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.

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Another Verbal 

Another high school cornerback from Ohio made his verbal to Pitt. This one was ranked #63 on the Insiders Midwest 100. Bryan Williams, is 6'0", 187 pounds from Buchtel High in Akron. The same school that gave Pitt Darrell Hayes, Ramon Walker, Tim Murphy and others.

Williams and the Jones verbal both came after their time at the Walt Harris Football Camp. A not so gentle reminder of the importance of these camps for recruiting purposes.

Williams turned down offers from Akron, North Carolina and Illinois.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Recruitng Notes 

Pitt football has secured its fourth verbal commitment for the Class of 2005. Dominic Jones of Brookhaven High School in Columbus, Ohio. Jones plays Cornerback. He is either 5'8" or 5'9" and 182 pounds. According to his profile, he will be most dangerous as a kick returner.

First, like most Pitt fans who feel rather burned after last year, the impulse is to be somewhat dismissive of the signing and say, "call me when he actually signs the letter of intent." I'm still working on getting past that.

The next thing is to get past the obvious puffing of Jones. Take this statement from the Post-Gazette story.

Jones, who will play corner and return kicks and punts, is the Panthers' most highly rated prospect. The Insiders, a nationally recognized recruiting Web site, has him ranked as one of the top players in Ohio.

I'd love to know where Insiders ranks him like that. Here is the national top 100. Here is the Midwest top 100. There are 34 Ohio prospects listed. Jones is not among them.

I'm not trying to tear the kid down. Of course prospect ranking is hardly and exact science. He's drawn interest from Penn State, Michigan and Minnesota, suggesting that the kid has a lot of talent. Keep this in mind. Pitt was the first and so far only one of the schools to actually offer him a scholarship. Kind of suggests he is a little lower on the depth/priority charts of the other schools. What happens if those other schools whiff on some CB prospects? You know they'll be sniffing around him again.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Summarizing the Pre-Season Rankings 

Now here is something useful. A compilation of the various NCAA Football pre-season rankings. There are national and conference rankings.

The Non-Draftees 

The NBA Draft is Thursday night. Julius Page will not hear his name called in the 2 round draft. Instead, Julius hopes to be invited to a rookie camp then summer league and be signed as a free agent. He would likely end up in the NBDL (where Brandin Knight toils) or have to go overseas.

He still speaks positively about playing his senior year, despite it possibly costing him a chance in last years draft.

Page, who is three courses shy of graduating with a history degree, said he has no regrets about electing to pass on the trend of declaring early for the NBA. The adulation on Senior Night alone made it worthwhile.

"I'm glad that I stayed all four years," Page said. "My senior year, it was mentally and physically one of the worst times, as far as struggling. But I think times like that build character. It makes me appreciate the game more."

Page declared his ankle "100 percent" and his passion restored while making the transition from shooting guard to the point. He was one of 64 players invited to the Portsmouth Invitational in Virginia, where he averaged 8.7 points and 4.3 assists in three games and was rated the No. 12 point guard prospect by NBADraftReport.com.

Never even heard of that site, and he seems to have dropped to #18 (and Jaron Brown was at #27 out of 29 for shooting guards). Of course, I never saw his name even mentioned in reviews of the Portsmouth on the sites for ESPN, SI, Sportsline and Sporting News.

I hope he makes it someday.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Less Than a Year Later... 

Walt Harris defending his record in this piece.

"We did go to a bowl for a fourth time, you know?" Harris said. "And we did win eight games, and we had a guy (Larry Fitzgerald) who came in second in the Heisman. We came into a program that hadn't gone to a bowl in (eight) years. You couldn't find anything 'Pitt' in the stores. You'd never see a Pitt football player advertised on college football. We've done a good job in graduating our players, and we've done a representative job of keeping our guys in line.

"So, I would have been shocked (to be fired), but, like I said, my first reaction is that if they don't think it's good enough, I'm sure somebody else will."

All of which is not in dispute. The fact is, though, that it isn't good enough anymore to win most of the weak games and still not win big games.

Harris believes his team was overrated going into last season, though he concedes there were good reasons for such high expectations.

"People logically put it together and came up with a higher rating than probably, player for player, our talent level was -- especially to be rated in the top 10," he said. "Last year was very disappointing to me. I don't think we played like we know we can play. We obviously didn't coach good in certain areas. The fact is, we lost an outstanding running back (Brandon Miree) for seven games. That was a big hit. And our defense (ranked 79th in NCAA Division I) completely shocked us."

This is when having archives are a good thing, so feel free to take a look back at the PSB archives from last August. You won't find much in the way of Coach Harris looking to dampen expectations. Even if Pitt shouldn't have been a top-10 team, they very much underachieved to finish the season unranked. And despite the loss of Miree, which I will be first to admit was a big blow to Pitt. But let's be clear, the problems with the running game arguably only cost us the Notre Dame game. Just about every other loss could be pinned on a defense that couldn't stop the run even if half the offensive linemen took a seat on the sideline.

Looking back at some old posts led me to this, and an article on the growth of Walt Harris. Have a laugh

Expectations are higher than they've ever been for a Harris-led Pitt team, with 16 starters returning from a squad that finished 9-4 last season. Most preseason polls rank the Panthers in the top 12, while some have called them a darkhorse to win a national championship.

"It's another challenge in the growth process," said Harris, who rebuilt the program from scratch after taking over for Johnny Majors following the 1996 season. "It's up to us to make it happen."

Harris enters training camp transformed. He decided in the offseason that he must ease up slightly on his offensive players, particularly his quarterbacks.

He said he intends to "quit" being a quarterbacks/offensive coach and dedicate more time to overseeing the entire operation. It is a major step for a man who's spent his career at Pitt micro-managing his quarterbacks, something for which he's been frequently criticized.

"I need to be more of a head coach," said Harris, who still plans to work closely with the quarterbacks and the offense. "I need to be the overseer of this whole team. It's something I thought a lot about and it's the best way."

As you may recall, Harris has now decided to be the offensive coordinator for this year, following Brookhart taking the Akron head coaching gig.
The rest of this article is just as discomforting.

Back to the present article.

Harris pointed out that Pitt played a winner-take-all, regular-season finale against Miami last year, with a BCS bowl bid at stake. The Panthers lost, 28-14.

"I would hope we could play the last game of the year every year for a Bowl Championship Series bid," he said, "and one of these days (a victory) is going to happen for us."

Summer practice begins Aug. 12.

Hey, on my birthday.

You know, I don't mind spin. Everyone does it. It's just that Walt is so bad at it. Pitt backed into playing for the BCS bid after collapsing against West Virginia 2 weeks prior. Except for the first quarter, Pitt looked abyssmal at home, in the cold of late November against Miami. The "look at how far we've come" spin is pathetic. 2003 and 2001 were years where Pitt failed to meet expectations -- fans, media, team. No matter how Walt wants to spin it, he has to actually achieve at some point.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Alumni Update -- More Bryant 

Really nothing to report yet. According to Len Pasquarelli at ESPN.com, Bryant is taking a chill back home in Miami. Pasquarelli also appears to agree with my view that Bryant is staying in Dallas.

Unless we are being misled, or badly misreading the tea leaves (the latter of those, of course, is always a possibility), Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Antonio Bryant isn't going anywhere. No release. No trade. No team suspension. No divorce. Cowboys coach Bill Parcells will deal with Bryant internally and the two will move on.

A guy like Parcells knows that you need talent to win, as much as you need a disciplined team.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Video Game Puff Piece 

A puff piece on Larry Fitzgerald as it relates to being the cover boy for EA Sports NCAA Football 2005 game.

Ohio State Scandal Notes 

Cross-posted from Sardonic Views at Lee's request so he could post responses. I live in Ohio, so this is a big story everywhere. Lee has dual loyalties owing to his graduate work at OSU. Hey, it's the slow season for the blog.

As I said, the $6,000 O'Brien paid to a recruit was enough to warrant his firing -- no matter how clean O'Brien's past was (any shock Dick Vitale thinks otherwise). Paying money to a recruit is a clear, major violation. It is a bright line that was crossed. Now, though, it looks like it was just the tip, and it may take down another school and coach.

The lawsuit also names former assistant Paul Biancardi as a major player in the Savovic violations of extra benefits. Biancardi led Wright State to a 14-14 record (10-6 in the Horizon League) in his first season at the school in 2003-04 and denies Salyers' charges of any wrongdoing.

Proving Salyers' case will be the hardest part for the NCAA, according to a source. But if Biancardi did commit violations, even while he was at Ohio State, then he could be subject to NCAA penalties. And the NCAA would likely expect Wright State to take action against its head coach for past violations.

As I recall, Wright State had gotten its choice down to Biancardi and then Pitt assistant coach Jamie Dixon. Think Wright State would like to reconsider. Though, to be fair, I think Dixon actually withdrew from consideration for the job.

This lawsuit that started getting all of this out there has everything that a good college sports scandal needs. Money, someone else doing the homework and sex.

A lawsuit that led to the firing of Ohio State basketball coach Jim O'Brien alleges that O'Brien and an assistant knew that player Boban Savovic received regular payments and classroom help, in defiance of NCAA rules.

Kathleen Salyers, who said she housed and fed the player for two years, testified in a deposition in April that she spent thousands of dollars on phone bills, car insurance and spending money for Savovic, who was on the 1998-99 team that O'Brien led to the Final Four. She said she often put the money in Savovic's medicine cabinet.

She said Ohio State assistant coach Paul Biancardi regularly contacted her about Savovic and often told her he was calling at O'Brien's instruction.

"He (Biancardi) called and told me when taxes were due, when Boban was flunking a class, to go and talk to the professor and have his grade changed," Salyers said. "There were many, many calls from Paul Biancardi requesting that I pay something for Boban."
In the deposition, Salyers said she did not receive $1,000 per month plus expenses she had been promised by Dan and Kim Roslovic, Savovic's sponsors. Salyers sued the Ohio State boosters, seeking $510,000 in expenses and damages.

She also acknowledged that her attorney asked O'Brien for money to keep her story from becoming public.
Salyers, who was the Roslovics' baby sitter, said she agreed to take in Savovic after receiving a call from Dan Roslovic, who said he was calling from Biancardi's basketball office.

According to the lawsuit, the Roslovics said Savovic could no longer stay with them because of NCAA rules. Salyers said Biancardi told her she should lie and tell people that Savovic was living in her house because he was a friend of her son's and they played basketball together.

Salyers said she did most of Savovic's homework for three years because he had difficulty with the English language.
Her deposition also alleged:

that Savovic and a booster had a sexual relationship.
that Savovic amassed a bill of more than $10,000 on a long-distance telephone card that belonged to the father of New York player agent Mark Cornstein. NCAA rules bar any contact between agents and eligible players.
that Cornstein had access to Ohio State players and she had seen him in the Buckeyes' locker room after games.

The booster was Kim Roslovic, and she admitted to the affair. She and her husband have since divorced

The last bit about the agent influence could be the big thing that gets OSU on the wrong side of the NCAA.

Four former OSU players are current clients of Pinnacle Management Corp., whose founder and president, Marc Cornstein, was instrumental in helping O'Brien's staff land Yugoslavian recruits.
Simmy is a nickname for Spomenko Pajovic, a New York-based Yugoslavian agent who helped Savovic come to the United States to play high school basketball in New Jersey for one season prior to attending OSU.

Pajovic and Cornstein worked with Biancardi, now the head coach at Wright State, to bring Savovic, Radojevic and Cobe Ocokoljic to the Buckeyes, according to former Ohio State assistant coach Dave Spiller.

"He gave us access to knowing who some of the better European kids were," Spiller said of Cornstein. "We were trying to establish some resources that would identify for us who the better kids were so we could get an edge in recruiting. [Cornstein] certainly attended some of our games, but he didn't have any special privileges."

Salyers' deposition disputes that, saying she saw Cornstein and Pajovic enter the OSU locker room with other program insiders immediately after games.

"They wanted to get ahold of Scoonie Penn and Michael Redd, and I believe there was another one," Salyers said in her deposition, later identifying the third player as Ken Johnson.

Pinnacle Management's Web site lists Penn, Savovic, Ocokoljic and Velimir Radinovic, this past season's OSU team captain, as current clients.

Cornstein did not return multiple telephone messages Wednesday, nor did O'Brien's attorney, James Zeszutek.

Thirty of the 32 basketball players Cornstein lists as clients on his Web site are of Slavic descent, with Penn one of the exceptions.

Pinnacle's site is here. Surprise, no mention of what is happening at OSU on their site. Hey, they represent Darko Milicic (the guy taken after LeBron, but before Carmello).

There are some questions as to the truthfulness of all that the the lady who is making all of these claims, but there is more than enough smoke that suggests that this will be getting worse. Really worse.

This will make it more difficult for OSU to land any "name" coach for the job. The possibility of sanctions hanging over the program and being the one to restore OSU Basketball's reputation and win is a lot to ask without a boatload of money and one hell of a lengthy contract. Even with that, some coaches aren't going to be interested.

Hey, Nolan Richardson's out there.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Alumni Updating 

Before Fitzgerald rewrote the WR records at Pitt, there was Antonio Bryant. Bryant was a talent, but also had tantrum issues. He was in the Terrell Owens, Keyshawn Johnson, Randy Moss mold -- highly talented but selfish and a sideline screamer. We saw Bryant scream at Walt Harris, assistant coaches and other players. His maturity and behavior were what dropped him to a second round draft pick, rather than mid-first where his talent projected him. According to reports in Texas, that hasn't changed.

Volatile third-year wide receiver Antonio Bryant was kicked out of the Cowboys' practice Tuesday morning after an argument with receivers coach Todd Haley, resulting in an altercation with coach Bill Parcells.

According to several sources, Bryant has become frustrated with his role as the team's third receiver. His feelings boiled over in practice, with Bryant initially getting into separate arguments with Keyshawn Johnson and Haley.

Parcells intervened, only to see Bryant take his jersey off and throw it on the ground. According to the sources, Parcells picked up the jersey and threw it back at Bryant, who then threw it in the face of an angry and approaching Parcells.

Several players jumped in between the two men. Bryant was escorted out of practice by club security.

There is some speculation that Bryant may be released by the Cowboys because of this. I doubt it. Dallas is too thin at wide receiver, Bryant still has a cap friendly rookie contract, and while Parcells is a disciplinarian -- he knows talent. Bryant has the talent that will keep him around for a while longer.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004


Ohio State has fired head basketball coach Jim O'Brien. My thoughts here.

The early rumored names do not include Jamie Dixon or Pitt assistants.

Xavier's Thad Matta, coming off an Elite Eight appearance, and North Carolina State's Herb Sendek, who once coached at nearby Miami of Ohio, will be sought after by Geiger, sources told ESPN.com. A clamoring to bring Buckeye alumnus Bob Knight back into the fold is also expected.

Cleveland sports talk had a few brain-dead moron callers say OSU should bring Clark Kellogg in as coach. Keep it in the family talk.

I think it would be a hoot to have Bob Knight at OSU. It just feels right.

Friday, June 04, 2004

The Work Ahead 

An article on the first year's work of Pitt AD Jeff Long. A bit of a puff piece, but useful to recall everything he's done and been through in the first year. There is something at the end of the first paragraph of the article that was left unexplained.

In his first year as the athletic director at Pitt, Jeff Long has experienced the death of a student-athlete, the near-destruction and resurgence of the Big East football Conference, been named to two high-profile committees, struck an important broadcast deal with Fox Sports and put the "Pitt" back in the University of Pittsburgh.

That is a dirty tease. I eargerly read the article hoping that meant the school was going back to Pitt, but nothing. Bendel, the writer, did constantly call the school Pitt, though.

Through no fault of his own, Long has been involved in a lot of activity this past season. I've noted when Long has done good things for the program. Clearly, he has been instrumental in getting Pitt sports on the airwaves. It looks like it is one of his great strengths -- an understanding that radio and TV programs are big keys to raising the awareness and profile of Pitt.

Long has moved quickly, decisively and deftly in his moves in this area. Pitt now has a TV propaganda show on Fox Sports Pittsburgh (I mean, how embarrassing was it that Fox Sports Pittsburgh had stuff for Penn State, WVU and even Lehigh, but not Pitt). He brought back radio shows for the football and basketball head coaches. This spring he got deals for call-in and radio shows centered around Pitt sports. Huge.

The one area where Long hasn't made a move yet is the issue of merchandising and the Pitt logo. Last fall, Long expressed a desire to get a better "secondary" logo for Pitt and improve the merchandising side. The secondary logo was important to Long for better reproduction in smaller sizes.

Logos. These are the logos of every team from the NCAA basketball tournament. The image has been reduced a little more from the original. Take a look. Some are virtually unrecognizable in smaller size. Posted by Hello

Pitt's is the little blue-gold blob in the upper-right quadrant between Oklahoma State and Wake Forest. It just doesn't work. The blue and gold in the panther logo blur too much to be a strong icon. A good logo needs to be simple and visible. The Pitt logo isn't. The use of "Pittsburgh" underneath the panther head makes things worse, because it has to be shrunk further. SO you have a very tiny typeface to fit the word "Pittsburgh" underneath and it just plain sucks.

Scrap the present logo.

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