that is Cleveland, the rest of that county is suburbs (which I included in my rant, if you read closely). And for the record, the fact that a land grant school is more than a regional school in its enrollment patterns DOES make it less urban. Shit, you might as well call BC a city school (granted it is across the city lines in Newton) or Case Western. They may be technically in the city limits of large cities, but are they as urban as Pitt, Temple, Cleveland State, etc? No.

As for most of us attending HS outside of the metropolitan statistical area of Pittsburgh, I suggest to you that we are freaks - the products of a recent aggressive attempt to make Pitt less of an urban commuter school and more like a big 10 school (by the way, I was born and lived in the City before moving to Indiana, PA). We all hung out with each other because we had those connections to each other that non-townies tend to have at colleges - we weren't going home to do laundry at mom's house each Friday night, and we tended not to drink at our hometown bar with our friends from HS. A lot of our fellow Pitt students, many of whom we rarely encountered because they were taking night classes or CGS courses, were on a different cultural schedule than we were.

Naturally, I would not want anyone to go to a big ten school, especially myself. I chose Pitt because it is a city school without the rah-rah-sis-boom-bah bullshit of the big ten. I like the fact that there are few fraternities, and the favorite pastime is not seeing how many frat boys we can stuff into a phone booth. I like the fact that our football fans are foul mouthed, demanding, and bitter. Better than sitting in a Nuremburg like stadium singing the good-ol'-college cheer the same way my grandfather did along with the other 80,000 drones. Pitt doesn't have an annual battle for "Ye olde Crusty Puke Buckette" like all those big ten schools do, and I'm glad of it.

But lets face facts - Columbus is a backwater state capital with a HUGE state university in it, which only experienced economic growth in the post-urban office-park-ization-of-America era that we are unfortunately experiencing right now. It is NOT a city. It is certainly more populous than State College, but IT IS A SUBURB!

[By the way, if you realized that English and Scottish teams played each other, why did you cry out for Celtic to beat Man U just once? I guess you assumed, incorrectly, that in all the past meetings of these teams, that Manchester United won or tied in all those games?]

Football Uniforms 

Lee mentioned how much we miss the old Pitt unis. It's a sad loss. Pitt abandoned the old colors that you couldn't really identify. The blue was kind of a darker, dingier royal/medium blue, while the yellow was a mustardy but not quite yellow. Even in our banner at the top, it is just a rough approximation using HTML colors of Mediumblue and Gold. I'm lucky, in that I have an old color jersey (#20 - Billy West) that I got just before the color shift in '97.

The new colors are boring, corporate, and commonplace. It reminds me of the San Diego Chargers present colors (Navy/dark blue and gold), versus their old baby/powder blue and light yellow. They now break them out once a year as throwbacks, and they just look so much cooler. That's all we would want at this point. Just once a year. Preferably at the Backyard Brawl.

Here's what a couple college kids who decided to evaluate college football jerseys had to say:

It all went to pot for Pittsburgh when they made a big deal of changing the name of the school to "Pittsburgh" because "Pitt" sounded too negative. College boards have too much time to think, I guess. When they were Pitt, their mascot was always mentioned with the name. Panthers was the official mascot, but for all intents and purposes, the mascot was the Pitt-Panthers, like the Nittany Lions. Pitt-Panthers was cool. Panthers, by itself, is lame. The corresponding uniform change was one of the worst uni changes ever seen in collegiate sports. They used to have a late-70's early-80's kinda funky, kinda ugly, off-blue, off-yellow affair going on. The "Pitt" on the side of the helmet was done in a charming Comic Sans bold meets cursive font. It is important to realize that just like tough doesn't make a good mascot, ugly does not make bad uniforms. The new uniforms are amazingly bad. Gold and black are not cool if you come to these colors late in the game, and the panther-head thing on the helmet looks like Beowulf's Grendel as drawn by the troubled comic book fan at the back of the class.

Ouch. They also make a point in noting that the Big East teams may have the worst collection of uniforms of any conference. They have a point.

Friday, August 15, 2003

Laying the Lines 

Lee will be getting married in about six weeks. This lengthy excerpt is for him.

Q: What types of non-sporting events do you bet on? We recently attended a wedding in Atlantic City, and had the following lines in play:

1. Number of bridesmaids: +/- 6
2. Number of ice sculptures: +/- 3
3. Length of church service: +/- 45 minutes
4. Time when first drunk guest makes a fool out of themselves: +/- 9.30 p.m.

Any ideas for other events? -- Mike K., Philadelphia

SG: You came to the right place. I've attended so many weddings over the past 10 years, they've all merged together into some sort of drunken haze. And let's face it: Every wedding is pretty much the same. By the time you hit your late-'20s, you could care less about who's getting married; you only want a fast ceremony, an open bar, and a cool balcony or deck outside where everyone can smoke butts.

So sprucing the festivities up with gambling. ... I mean, that's inspired genius. Let's assume that we're working with a 5 p.m. wedding ceremony, just for the sake of accuracy. Here are some other things you could gamble on:

1. Quality of the best man's toast vs. quality of the cake (even odds): This one could be especially fun if you wagered heavily on the best man, then he choked in his speech, and you wanted to kill him afterward. And yes, few things in life are more enjoyable than someone screwing up a best man's speech. I can't believe somebody hasn't turned "Worst Best Man Speeches" into its own TV show yet.

2. Girl who catches the bouquet hooks up with the guy who catches the garter (10-1 odds): I've only been to one wedding where this ever happened, so the 10-1 odds seem generous here.

3. Groom's horny friend starts grinding on the dance floor with somebody's attractive cousin who isn't 21 yet (even odds): And somebody's mother is always horrified. You can usually see this one coming. As an aside, I was delighted when this exact scenario happened at my wedding. It was a dream come true.

4. Band plays "I Will Survive" (+/- 8:45pm): I hate this song. There's always that one girl on the dance floor who just broke up with someone and gets a little too into the lyrics. Calm down, honey.

5. Token slutty bridesmaid goes after a waiter, band member, or any friend of the groom attending the wedding without his girlfriend (wager $400 to win $100): Easy money. When you mix the emotions of "I'm sad because my friend's getting married and I'm still single" with "I'm horny and drunk" and "Everyone looks good because we're all dressed up," just about anything's possible. They probably can't make these odds high enough.

6. Groom cries or faints during the wedding ceremony (3-1 odds): And here's the worst thing: You can't really make fun of them afterward. It was too big of a moment. So you might as well wager on it.

7. Puking or fisticuffs during the reception (10-1 odds): Although these odds drop to 3-1 in the general Boston area.

8. The Mother-Groom dance is "You Look Wonderful Tonight" (20-1 odds): We needed a long-shot wager on here. Imagine the excitement if you had 20-1 on Clapton and those first few seconds of the song started playing.

9. Fat guys dancing without their jackets and sweatstains under their arms (+/- 2.5): Another great part about weddings. Huge, sweeping sweatstains are always funny.

10. The token "couple who's been dating for three years and either need to get engaged or break up" have a huge blowout during the wedding reception (even odds): Not good times. Uh-oh ... I'm having flashbacks ...

And the ultimate long-shot bet...

11. Wedding called off at last minute (50-1 odds): It's dark, it's evil ... but a $10 bet wins you $500. More than enough to pay for your tux.

Just so you know what we're talking about during the reception.

Pitt WR Curse? 

I'm starting to wonder.

Sophomore receiver Larry Fitzgerald, a first-team All-Big East Conference selection last season and widely regarded as the top wideout in the country, injured his left hamstring after being tackled in a drill early in practice.

"We'll have to wait to get it evaluated by the doctor," Coach Walt Harris said. "We hate to see anyone get hurt. Anytime your top player gets hurt, hopefully, it's not very serious. We don't have any idea, yet."

Fitzgerald, who had 69 receptions for 1,005 yards and 12 touchdowns last season, caught a pass near the sideline and was tackled by linebacker Joe Dipre. Fitzgerald went down awkwardly and immediately clutched the back of his leg.

He gingerly limped across the field, had ice applied by the training staff and spent the rest of practice with his leg elevated on a Gatorade bucket.

This goes back to Latef Grim in 2000. He was all-Big East, supposed to be the go-to guy. He all but disappeared in the season. Of course Sophmore, Antonio Bryant, stepped up and was huge. So big expectations for him in 2001. What happens? In the first or second game, he goes down with a leg or foot injury. A virtual non-factor until the last game of the year. That left Pitt with R.J. English as the go to guy (R.J. will deserve his own blog entry at some point).

Last year, Fitzgerald seemingly came out of no where to amaze and astound. He's pre-season all-American and Big East this year. Considered one of the best WR in college. Oh, boy.

Update: It doesn't appear to be a serious hamstring injury. Still, I'm going to be holding my breath everytime he sprints down the sideline.

Apology Accepted 

This is getting ridiculous...

Please accept my humblest apologies for not making it perfectly clear that "the last time" Celtic and Man U played meant the last time before July's game. It should be obvious to all the readers of this site (which are all the readers of our e-mails, in which it was also made perfectly clear that you believed that Celtic and Man U played only that one time in Seattle).

Show me an e-mail where I said that I thought that Celtic and Man U have only ever played once in recorded history (in Seattle). As little as I may know about soccer, even I know that English Premier League teams do stoop to playing Scottish Premier League teams from time to time.

What can I do to make it up to you, Lee?

Admitting that you were wrong was more than enough. Thank you.

But the notion that TOSU is just as bit an urban school as Pitt is a little absurd. Columbus is a giant sprawling suburb with a small neighborhood of openly gay artistic types in the middle. Not a city in the real sense - not enough population density.

You've never really been to Columbus, have you? Trust me, it has a downtown with practically as much population density as Pittsburgh. But unlike Pittsburgh, Columbus is growing.

Really, anybody in Columbus who read your description of their city would be laughing their butts off right about now. Who exactly is defining "city in the real sense" here? You? Are "cities in the real sense" only those that look just like Pittsburgh? And what do cities "in the real sense" have to do with either density in and of itself or "openly gay artistic types?"

Besides, TOSU is a mammoth school, drawing the sons and daughters of insurance salesmen, small factory owners and Rotary, Lions, Kiwanas and Eagles club members from all over suburban and rural Ohio. Not exactly Temple - or even Pitt, for that matter. Pitt and Temple are true uban schools, in that they draw (tradtionally and even today) mainly from their metro area.

Let the record show that I am a dairy farmer's son from Crawford County, you are a professor's son from Indiana County, Shawn is a high school librarian's son from Mercer County, John is from rural Louisiana, and Chas is from Lebanon County (I honestly forget where Harlan is from... sorry). All of us are white. We don't exactly fit your urban profile, Pat. And only one of us was raised in Pittsburgh's Metropolitan Statistical Area (John). According to you, we should have all gone to a Big Ten school, perhaps Penn State.

And more Ohio State students come from Franklin County, Ohio than from any other county in the U.S., just as more Pitt students come from Allegheny County, Pennsylvania than from any other county. And incidentally, the heart of rural Ohio -- Cuyahoga County -- is the second most popular home of OSU students. But that aside, any land grant university is going to draw statewide more than a regional school like Pitt. Does that make the land grant school any less urban?

Ohio State isn't all that much more mammoth than Pitt either: 50,000 vs. 32,000. They're both pretty big by national standards.

But I think the crux of the matter, again, is that you -- someone who has never set foot on OSU's campus -- are assuming that Ohio State is Penn State with red uniforms. Let me, an alumnus of both Ohio State and Pitt, assure you that the two have a lot more in common with each other than either has with Penn State.

Jesus, Pat. I don't think that I've kicked anybody's ass so badly in an argument for years. Punt, already.

Hail to Rural Kids Going to Urban Schools Despite Where Pat Thinks We Should Go

Oh, I'm sorry B*tch... 

Please accept my humblest apologies for not making it perfectly clear that "the last time" Celtic and Man U played meant the last time before July's game. It should be obvious to all the readers of this site (which are all the readers of our e-mails, in which it was also made perfectly clear that you believed that Celtic and Man U played only that one time in Seattle).
What can I do to make it up to you, Lee?

I'll leave to Chas to report on just how obnoxious TOSU fans really are, since he is forced to live among them.

But the notion that TOSU is just as bit an urban school as Pitt is a little absurd. Columbus is a giant sprawling suburb with a small neighborhood of openly gay artistic types in the middle. Not a city in the real sense - not enough population density. Besides, TOSU is a mammoth school, drawing the sons and daughters of insurance salesmen, small factory owners and Rotary, Lions, Kiwanas and Eagles club members from all over suburban and rural Ohio. Not exactly Temple - or even Pitt, for that matter. Pitt and Temple are true uban schools, in that they draw (tradtionally and even today) mainly from their metro area. TOSU is a lot more like PSU than you are willing to admit.

As for pioneering the black student athelete, I didn't realize Jesse Owens played football. No wonder Hilter's ubermenchen were no match for him. Not that I agree with them, but didn't the black athletes in Mexico 1968 consider him a Tom, and not black enough? Just the kind of black man that White America loves? Especially Buckeyes?

This would be a great time for stats, but just what are the minority enrollment rates at Big11 universities [which are in the Big11 not for sports, but for the research money - yeah, right]?

{By the way, Pitt's John Woodruff also won gold in 1936, in the 800 meter run.}

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