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.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Palko Touring 

I had nothing. Coming out of the long weekend, there wasn't much else to offer. Maybe there will be something in the afternoon, but the morning had no news. So a big hat tip to Chris who e-mailed me about this article from Wilkes-Barre:

Tyler Palko was proud to lead the University of Pittsburgh football team to the Big East championship and a berth in a BCS game last season.

Now, he wants even more.

"We're not anywhere near where we need to be right now. That's someone talking who's a perfectionist," said Palko, who enjoyed a breakout season as Pitt's starting quarterback last year.

"I want to win a championship. The Big East championship's nice, but I want to win a national championship. That's the kind of mentality that needs to be back. It's coming, slowly but surely. You can't build Rome in a day.

"But we need to get back to really earning our respect. You have to go out and fight for it."

A former West Allegheny High School star, Palko was a featured clinician Saturday at coach George Curry's annual Quarterback Clinic at Berwick High School. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound senior looks to possess the perfect mentality to guide an up-and-coming Panther program that needed to win several key games down the stretch to capture the league crown.
He's excited to work with new head coach and former Panther Dave Wannstedt.

"It's a mentality. He's from Pittsburgh," Palko said of Wannstedt. "It's not that coach (Walt) Harris wasn't tough. But coach Harris wasn't from this town. You have to be from Pittsburgh to understand. It's a little bit different.

"This city is just hard-working, blue-collar people who want perfection. They want to win and they want to win now."

Slight factual correction, Palko is a Redshirt Junior, not a Senior. We aren't ready to see him leave quite yet.

Apparently in Berwick, Ron Powlus, Sr. is not worth mentioning. The clinic is technically the Curry & Powlus Quarterback Skills Camp (PDF).

Though, let's be fair. Only Coach Curry has his own instructional videos available.

I just hope that this sort of clinic Palko helped at, is within the quasi-legal rules of the NCAA. Probably is, as long as he isn't used for marketing purposes.

Monday, May 30, 2005

More NBA Draft Rankings 

What? You were expecting in-depth, detailed analysis of the offensive line? Now?

No, just some more draft rankings and mock first round projections. This time from Sportsline.

In ranking the power forwards, Chris Taft is actually ranked 2nd behind Charlie Villanueva. I'm still puzzling over that one. Two players who lack much in the way of heart and drive. Just talent and "upside." Despite that, in none of their draft projections does Villanueva go ahead of Taft.

In the ranking of point guards, Carl Krauser gets the most love in any of the rankings. He comes in at #10 overall. "Strong will and tenacious commitment to defense will land him on an NBA roster some day." Still sounds like they don't put him much better than late 2nd round at best.

There are 3 mock 1st rounds as picked by 3 of their writers. Taft goes anywhere from 9 to 15 at this point (the mock drafts are updated periodically, so it may change later). Two of the writers -- Tony Meija and Greg Doyel -- mention how Taft has fallen out of favor with the Knicks at #8 because of his work ethic.

Matt Lawrence puts Taft at #15 to the NJ Nets:
All season long, the Nets severely lacked a consistent big man. Taft is a bit raw offensively but is a beast on the glass and the defensive side of the ball. He could develop into a Udonis Haslem-type player.
Doyel has Taft at #10 for the LA Lakers:
Finally, someone will take a chance on Taft. Chris, meet Kobe Bryant. He's better than you are right now. He's better than you'll ever be. So do what he says.
Meija has Taft picked #9 by the Golden State Warriors:
The Warriors' perimeter puzzle is in great shape, so look for them to go big and hope Taft's great upside eventually shines through.
I don't mean to be so down on Taft. He was great for Pitt as a freshman. His sophomore year was more of a disappointment because of expectations. He never caused problems and did nothing to embarrass the school or program. He was right to leave for the NBA. The money is too good not to go, and he didn't seem to have too much higher to get in the draft.

It's just, I don't see him having the determination to succeed in the NBA. He doesn't seem to have the drive and determination to be a better player. He says the right things, but never shows it. If physical ability and size was enough players like Bimbo Coles and Michael Olowokandi would not be punchlines.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Football Notes 

Several Pitt football players seemed to have found part-time jobs at the Senior PGA. They are working security.

Notre Dame is strengthening its unofficial ties to the Big East in football. They will play at least 2 more BE teams (in addition to Pitt) each year starting in 2009. The deal is for about 8 years.

West Virginia is already getting anxious about its secondary. Especially for the Backyard Brawl. No really.

Lee -- who joins Antonio Bryant and Larry Fitzgerald as notable receivers at Pitt in recent years -- could spell trouble when he brings his game to Morgantown on Thanksgiving Day.

Sure, his 1,297 yards on 68 catches -- 10 of which hit paydirt -- last year make him a potent threat. But that's just the black-and-white of it.

Consider this: with a secondary that was much better than this year's unit is expected to be, the Mountaineers could do absolutely nothing with Lee during a 16-13 loss at Heinz Field last November.

He caught six passes for 124 yards, despite miserable on-field conditions, a lackluster game from quarterback Tyler Palko and the presence of Adam "Pac-Man" Jones, now prepping for his rookie season with the Tennessee Titans.

Sure, this is way early, but at first glance the Backyard Brawl this year might come down to Greg Lee vs. the WVU secondary.

Give the early advantage to Lee.

Never too early to rattle a rival.

Pitt AD Jeff Long is confident that Pitt will sell out its season tickets this season. This despite the fact that sales are about where they were last year (when the sales dropped by about 8,000) and the increased mandatory donations.

Seems like a toss-up to me. On the one hand you have what is expected to be a pretty good team with a new coach who has already brought a lot of energy and attention to the program. On the other hand you have increased overall prices and a home schedule that, outside of ND, is not exactly one built to excite -- Youngstown St., UConn, 'Cuse, Cinci, and USF.

Even Coach Dave Wannstedt is tired of all the talk about the Pitt-Penn St. stuff:
"I don't see it happening," said Wannstedt, a former Pitt player. "I really think it's a dead issue."

Penn State has already filled its 12th game with Temple, getting two home games out of the three-game series. The Lions reportedly want a similar deal with Pitt, but athletic director Jeff Long has publicly said that Pitt will not accept anything less than a home-and-home series with the Nittany Lions.

"We've expressed how we feel about it and our reasons why," Wannstedt said.

Penn State coach Joe Paterno was in Pittsburgh earlier this month, and he said scheduling Temple was as important as scheduling Pitt because of the Penn State fan interest in Philadelphia. Wannstedt seemed peeved that Penn State would put Pitt into the same class as Temple, which was ousted from the Big East Conference after consistent futility.
"I don't see it going anywhere," Wannstedt said, "at least in the near future."
The near future being the rest of JoePa's life.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Taft Draft Daft 

Bad craziness, man. It starts with Chris Taft.

DraftCity is saying that Chris Taft's stock in the draft is falling. Right now, they put him at #14 (Minnesota), but think he could slop further.
Chris Taft has been holding numerous private workouts over the past week in a gym in New York City, taking advantage of the fact that many of the NBA decision makers were in town for the draft lottery. DraftCity has spoken to a couple of people who watched him in those workouts, and the feedback has been almost unanimous: he's incredibly overrated.

A few select comments:

"I can't believe how lazy he looked out there. Does he not get it?"
"Taft has some of the worst body language I have ever seen from a player his age."

"Teams are calling up his coach at Pitt, Jamie Dixon, and they are not really liking what they're hearing about his work ethic and basketball IQ."

Teams generally do not like to share information with top prospects with each other, but in this case when they are all watching the disaster unfold in front of their eyes, it's hard not to. Isiah Thomas was reportedly one of the spectators and all he could do was "shake his head in disgust."
Hard to believe he is blowing it this bad.

But wait, it gets better. A couple days ago I noted a fairly moderate review of Taft's workout by ESPN.com's Chad Ford. Apparently it was too negative for Taft's agent (Insider Subs.).
Banned. That was the word from Chris Taft's agent, Billy Ceisler, after Insider's lukewarm blog report from Taft's workout for several NBA teams.

I was scheduled to be back in the gym again on Wednesday to watch two of Ceisler's other clients, Antoine Wright and Charlie Villanueva, but got a call late Tuesday night from an agitated Ceisler, who said I was uninvited because of my review of Taft (see below).

There are three problems with that.

First, the review of Taft wasn't negative. He worked out in a gym by himself. Taft looked fine, but because of the structure of the workout, he wasn't able to really show off what he is capable of doing well – dominating in the paint. No one wants to see big guys like that shoot jumpers or hook shots over a 6-foot trainer.

I said I didn't think he helped or hurt himself. I've talked to three other NBA scouts who've been in the same gym over the last three days and they've all said the same thing.

Second, I don't believe that hiding players – or, in this case, shielding them from criticism – really helps them in the long run.

Ceisler is just trying to do his job – protect the interests of his clients. However, experienced agents know that limiting access only to people who will write positive reviews is a bad idea, because it diminishes the credibility of any positive reviews a player may receive.

This is not looking good for Taft's future. He's not showing much, and his agent is an idiot. Someone close to Taft better do something to get him to start socking away a chunk of that signing bonus.

Recruiting Tidbits 

It's a love-hate thing with recruiting news in late spring. You want any news you can get, but it is hard to put too much stock in anything this early.

Apparently Bob Lichtenfels at PantherReport.com has been very busy this week. While Coach Dave Wannstedt was doing his Eastern Pennsylvania swing, he dipped into Delaware.
Another gem I have found while studying film is Middletown (Del.) defensive end Eric Latimore, 6-6 and 240 pounds. Latimore is a very explosive player off the edge. He has a great frame and a tremendous wing span. He possesses the size and athleticism that college coaches crave. That could explain why a number of programs have been in to visit him this month.

"Pittsburgh, Miami, Marshall, Maryland, Penn State, Virginia, Western Michigan, and West Virginia have been among the one's who have come to the school," Latimore said.
"Dave Wannstedt came here, I knew he was coming but I was kind of in shock that he was here," Latimore said. "He was telling me about the DE's he's coached like Jason Taylor and how they could use a big DE like me at Pittsburgh."
"I have offers from Delaware, Western Michigan, and Tennessee State right now," Latimore said. "I think Marshall and Pitt may offer, maybe a few more."
And down in Florida, a speedy corner has Pitt among his top choices.
Florida was just one of the schools that came into the school to see Gary, others included Wisconsin, Ohio State, Boston College, NC State, Marshall, Bowling Green, and Western Michigan.

Gary picked up a few more offers this week.

"Minnesota, Iowa State, Louisiana-Lafayette, and Wisconsin offered," Gary said. "They all on paper except Wisconsin.

The standout corner now holds offers from Pittsburgh, South Florida, Akron, Middle Tennessee, Wake Forest, Kansas, Ole Miss, and North Carolina.

"Right now my favorites are probably Florida, Pittsburgh, and Minnesota," Gary said. "Florida has always been my favorite, but Pittsburgh has a very good shot."
It's nice to read, but right now you just need to take it with a grain of salt.

Football Schedule and Coach 

Pitt technically is listed to play at Ohio U on Saturday, September 10. Then it looked like it would be moved to Friday night, September 9, so it could be an ESPN game. Now, probably because of the curiosity of having Frank Solich as the Bobcat's head guy, the game may be moved to Thursday, September 8 for ESPN.

I'm actually annoyed by this for purely selfish reasons. My in-laws are actually OU fans and go to the games. We were going to go to the game and it would have been my chance to finally get my daughter to her first Pitt game. Even on Friday night, it looked to be doable. Not on Thursday, though. Right now it looks like it will have to wait. There is an official ban in our group on bringing spouses and children to the games (which I support). That likely will not be changing for a few more years, at least until one other in the group has a kid (Lee). Then a tipping point might take place.

A puff piece on Pitt recruiting coordinator and tight ends coach Greg Gattuso. While all of the other new coaches on the staff have gotten 0-2 pieces, Gattuso keeps getting attention. A lot of this is because of the writers' familiarity and relationship to Gattuso. As the former head coach at Duquesne for 12 years, he is probably the easiest guy for them to talk to and interview.

More Draft Stuff 

According the SI.com mock draft, Chris Taft does not get drafted in the top 14 lottery picks. They have the Knicks at #8 picking Center, Channing Frye of Arizona. They rank Taft as the 16th best player in the draft, and hedge.
Taft, one of the few true centers on the board, is ranked low on this list because he did not make much progress between his freshman and sophomore seasons at Pitt. He showed a few flashes of stardom but never developed into a real star or expanded his offensive game. Still, Taft could go in the top 10 if an NBA team is convinced he will break through in the right atmosphere.
[Emphasis added.]

Please note that ESPN.com listed him as a Power Forward in the NBA, and #1 in that group.

As for Krauser's hopes, he can at least take a little encouragement from the fact that he appears to be on the short list of underclassmen to get the much sought invite to the Chicago pre-draft camp (Insider Subs.).

In addition to Krauser, the other underclassmen from the Big East on the list includes: Torin Francis, ND; Brandon Bowman, G-town; and Amir Johnson, Louisville signee.

The list is not finalized and this was not dealing with Senior players. So Troutman's status for Chicago is still quite unknown.

Pennsylvania Recruits 

Rob Lichtenfels at Scout.com has his Pennsylvania Top 50 posted (this is different from whatever Scout.com lists as its "PA Top 50").

A few things stand out to me. First, I can't believe someone from my high school is listed as the #2 prospect. That just doesn't happen. Not since the days Sam Bowie was a senior at Lebanon High was there this much attention for a LHS athlete.

The second thing is how important Dave Wannstedt's Eastern Pennsylvania roadie was. 6 of the top 10 and 9 of the 15 kids are from the Eastern part of the state.

The final item is that Pitt has verbals from 3 of the 50 already.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

A Couple Goodies 

So the football coaches poll will dip a toe into transparency by revealing how they voted in their final votes. Why do I have a feeling they will find that even too hot and try to pull away after next season.

Former Tennessee QB Brent Schaeffer is starting his round of visits to schools he might transfer. First up, Clemson.

Chandra Schaeffer said her son will visit at least Clemson and Texas A&M. He will not visit South Florida because he saw the university out of high school. Schaeffer also sent release forms to Central Florida, Miami, Maryland, Pittsburgh and Miami (Ohio).

Schaeffer is permitted to make five official visits, as if he was a high school recruit again. He recently spoke with Clemson coach Tommy Bowden, and his mother said Brent wants to remain a quarterback.

Since there has been no word about what Flacco is doing, I imagine Pitt has to be working hard to get him to visit.

Since drug testing athletes is all the rage these days, the Big East might start doing more. It is, however, trying to let the NCAA lead on the issue.

Unintended Consequences Predicted 

Three weeks ago, I noted the change by the NCAA in standardizing media guides. I made the following observation:
This strikes me as a really stupid thing. This means the useful stuff like history and records may be struck from the media guides. Hopefully, they will just shift that sort of thing to being online, as a special supplement to get around the rule.
Now, a West Virginia columnist milks it for a whole column. He takes a shot at bashing Pitt's media guides:
My personal favorite is Pitt, where the guide that details a 13-member basketball squad annually weighs more than the one that contains information on a 100-plus-member football team. How do they do that?
It's called paper stock. There are different weights. Hope that helps in your ongoing understanding. For the record, the basketball media guide had less pages than the football this past season.

He also thinks it will be bad that the history and records will be relegated to being "only" online.

Oh, you can still get that information, but you’ll have to do it online. I’m lucky. I can actually get a hard copy of it myself because the NCAA has agreed to allow schools to publish a separate records book (black and white and photocopied, thank you), available to the media, not to recruits.

So, now, let me get this straight: The NCAA will allow media guides to become publications (albeit smaller) aimed at recruits, which was the problem in the first place. But the group now strictly forbids schools from passing out to recruits copies of the supplemental records, which no recruit in the history of athletics has ever wanted. And meanwhile, the media guides have strayed even further from any actual usefulness to the media and, at the same time, will no longer contain a lot of the information that fans like to have for their 10 bucks.

Yes, sir, sounds to me like another problem solved by the NCAA.

Does he sit in a press box these days? Every reporter has a laptop and an internet connection -- even in West Virginia (probably). The odds are, they barely crack open the media guide when it is all online. Of course the media guide is about selling the program and the school. Not just to the recruits, but to the fans.

As I've thought about this more, and I see more potential good out of this. At least with respect to Pitt. This will force Pitt to better develop and create more useful and searchable records of its stats and history. Right now, it doesn't have to. It just uses its media guides and puts them in PDF format to page through. It's easy for them, and it looks decent. The other bright side is that you can download your own copy to retain without having to spend $15.

But to have more searchable stats on the web, how is that a negative. Pitt is only moving forward with its season by season stats in football and basketball. They aren't going back to past years for the same details. They seem to have done more with basketball, regarding searching stats, but a lot is still accessed as PDF files.

Little Things 

Looks like after a couple days with a small flurry, I'm starting to scrape again.

From Bruce Feldman's excellent blog (Insider Sub.), he runs down the top-10 nicknames for college football players today.
10. June Bug (Charles Spencer, Pittsburgh OT): There has to be one guy here with one of those ironic nicknames, and the 6-5, 315-pound is deserving of the hype. He did make All-Big East last season.
I did not know that. I'm guessing Spencer might be less than thrilled for everyone to know that now.

Recommended read, the Ivan Maisel story on how WVU and Marshall got their deal brokered.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Draft Notes 

Okay, Milwaukee is on the clock in a weak draft. Now the lists of players and where they rank should really start rolling.

Over at ESPN.com, they still have Chris Taft in the #8 spot (Insider Subs.) being picked by the New York Knicks in their mock 1st round draft. Others from the Big East in the 1st round include Hakim Warrick at #15 to the New Jersey Nets and Charlie Villanueva at #23. When I saw Villanueva going to the Kings, I immediately thought he was the perfect choice to replace Chris Webber. They thought the same thing:
Villanueva has the skills of a lottery pick and the heart of an NBDL all-star. He has all the skills to be a perfect replacement for Chris Webber on the Kings front line. But will Rick Adelman, or whoever is coaching the Kings, ever be able to trust him? For all of his skills, Villanueva has always be a "me first" player. Then again, maybe that's what makes him the perfect replacement for Webber.
I guess it was too easy.

ESPN.com also has a list of Top-10 players (and then a bunch more) by each position (Insider Subs.).

Chris Taft is listed as the #1 Power Forward prospect. In the "Best of the Rest" category, WVU's Kevin Pittsnogle is #10, ND's Torin Francis is #11, and Chevon Troutman is # 13. They ranked Francis higher than Troutman? I realize Troutman is a marginal free agent possibility, but Francis?

At the Point Guard position, Carl Krauser comes in at #6 in the "Best of the Rest" group (or #16 overall for PGs).

Taking A Chance 

At the risk of putting the jinx on the Baseball Team, I have to point out that Pitt is letting everyone listen to the radio broadcasts on the net for free.

The first game is on Thursday at 3:30 pm against St. John's.

Depending on the outcome, Pitt will play again on Friday at either noon or 3:30.

Let's go Pitt!

Looking Ahead 

Not pre-season prognostications really, just starting to look at what will be out there it seems. Dennis Dodd at Sportsline profiles Louisville and the overhaul of college football:
The neighbors aren't exactly next door, mind you. The new Big East extends from Connecticut to Tampa to Louisville, the westernmost outpost of the new league. Eight teams in eight states. Might as well call it the Big Let's Do Whatever We Can To Keep This Thing Together In Order to Keep Our BCS Berth.

No shame there, especially since such shuffling is the reality of college football these days. The Big East's situation is tied directly to the ACC starting the latest realignment tsunami two years ago. The fallout: Eighteen teams (15 percent of I-A) have found new homes since the end of 2004.
And I keep coming back to the question: What was in it for the MAC to take Temple? Kind of hurts their credibility, don't you think?

Dodd also does a brief schedule scan to highlight the best games of each week:
Notre Dame at Pittsburgh: Weis vs. Wanny in each coach's first college game as a head man. Great -- OK, really good -- quarterback matchup: (Tom) Brady Quinn vs. Tyler Palko. Given each team's knee-jerk fans, the heat begins right away for the loser.
Pittsburgh at Nebraska: On a hot September afternoon last year, Palko came of age in the second half against Nebraska. This will be tougher. Bill Callahan has had a year to work out the kinks, and the Panthers have to go on the road to Lincoln.
Pittsburgh at Louisville: Welcome to the Big East's newest rivalry. Both programs should arrive at this date the top two teams in the reconfigured conference. Figure on a combined 80 points and a couple of 300-yard passing games by Palko and Brian Brohm.
Don't you want Pitt to beat Nebraska, just to see Mark May rub it in Trev Alberts face? I know I do.

Speaking of looking ahead, it seems someone down in West Virginia is a little concerned about how Coach Wannstedt could set back the 'Eers.

But his biggest impact on the WVU program might not be on the football field -- at least not initially. According to published reports out of Pennsylvania, Wannstedt is hitting the state's high schools hard in attempts to keep quality recruits home.

If he's successful, a deep pool of talent might be a little shallower for the Mountaineers. A list of past standouts -- former linebackers Grant Wiley and Adam Lehnortt come immediately to mind -- is evidence of how important recruiting in Pennsylvania has been for WVU over the years. If Wannstedt is able to keep just two or three players home, it could have an effect on West Virginia football going forward.

Just an alarmist or seeing a real probability?

TV And Schedule 

Yes we are talking basketball and I can hear the collective groan from everyone at the prospect of me complaining about the non-con yet again.

So here's the potential good news:
Pitt, which has needed a little more beef on its schedule, could be adding Wisconsin for the coming season. The Panthers ranked No. 264 in nonconference schedule strength last season.
All indications should be that Pitt might want to beef up it's non-con match-ups if it wants to come close to the TV exposure it has received in the last couple of years.

The Big East is all about pleasing the TV executives (Insider subs.) and if Krauser doesn't come back to Pitt, those of us out of the Pittsburgh media market will be on a forced diet or springing for the ESPN Full Court.

Kevin Pittsnogle, Carl Krauser and Torin Francis could have an effect on the entire television schedule for the Big East.

How? According to Tom Odjakjian, the Big East associate commissioner, the league won't finalize its television schedule until it knows whether these three players are staying in the NBA draft.

Odjakjian told ESPN.com prior to this week's Big East meetings in Florida that the league is waiting to determine how good West Virginia, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame figure to be before pushing for select television games.

And television dictates the 16-game league schedule for the inaugural 16-team 2005-06 season. Each Big East team will play 13 of the other 15 teams and will play three of those teams twice. Any team that is missed next season will definitely be on the schedule for 2006-07. Home and road sites won't be determined until the opponents are set.
Pittsburgh clearly needs Krauser back to be considered an elite Big East team next season. The Panthers already are losing Chris Taft and Chevy Troutman inside.

If you'll excuse me, I have to start plotting how to slip a $200 charge onto the cable bill next fall.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Taft's Workout 

Chad Ford at ESPN.com has his blog post on Taft's workout (Insider subs.). Short version: no surprises. He's still a top-10 pick on potential alone.

Taft began the season as a potential No. 1 pick in the draft. However, his stock has been sliding ever since thanks to a lackluster sophomore season at Pitt. While everyone loves Taft's size (6-foot-10), his body and his athleticism, teams have really questioned his conditioning and his motor.

He worked out today in front of the Bobcats, Jazz and Sonics. Did he do anything to change their minds?

Not really.

But it wasn't really Taft's fault. It's tough to judge a guy like Taft in a gym by himself shooting hook shots.

He showed off his athleticism and looked to be in decent shape. He showed off a nice 10-foot jumper that he consistently drained off the pick and pop.

As the workout went on, he started to tire and a lot of his post shots were coming up short. His energy level was OK, but you would have liked to see him rev the motor a bit more.

I don't think he did much to hurt or help himself there. I still think he goes between 8 and 10 on draft night.

Sounds like Chris Taft. Still hard to believe he claims to model his game on Kevin Garnett.

Maybe I Was Too Negative 

The piece from Chuck Finder that pissed me off over the weekend, but maybe I need to reconsider. Well, probably not. His eagerness to have Pitt take a 2-1 deal ruins the whole thing. Add in the fact that it was just the topper of a week plus of stories calling for the resumption of the Pitt-Penn St. Game, and I had just about had it.

Then Bruce Feldman puts it on his blog on ESPN.com (Insider subscription). He cherry-picks just the part about how Gov. Rendell should get involved, so it is easier for him. Feldman, adds his own very salient point:
...I think one of the things that makes college football the best game going are the rivalries, and nothing is better than seeing them settled out on the field. Come on Penn State, step up to the plate.
And there it is. The one thing that keeps this issue alive. That keeps, even me, coming back to the damn thing.

Rivalries. Pitt, the fans and alum are lucky. We still have WVU to get revved to face and vice versa. During basketball season, we get fired up to play UConn and Syracuse. The games matter. We have certain games we circle and know that even if the season sucks -- if we win those games, it isn't all bad. Penn State may still be the primary to most of us, but we still have someone else to be a real rival game.

Who does Penn State have? Who in the Big 11 is their rival? Or should we just say is even a burgeoning rival? Or even out of the conference who do they play that matters? They have the jury-rigged Land Grant Trophy battle with Michigan State that no one buys into. They want to claim some sort of rivalry with Ohio State, but who are they kidding? No one from the other side really cares when there is that school to the North to obsess over the course of the season. Trust me, I live in Ohio, no one from TOSU is losing their mind over Penn State week. (I mean aside from some guy in Altoona.)

Without a real rivalry game in any team sport, the team lacks soul, drive and fire. For Penn St. fans it has become cold calculations of numbers and money. How many games can they win to get to a bowl? To get respect? Well, did the football team still pack 'em in? Sell merchandise? Or even more pathetic, to denigrate other rivalry games to cover the lack of their own.

Recognition Out There 

According to this press release from the Pitt Athletic Department, Greg Lee is listed as a 2nd team All-American and #3 receiver in the country according to the forthcoming Sporting News College Football Preview.
Additionally, placekicker Josh Cummings and punter Adam Graessle were both ranked No. 3 nationally at their respective positions by TSN.
So there's that.

Meanwhile at CollegeFootballNews.com, they look at the top QBs and the 2006 NFL Draft:
With another year fast approaching, the line forming behind USC’s Matt Leinart is a long one with no clear-cut No. 2 quarterback. There are plenty of strong-armed kids with upsides, but nary a soul at this early stage is a lock to be plucked in the opening round. In four or five months, however, someone is sure to make that statement look silly; some opportunistic slinger always does. Ten up-and-coming seniors, in particular, are poised to carpe annum, or seize the year. Yes, juniors like Pittsburgh's Tyler Palko and Arizona State's Sam Keller are hot prospects, but this is mostly about the seniors. Mostly.
10 more that need to be watched for the 2006 Draft

1. Tyler Palko, Pittsburgh (Jr.) – In just one season as a starter, Palko established himself as one of college football’s rising stars under center. His makeup and work ethic just scream winning quarterback.
As much as we want to see an actual running game from Pitt, let's not forget that the offense starts with Palko -- and he has weapons in Lee, DelSardo, Gill, and Strong.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Content Free 

Suffice to say that this Q&A with former Pitt Basketball coach, and present UCLA coach Ben Howland doesn't have much worth reading other than if you're bored.

Do you ever have regrets about leaving Pitt?

Howland: Well sure. Pitt is still in my blood. My daughter is a Pitt cheerleader. We love Pitt. I was just back at the Pitt spring game. My daughter is a student at Pitt and my son [Adam, currently a high school senior] is attending Haverford near Philadelphia next year. So my wife and I are still stuck here out on the Left Coast.

Then the extent of his actual expressed regrets is that he is further from his kids? The other big shocker: now that he is coaching on the West Coast he has discovered the dreaded "East Coast bias."

Tangentially Related 

A couple stories.

Kind of an interesting story on the vagaries of what college athletes can consume and the risks of falling afoul of the NCAA drug testing policies.

The NCAA conducts annual, year-round drug testing on the campuses of all of its Division I and II members. Schools may be visited more than once in a calendar year.

"We've put the student-athletes on notice that they can be tested at any time," said Mary Wilfert, who manages the NCAA's program. "A majority of the athletes support it. They understand the reason for it."

Testers from the National Center for Drug Free Sport arrive on campus with no more than 48 hours notice. At Division I schools, they take urine samples from 26 randomly selected athletes -- 18 football players and eight players from one other sport.

When the NCAA first implemented its year-round testing plan in 1990, football and track and field were the only programs affected. Starting last August, athletes in every sport became subject to scrutiny.

The NCAA also conducts random drug tests at all of its championship events and at football bowl games.
The NCAA does not go easy when it comes to penalties. First-time offenders are banned from competing for 365 days and lose a year of eligibility. A second offense results in a lifetime ban.

In addition to that, Pitt has additional testing and punishments.

Pitt conducts random, year-round testing for performance-enhancing agents and street drugs. Athletes may be tested more than once in a year.

Athletes in all of Pitt's sports programs are eligible to be tested. Football players are not tested more often than other athletes.

Blanc said most of the positive hits are for street drugs, not steroids.

"It's not a high number," he said. "Some years, we don't have any. Some years, we have more. Overall, I would say it's probably on a down trend."

The first time an athlete tests positive, he or she enters a rehabilitation and counseling program. A second offense results in a suspension. A third nets either a one-year suspension or revocation of the player's scholarship.

These guys (and girls) give up a lot to play collegiate sports. It also includes a lot of privacy.

At the other end of the spectrum, there's this story about a Pitt grad:

Kentucky Derby runner-up Closing Argument finished ninth in the Preakness, but it still wasn't a bad week for a guy who used to skip classes at the University of Pittsburgh to go to the track.

Long before he made his fortune in publishing and became involved in horse racing, Closing Argument co-owner Philip Cohen would occasionally prefer Waterford Park (now Mountaineer) to political science.

"I'd leave mid-day," he said, "or I just didn't go to class at all."

Somewhere along the way, Cohen learned a lot.
Cohen, who graduated from Pitt in 1966 and now has homes in Philadelphia and Florida, has gone from what he called "the worst handicapper in the middle Northeast" to an astute owner of thoroughbred race horses.

On Friday, Philip and his wife, Marcia, 59, sold one-half interest in Closing Argument to the partnership of Sequel Bloodstock and JMJ Stable. The price was not disclosed, but the Cohens were reportedly close to selling the Derby runner-up for $2 million in January before the deal fell through.

Hard to argue with success.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Filling Space 

Look, I know this is a rough time of the year for Pittsburgh sports writers. No NHL playoff hockey. No NBA franchise in Pittsburgh so the interest in the playoffs is minimal. The Steelers are still in the midst of signing draft picks and there isn't much in the NFL other than Whizzinator jokes. There are only so many ways you can write about how the Pirates suck.

But if you are going to write about college football and Pitt, it is time to stop bothering with the whole lack of a Pitt-Penn State game. Especially when you've had too much to drink. I mean, the idea of state legislation mandating the game is fine. As pointed out:
Where differences reigned, political intervention long ago ensured yearly such rivalries as Florida-Florida State, Clemson-South Carolina and Alabama-Auburn.
But then to change tacks at the end and go for a plan of capitulation by Pitt.
Pitt should offer a three-way split: one game at Heinz Field, one at Beaver Stadium and one at Philadelphia's Lincoln Financial Field, where this matchup would triple the Penn State-Temple draw. If The Pennsylvania State University refuses that deal, Pitt should agree, for starters, to one 2-and-1 contract and travel twice to University Park for every North Shore game. If Nittany Lions types demur then, seek binding arbitration ... in Harrisburg.
Why not just have Pitt then offer to split the gate at Heinz Field? Or maybe offer a 3-1?

As for his final comment at the end:
Because, just Friday night Rendell was saying through his press secretary that he would do whatever he could to influence a Pitt-Penn State return.
Politicians keep talking this, but it hasn't happened. Now it's time for the sports writers to stop talking about it.

Some More May on Audio 

I was lucky enough to be driving around yesterday afternoon around 2:15, when Mark May came on ESPN Radio. Kiper, Jr. and someone else were doing the show and talking a lot of college football. They were playing a game where they would read through a team's schedule and pick the wins and losses -- thereby predicting the season for the team.

When May came on, they had him talk a little about Pitt. He said he thought the team could win 10 games this year. The 2 games he waffled on -- he wanted to pick Pitt, but hesitated too much -- were at Nebraska and at Louisville. Honestly, a 9-2 record is not unreasonable. Hopefully, though, it will be even better.

For a longer interview with Mark May, here's a roughly 8 minute interview with "Rivals radio" (Windows Media, direct link). He also explains why Ohio State fans hate him. Ohio State fans, on the whole, are irrational beings. They are convinced every announcer, analyst and commentator hates TOSU.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Happy Birthdays 

Today is the day of birth for both Dave Wannstedt and Johnny Majors. They are 53 and 70 respectively.


I'm not saying I'm scraping at this point (I'm saving that until early June), but there isn't a lot out there.

So, the Matt Hayes column I mentioned the other day. It got a weird letter and better response.

You're joking right? Call Pitt what you want -- a brash quarterback, a tough-guy coach and a name reverting back to old-time success will not win games in an era when even Utah is bigger, faster and better coached than anything we have seen around here in years. Unless they start taking it serious again, Pitt will struggle to be a fit for a MAC slot.

Rick Krull, Pittsburgh


So Pitt sucks because it lost to Utah? The Utes would've given USC a better game in the Orange Bowl than Oklahoma. The Utes, on a neutral field, could've beaten anyone other than USC last season. Now go shine your Bobble Head Joe doll.


Meaningless lists time. Over at CollegeFootball.com, a couple of their writers were compiling their 100, yes that is correct, Heisman possibilities for 2005.

First Pete Fiutak has Palko:

23. QB Tyler Palko, Pittsburgh
Palko is like a college version of Brett Favre with the attitude and talent to carry the Panthers to a huge season. He'll have plenty of nationally televised moments to show off.
And then deeper on the list Greg Lee.
65. WR Greg Lee, Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh has its latest Biletnikoff Award candidate/winner with Lee poised for a national breakout season. With Tyler Palko back to get him the ball, Lee should build on is 68-catch, 1,297-yard, ten touchdown season.
Richard Cirminiello is a little more on the Palko bandwagon.
13. QB Tyler Palko, Pittsburgh – Even more is expected of Palko in 2005 after last year's 24-touchdown, 3,067-yard opening act. He and Greg Lee form one of the most lethal pitch-and-catch combos in the country.
He puts Greg Lee near the same spot that his collegue did.
67. WR Greg Lee, Pittsburgh – Lee is not Larry Fitzgerald, but at times last fall, his stat lines had very Larry-like looks to them.
They obviously didn't get the memo that it is Pitt damn it.

Friday, May 20, 2005

More on May to College HoF 

Hey, there just isn't much else out there right now.

Here's a story from his pro team's perspective.
But this recognition is for his football career from 1977 to 1980 at Pitt, not for his time in Washington. In 2001, the Panthers made Mark May just the eighth person to have their Pitt jersey retired (#73). May joins three other players in the College Hall of Fame that he played with at Pitt - Dan Marino, Hugh Green and Jim Covert. May said that it was 'truly an honor' to be joining his teammates in the College Hall of Fame.
Just so Redskins fans can stay clear on that point. Apparently 'Skins fans have trouble with the concept that the players may have existed prior to becoming a Washington Redskin.

Mark May came from Oneonta, NY, so naturally the local paper has to have it's own view.
At OHS, May was a three-sport standout. In football, he earned the nickname "May Day" because of his girth and the problems he gave defensive tackles.

May also played basketball and competed in the shot put for the track team.

Oneonta High athletic director Joe Hughes graduated a year after May and played basketball with him.

"He was a heck of a rebounder and could set one heck of a pick," Hughes said. "If us shooting guards couldn't get open with him on the ground, there was something wrong with us."

May ranks ninth all-time at OHS with 355 rebounds and is 23rd with 444 points.

"He's a good role model for anyone," Hughes said. "He worked as hard as anybody. He didn't have a lot growing up and was blessed with some God-given size, but he earned everything he got."

Hughes said he also remembers May's appetite.

"He used to live behind Kentucky Fried Chicken and we used to go over there and hang out on his roof," Hughes said. "We'd get one bucket of chicken for him and one for everyone else."

May is scheduled to return to Oneonta for a Hospice charity event June 22 in Cooperstown. Eddie Money will perform live at the fund-raiser and ESPN anchor Rece Davis will serve as MC.
You won't get that kind of story from the Associated Press.

Back in Pittsburgh, a story recounting the day of the announcement for Mark May and former WVU Coach Don Nehlan.

The other story points out the talent from that Pitt team -- especially on the lines -- and the challenge for Coach Wannstedt. It's a little unfair. You are never going to come close to having that kind of accumulated talent on just the lines on one team again. The nature of college football has changed so much.

The broader point, though, or at least the one I would prefer to make (and really that's all that matters): it all starts with the lines. Pitt needs to get players for the trenches. They need to develop the talent. Getting the stud skill positions is good, important and headline grabbing, but we've all seen that if the lines don't hold it just doesn't matter.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Getting the Love 

Today's must-read/read-it-all comes from Matt Hayes at the Sporting News.
They had this big announcement last month at the University of Pittsburgh. The school was embracing the name Pitt once again. After years of doing everything possible to avoid that oh-so-perfect nickname and reinvent an identity, it was time to return to -- and learn from -- the past. All part of the metamorphosis, you know.

A few months earlier, the school had hired tough guy coach/alum Dave Wannstedt, whose first declaration was to embrace those Western Pennsylvania, steel-town, butt-kicking roots with a sense of urgency.

Of course, Tyler Palko beat him to it by about six weeks. With one f-bomb.


More Football Tidbits 

How about a non-answer from a Beano Cook chat?
Trace - Saginaw, MI: Beano - Right off the bat this year, Irish vs. Panthers...2 NFL Coaches against each other. Weis beat him last season before DW resigned, can he do it again against the "Shane Falco" attack?

Beano Cook: It is an intriguing opener but remember this, Pitsburgh has about three players that Notre Dame was interested in and Tyler Palko was sought as a defense back. That's like Tony Dorsett being looked at on defense out of high school. There is no comparison coming out of high school. Weis will turn this around quickly. The Steelers had no idea to stop New Engalnd's offense when Weis ran the offense. That says a lot. The Irish open with four of their first five on the road, then USC in South Bend.
And then later in the chat he said ND would win at least 8, down from his usual 9.

From Bruce Feldman's ESPN College Football Blog:
This week's list is about experimentation, and the spring's 10 best position switches. Just a caveat: this is nothing scientific, and we're only focusing on major shifts, not offensive guards becoming O-tackles or outside linebackers shifting inside.
8. Darrell Strong, Pittsburgh, QB/WR to TE: A huge target, the 6-5, 245-pound soph showed great ball skills and the ability to make acrobatic catches in traffic. Expect the Panthers to throw more this fall and Strong looks like a real weapon.
By throw more, I think he means to the Tight End.

One of the few Pitt recruits from the 2005 class to lose his scholarship offer lands with a new team.

Louisiana Tech has added another player to its 2005 football recruiting class with a verbal commitment from receiver/safety Shawn Simmons of New Brunswick (N.J.) High School.

Simmons originally committed to the University of Pittsburgh and coach Walt Harris. However, new Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt withdrew the scholarship offer because of his SAT score.
The 6-2, 185-pounder, who caught 20 passes for 500 yards and seven touchdowns last season, drew the interest of Tech when Pete Carmichael was hired as receivers' coach. Carmichael was the receivers' coach at Pitt under Walt Harris and was familiar with Simmons.

"(Carmichael) got hired by Louisiana Tech and he mentioned my name," Simmons said. "They gave me a call, I made a visit and I made my decision."

Simmons said Rutgers also made a push, but he decided to go to Tech.

Rutgers. Louisiana Tech. Tough call. Yeah, Rutgers is a sleeping giant in college athletics.

Finally former Pitt Tackle, Bill Maas has a new endorsement deal.

Pittsburgh-based Innovative Designs (OTCBB:IVDN) makes hunting apparel, golf apparel, jackets, swimwear, wind shirts and sleeping bags using an insulated fabric called Eliote.

Mr. Maas, a Pro Bowl nose tackle for the Kansas City Chiefs and Green Bay Packers from 1983-94 who is now an analyst on NFL broadcasts for FOX, will be used in advertisements for the "Bill Maas Hunting Line."

In a statement, the avid outsdoorsman said he had tried all sorts of hunting apparel. "I can guarantee you that (Innovative Designs) gear hunting apparel is the warmest, lightest and the most comfortable you will ever wear," he said.
Look for it somewhere.

The recruiting/Sales Trail 

The Dave Wannstedt "Eastern Pennsylvania Tour '05" is actually wrapping up today. Yesterday, one of his stops was at Northern Lehigh.
As Tyler Tkach maneuvered his way through honors trigonometry, Dave Wannstedt was down the hall explaining his mission to recruit in eastern Pennsylvania.

Historically for Pitt football, that has been about as difficult as honors trigonometry. Wannstedt aims to change course.

"Before we travel any distance or leave the state, we better make sure we do a great job of evaluating all the players here," the Panthers' new head coach said Wednesday. "In my mind, if we have a decision to make, and things are close between a local player or someone out of state, we're going to take the local player. That's how you establish that Pittsburgh pride."
On Wednesday, Wannstedt and offensive line coach Paul Dunn stopped by Northern Lehigh, where Tkach -- a junior who has received a full-scholarship offer from Wannstedt -- was otherwise busy.

Though NCAA rules prevented Wannstedt from speaking with Tyler personally -- May is considered an "evaluation period" -- they didn't restrict him from making the symbolic personal appearance.

"When head coaches step onto the campus of a small school, they're making a statement," said Jim Tkach, Tyler's dad and Northern Lehigh's head football coach. "What they told us is, they feel it's important to make a move into eastern Pennsylvania. The football is that good in the Lehigh Valley that they're going to come in here and take on some of the traditional powers."
That's convenient. Can't speak to the player, but you can talk to the coach, who also just happens to be his dad.
On Wednesday, for instance, Wannstedt left Northern Lehigh to make three more high-school visits -- including one to North Penn -- before attending an alumni function in Philadelphia. "Meet Coach Wannstedt Night" was expected to draw about 200 boosters to the first gathering of its kind in Philadelphia in a decade.

"I'm very comfortable recruiting in the state of Pennsylvania," Wannstedt said. "For the most part, the people are hard-working, blue-collar people. I think they know that I'm sincere and I can appreciate what people in this part of the country deal with on a daily basis."

Tyler Tkach is a player who fits that model. A 6-4, 230-pound tight end/defensive end, Tkach has received offers from North Carolina State and Georgia Tech as well as Pitt. Wannstedt has been very active personally in Tkach's recruiting.

"We were kind of shocked and happy," Jim Tkach said. "I just think it says [Wannstedt] is not going to automatically say that this is Penn State territory."
First gathering in Philly in 10 years? Unbelievable. That goes back to Majors, version 2.0. No wonder finding Pitt gear in Eastern PA seems to be an exercise in futility.

As for Tyler Tkach. He is ranked #24 on Pantherlair.com's top-50 in Pennsylvania for 2006. Scout.com shows a lot of interest in him from schools.

Hall of Fame Reaction 

It should come as no surprise that despite the individual honor that is election to the College Football Hall of Fame, an offensive lineman deflects it more to his team.

"Look at the talent off that squad," May said. "Look at the potential we had and what happened afterward. We had 21 guys who went on to play in the USFL or NFL. We felt we should have had an opportunity to win a national championship not only my senior year but my junior year as well. When we get together and golf during the summer, we still talk about it. We're still bitter."

Coach Jackie Sherrill once remarked of that team: "That was the best football team ever assembled, talent-wise. ... Never, ever, has a team produced that many great players."

May was not only part of one of Pitt's best teams ever, he was part of a recruiting class that all other Pitt recruiting classes are compared.

"The people who worked so hard around me at the University of Pittsburgh, family and friends, this is all for them," May said. "I will cherish this for the rest of my life."

May was a member of what is arguably the greatest recruiting class in Pitt history. The players who arrived in '77 -- including May, Hugh Green, Ricky Jackson, Russ Grimm and Greg Meisner -- notched a four-year mark of 39-8-1 and three top-10 final rankings.

In 1980, May's senior season, the Panthers went 11-1 and finished No. 2 in the polls.

"We had such great teams," May said. "To join three other players in the College Hall of Fame who I played with (Green, Marino and Jim Covert), is truly an honor."

The official induction takes place in December.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Mark May's In 

The College Football Hall of Fame.
The list of Pitt greats to receive election into the College Football Hall of Fame grew longer today with the announcement that Mark May will be a member of the 2005 induction class.

One of the greatest offensive linemen in college football history, May is the 23rd Pitt player or coach to earn induction into the College Football Hall of Fame and the seventh in the last 11 years.

A devastating offensive tackle for the Panthers from 1977-80, May was on hand for the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame’s announcement today at the Marriott Marquis in New York City.

May is one of 13 players and coaches to be named to the 2005 class.
The official press release from the College Football Hall of Fame is not yet released. The announcement was made this morning in NYC.

Former Head Coach for WVU, Don Nehlan was also part of the class.

Mark May, of course, was one of the many talented players from Pitt's glory days of the '70s and early '80s. These days, of course, Mark May is the popular analyst on ESPN's College GameNight, and a bit of a Pitt homer when given a chance.

Congratulations to Mark May.

Big East/NCAA/BCS Tie-Ins 

I've said it enough times, that I believe the Big East will split around 2010. The basketball schools and the football schools will finally enact the final split.

Others have been more obtuse in what they expect. Greg Doyel at Sportsline, in his May 16 entry on his blog obviously is thinking as I am.
However, the college sports landscape is in for at least one more seismic shift in the near future -- probably to be triggered by the Big East after a few years as a 16-team basketball monolith.

When that shift happens, the tremors will immediately impact the biggest leagues in the Northeast. Basketball schools and football schools will start reaching for life preservers, and Temple might have to decide between the MAC and the A-10 -- and the A-10 doesn't offer Division I football.

That's speculation, but in a few years something major will happen regarding the Big East. And when it happens, the trickle-down effect will leave Temple with a choice between the MAC, A-10 and perhaps whatever new league emerges from the Big East split.
Call it a hunch, but unless Temple really turns it around the next version of the Big East still won't come calling.

Then Mike DeCourcy at the Sporting News drops an interesting nugget.
The NCAA prohibits teams invited to the NCAA Tournament from competing in the NIT. The NIT is suing over that restriction, and one coach asked to testify suggests the NCAA has good reason to fight the suit. He believes NCAA leadership is concerned that if the NIT prevails, BCS schools eventually would be free to start their own postseason basketball tournament. They'd never generate the billions the NCAA tourney does, but they'd keep all the money, as they do in football ...
Think about it. A NIT Tourney that competes against the NCAA. If they struck a deal with the BCS conferences, corporate sponsors would be falling over themselves to sign-on. It wouldn't even have to take place during the NCAA. A week, 2 weeks later. It would gut the NCAA Tourney, much the way the NCAA gutted the NIT.

It would also make it more possible for the BCS conferences to eventually sever its restrictions to NCAA rules. Clearing the way for paying players and changing everything. Okay, now I'm really speculating.


NBA Draft Nuggets 

Not much really. Taft is still being projected as a top-10 draftee. Likely around #7-9. Troutman is still on the outside looking in. No word if he will even get a free agent deal at this point.

The big question regards Carl Krauser. He's definitely not a 1st rounder. The question becomes whether anyone might pick him in the second round. He still has until mid-June to withdraw from the draft. Andy Katz at ESPN.com seems to think Krauser is not coming back to Pitt.
Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon isn't expecting to hear whether junior point guard Carl Krauser will return to school until June. Krauser turns 24 this month and is ready to graduate, making it harder to persuade him to return, even if he isn't a likely first- or second-round pick.
Andy Katz also lists Krauser as one of those players who, by leaving early, really will impact their team.
The Panthers would still have their toughness quotient. Sure, they're losing Chevy Troutman inside as well as underclassman Chris Taft, but Krauser is the heart of this team -- the player who can make the big-time 3-pointer, the defensive stand and also get in the grill of a teammate. Krauser gives the Panthers the edge they have had for three years.

The rebuilding will begin in earnest. Losing Troutman, Mark McCarroll and Taft is a hit in the paint. But the Panthers can absorb that with more PT for Aaron Gray and John DeGroat. Rising sophomore Ronald Ramon would take over for Krauser. He has moxie but he's not as experienced and not as explosive a scorer.

Chad Ford, ESPN.com's NBA guy, has rough numbers for the NBA draft. He includes Krauser as part of 31 underclassmen who have declared for the draft who fit the category of "Second Round to Undrafted" status.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Football Tidbits 

A few little things.

From the ESPN chat with Bruce Feldman on college football:
Brian--Erie PA: What are your feelings on Dave Wannstedt and Pitt? Is it going to work?

Bruce Feldman: (4:11 PM ET ) Brian, I think he's a good fit. I think in a year they will be a top 15 team. Cavanuagh will really help Palko too.
Obviously, we are hoping a little sooner.

I have really failed to give some props to Pitt's athletic department for doing a solid job in the non-con football schedule. They have scheduled good teams. Not just patsies. Seems some in West Virginia even approve:

Pitt and Virginia have an agreement for a 2006 game in Pittsburgh and a return date at Virginia in ‘07. On future schedules, that gives Pitt eight dates with Notre Dame, home-and-homes with Michigan State, Navy, Virginia, N.C. State and Clemson, and a 2-for-1 with UCF.

That's the kind of strong scheduling philosophy the Big East needs as it tries to rebuild in the post-Miami era.

The more games like this Pitt schedules, the better its chances to recruit top talent and have a strong enough strength of schedule for BCS purposes. And by BCS purposes, I don't just mean playing in a BCS bowl.

And finally, the whacks from normally friendly media sources keep coming at Penn State's scheduling choice:

THERE DOESN'T seem to be much support for Penn State's decision to add Temple to the football schedule starting in 2006 as the 12th team.

Ron Bracken offered his perspective in his Sunday column, and the fans are offering their view in our Web poll that is taking off, as you would expect.

And you would expect the fans to want Pitt, now wouldn't you. And that's how they're voting in this entirely unscientific Web poll.

Give us your view.

And pardon us if we don't necessarily look forward to a November game with Temple.

The poll is here. Not that it really matters. But check out the whiners complaining about how obnoxious Pitt fans were to them. Hilarious.

Running a Deficit and Dragged Down 

Via Dave Sez, another blogger, Braves & Birds, found a really good piece on the revenues and expenses for Division 1-A Athletic Departments. There is a list of all the schools from the 2003-04 season. The most important for us.

Big EastTotalrevenues-TotalexpensesWomen's revenueWomen's expensesFootball revenueFootball expenses
Pittsburgh--- 28,279,680

As B&B points out, a lot of schools are essentially taking huge hits because of the costs of the women's programs without much revenue coming back. Definitely read the posts from both blogs.

Not Again 

Last year, it wasn't a huge shock when Luke Getsy decided to transfer when he didn't win the starting QB job from Tyler Palko. It also wasn't a shock that Palko took all but a handful of the snaps last season. That's the way things were under the previous coaching regime.

I am surprised that back-up QB Joe Flacco is seriously mulling a transfer.

Flacco, who will be a redshirt sophomore this fall, asked to be released from his scholarship a few days after spring practice ended.

Monday, Wannstedt spoke with Flacco twice on the phone to attempt to persuade him to stay.

"Nothing is definite yet," offensive coordinaor Matt Cavanaugh said. "We're still talking with Joe to try to get him to change his mind."
Cavanaugh admitted he was caught off guard when Flacco asked for permission to transfer.

"Joe had a good spring," Cavanaugh said. "He played well and made a lot of improvements."

Last season, Flacco played in three games, but did not attempt a pass in two of them. Against South Florida, he completed 1-of-4 passes for 11 yards.

Cavanaugh said Flacco did not give a specific reason for wanting to leave.

"Sometimes, a young guy sees who's playing in front of him and figures he's not going to get any playing time, so he has second thoughts" Cavanaugh said.

The other story doesn't have it seem quite as certain that Flacco would leave.

If Flacco goes, there is no back-up other than true freshmen Bill Stull and Shane Murray. Unless, of course, they try to put TE Darrell Strong back at QB. I like to think though, that this coaching staff wouldn't pull the Mike Robinson-Paterno/Penn St. mistake.

Maybe Pitt is closer to getting Tennessee transfer Brent Schaeffer than we realized. This move is obviously not about playing time this year. It's about what he expects in 2006 and 2007. Honestly, I have no idea if Flacco is any good or not. He obviously believes in himself, and thinks he can start somewhere in college football.

Flacco is arguably in a tough spot to earn starting time. If Palko returns after this season, Flacco will have only 2007 to be a starter -- his senior year. By that point, he could be passed on the depth chart by Stull, Murray or some younger, hotter recruit. From a planning standpoint it is hard to argue his thought process right now.

Still isn't good for Pitt, though.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Assorted Notes and Crap 

Lots of little things. None worth an individual post.

The Notre Dame-Pitt game is looking like the headline act for the opening weekend of college football. Either that or everyone is really curious about how the new coaches are going to do.

Lindy's football annual doesn't hit the market until the end of May. Apparently they have leaked their pre-season top-25. Take it for what it's worth. Louisville is at #11. Pitt is number #19. Penn St. is #25???

Some people really get pissed when there is a dissing of Division 1-AA football teams. The responses were in reaction to a Starkey column from Thursday.

The Big East is struggling to keep all of its bowl tie-ins. The Gator Bowl is apparently ready to dump.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

One More Thing Regarding Pitt-PSU 

I feel I have to. From this piece that is otherwise unquestioning acceptance of everything Paterno said as to why Penn St. is unable to play Pitt, you get some quotes from PSU players. You know, the ones whom Joe Pa is always so concerned:
For Thursday's festivities at the Duquesne Club in Pittsburgh, Paterno brought along with him a few of his players, including linebacker Paul Posluszny of Hopewell and center A.Q. Shipley of Moon.

Both Posluszny, one of the Nittany Lions' three co-captains, and Shipley would welcome a chance to play Pitt someday, although neither are optimistic of that happening any time soon.

"I would love to see Penn State play Pitt again, just to renew the rivalry," said Shipley, who redshirted last season as a freshman. "I'm hoping that before I graduate, I'll get to play Pitt at least once."

"We'd all like to see it happen. It would be great for both schools," said Posluszny, who'll be a junior next season. "But it doesn't look like it's going to happen ... not at least while I'm at Penn State."
And in the heart of Penn State country, Ron Bracken takes his shots at Penn St. for not playing Pitt.
You knew, you just had to know, that when the NCAA voted to allow its Division I-A football playing schools to add a 12th game to their seasons, Penn State would go looking for its long lost friend and doormat to fill that opening.

Instead of breathing life into the dormant rivalry with Pitt, or going after an attractive inter-sectional opponent, Penn State looked eastward where it found a willing partner in Temple.
And doesn't that just make you want to whip out your checkbook and double your contribution to the Nittany Lion Club so you can get choice seats for those showdowns?

Assuming the 2006 Temple game is slated for Beaver Stadium on Nov. 11, which is currently an open date, that would give the Nittany Lions a home schedule of Akron, Louisiana Tech, Northwestern, Michigan, Illinois, Temple and Michigan State.

If this was the verbal part of the SAT test, the question would be which one of those schools does not belong with the others? Hint: Think helmets. Or better yet, think frequency of Rose Bowl appearances.

Can anyone, being in good health and sound state of mind, actually say that Penn State football is better served by playing Temple instead of Pitt?

OK, there is the risk of losing to Pitt to consider. But isn't that what makes a game entertaining instead of one where the Nittany Lions pull the wings off another MAC fly?

It's time to put away the tired old complaints about how Pitt used to demand that Penn State play every game in the series in Pittsburgh, about how Pitt's fans treated visiting Penn State fans shabbily when they ventured to old Pitt Stadium.

Those bleatings are deader than good intentions. In the period from the 1930s through the 1950s, Pitt was the stronger program, had the bigger stadium and more national championships than Penn State. So it had the leverage to demand an unequal number of home games in the series.

And for every Penn State fan who complained about how he or she was treated at Pitt there is a Panther fan who was treated equally shabbily at Beaver Stadium. Remember the "S--tt on Pitt" T-shirts or the "Under the arm, Pitt" chants?

And while it's those types of things that make a rivalry what it is -- you have to have some good old fashioned animosity toward the other guy -- there also has to be someone who can see the issue clearly and understand that raw emotions and petty jealousies should never be allowed to cause the demise of something as special as the Pitt-Penn State rivalry once was.
Myopic Penn State fans take the stance that Pitt is in trouble with the demise of the Big East and can see no reason why the Nittany Lions should help the Panthers by playing them.

Let's turn that around. Why shouldn't Penn State play Pitt and help itself by playing a better opponent than Temple, which almost lost its Division I-A status for failing to draw an average of 15,000 fans per game? Temple's last winning season was in 1990. Pitt went to a bowl game last year.

You would think that Penn State would have learned its lesson during the 1970s when too many Temples, Rutgers, Ohio Universities and Kent States on its schedule cost it national respect and at least one, if not more, national championships.

That last part is kind of hard to buy right now, PSU just wants to get back to a winning record.

Where's Wanny? 

He's here. He's there. He's everywhere.

As mentioned earlier, he's been in Florida. Here's another update (hat tip to Patric for e-mailing me the story).

Dave Wannstedt has been crisscrossing Florida in a little red car for days.

He's cramming in visits to 24 high schools and shaking the hands of countless players, coaches, principals, superintendents, janitors and anyone else who knows of an athlete who may be interested in playing for him at the University of Pittsburgh.

On Thursday afternoon, Wannstedt took in a Hialeah-Miami Lakes Trojans spring practice. In the morning, he roamed the halls of the school.

"Oh, there were all kinds of rumors floating around," Trojans coach Jerry Hughes said. "That our best players were going straight to the Dolphins and all that stuff."

Wannstedt, who stepped down as Dolphins coach in November after a 1-8 start last season, is recharged.

He looks tanned and rested, remarkable considering his hectic schedule.

With the help of Pittsburgh receivers coach and former Florida Gator Aubrey Hill, Wannstedt listed the schools he visited Thursday morning: American, Carroll City, Pace, Miami Central, Booker T. Washington and Miami Northwestern.

"I love it," Wannstedt said. "I enjoy the interaction with the players and coaches. There are things about this that are refreshing to me. The alumni, academics, all the things on campus. It really has been a nice change of pace."

While he spoke, Wannstedt was monitoring the workout of Trojans quarterback Thaddeus Lewis.

"See that No. 1?" Wannstedt said. "We're offering."

"Yeah, LSU offered," Lewis said later. "And Duke. And West Virginia. And now, Pittsburgh. This coach seems like he means business. He lets you know he really wants you. He came all the way down here for a reason."

He came to see Lewis in person, to stand within arm's length of him, for a reason.

"I'll tell you what, I haven't seen a coach of Dave Wannstedt's stature around here this spring," Hughes said. "I haven't even seen, believe it or not, some of the Florida coaches, which is surprising considering what we have to offer."

And next week he'll be in the Eastern half of Pennsylvania.

Wannstedt and his staff have been busy spring recruiting most of this month. However, he also wants to reach out to fans, alumni and coaching colleagues in Eastern Pennsylvania. Wannstedt will be hosting three events next week for that purpose. They include:

Havertown Coaching Clinic (Tuesday, May 17): Held at Barnaby’s on 1901 Old West Chester Pike in Havertown, Pa. Coach Wannstedt and Pitt offensive line coach Paul Dunn will host a football clinic from 6 to 8 p.m., followed by a social. Cost is $15. To register, call (412) 648-8700 or e-mail clasala@athletics.pitt.edu.

"Meet Coach Wannstedt Night" (Wednesday, May 18): Held at the Marvin Comisky Center, located at One Logan Square, 18th and Cherry Sts. in center city Philadelphia. Coach Wannstedt will meet and greet members of the Pitt Alumni Association and Panther Club from 6 to 8 p.m. Admission is free. To attend, contact the Pitt Alumni Association at (800) 258-7488 or e-mail alumnievents@ia.pitt.edu.

Hershey Coaching Clinic (Thursday, May 19): Held at Hershey Italian Lodge on 128 Hillcrest Road in Hershey, Pa. Coach Wannstedt and Pitt offensive line coach Paul Dunn will host a football clinic from 6 to 8 p.m., followed by a social. Cost is $10. To register, call (412) 648-8700 or e-mail clasala@athletics.pitt.edu.
Exciting. Isn't it?

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Schedule and Recruitment 

Pitt and Virginia will do a home-and-home for 2006 and 2007. The first game will be at Heinz Field. Not officially announced by Pitt. Hat-tip to Joe for the e-mail that it was announced on FoxSport Pittsburgh last night.

As previously mentioned, former Tennessee QB and alleged hot-head, Brent Schaeffer has Pitt on the list of schools he is considering transferring to.
Former Tennessee quarterback Brent Schaeffer sent his release to South Florida along with several other schools where Schaeffer is considering to transfer.

A Tennessee official said Thursday that Schaeffer's release was sent "to about 10 schools." His mother, Chandra Schaeffer, confirmed USF, Pittsburgh, Maryland, Texas A&M, Clemson and Miami (Ohio) had been sent a release.

She also said UCF received a release even though her son and UT coach Phil Fulmer agreed Schaeffer may not transfer to another Southeastern Conference school or a school the Vols play during his remaining eligibility. UCF visits UT in 2007, which would be his junior season.

I think it is clear he is looking to get to the NFL. It just depends on how soon he expects to start. If he wants to start in 2006, then Pitt is down on the list unless Palko is actually up for the Heisman. Depending on how his legal issues play out, he obviously is an attractive player.

Logo Notes 

If you care about this sort of thing, Pitt has made the new arch "Pitt" available as wallpaper and AOL Buddy icon alone or on the football helmet (buddy only). Worth noting that the Pete logo with the Panther head is still there, suggesting it will remain on the b-ball floor and Jamie looks to be right on this one. I also point this out, because in place of the panther tooth, it looks like Pitt will be going with a version of the ever original, rarely used paw-print logo. That'll catch on.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Around the Big East 

Looks like there could be some major changes at Cinci. When I read Mike DeCourcy of the Sporting News yesterday opining that Bob Huggins might get shoved out the door, I thought he might be a week early on the story. Now it seems he was only a day. Huggins didn't get his contract extended, instead was offered a buyout.
University of Cincinnati president Nancy Zimpher did not offer basketball coach Bob Huggins a contract extension or rollover when the two met in her office Wednesday afternoon, leaving Huggins, for now, with the option of completing the final two years of his contract or accepting a buyout proposal, sources familiar with the negotiations confirmed Thursday.
With two years left on his contract, Huggins would receive $1.4 million if he accepts the termination proposal.

Wednesday's meeting took place in Zimpher's office on campus and included Zimpher, Huggins, Goin, Board of Trustees chairman Phil Cox and Board vice chairman Jeff Wyler. Huggins had the rollover provision of his contract removed last summer in response to his arrest and conviction on a charge of driving under the influence. Before that, his contract rolled over on July 1 of each year so that he always had four years left.

This is a risky power play by Cinci President Zimpher. Huggins is very, very loved by the alumni of Cinci. Trust me. My wife isn't a rabid fan, but even she holds "Huggy-bear" in high regard. If she boots Huggins, the guy who takes over better win right away or they will both be gone. It seems Greg Doyel at Sportsline is having the same line of thoughts that I am about this.

At least one Cinci columnist thinks Zimpher should back away from the ledge. That as Cinci is entering the Big East, this is not the time to make such a huge move.

Meanwhile, UConn is embroiled in a pseudo-ethics scandal.

Bill Clinton had Monicagate. Now the UConn athletic department, in particular athletic director Jeff Hathaway, must contend with Monacogate. In a series of articles that began on April 4, the Hartford Courant reported Hathaway and his wife were receiving gratis the use of vehicles from Glastonbury-based Monaco Ford. While that is not unusual -- the football coach, basketball coach and athletic director at almost every big-time school you can name are driving around in comped cars -- the terms of Hathaway's arrangement has led to an investigation by the state's ethics commission.

According to the Courant, Hathaway, along with head coaches Randy Edsall (football), Jim Calhoun (men's basketball) and Geno Auriemma (women's basketball), as well as women's associate head basketball coach Chris Dailey, had deals in place to receive complimentary cars in exchange for tickets. However, according to the Courant, last summer Hathaway asked all athletic department staffers who receive complimentary tickets sign a form stating that they would not sell their tickets to a third party. Hathaway, according to the Courant, "exempted himself and the coaches from the no-selling rule because he viewed selling tickets for cars as different from other forms of selling."

In other words, Hathaway forbade employees of the school's athletic department from scalping tickets for cash; meanwhile, he allegedly allowed himself and the three highest-paid employees of the department to continue exchanging seats for wheels.

Second, according to the Courant, under the terms of Hathaway's agreement with Monaco, he would perform endorsement services in exchange for use of the vehicles. Hathaway has never done an ad or in any way endorsed the dealership. The NCAA allows athletic department officials to supplement their income from "bona fide" outside employment in which the officials are "performing services. " However, an official cannot accept the car as an outright gift.

Thus, the only manner in which Hathaway might receive use of the cars without violating NCAA rules is to exchange the university's tickets for them. However, according to the Courant, when Hathaway notified the state ethics commission about his endorsement deal with Monaco, he never apprised them of the fact that what he was actually giving them was not his image -- whatever it may be worth -- but rather tickets. The Courant reported Hathaway later apologized to the commission and returned the vehicles, but at that time did not disclose that he had given Monaco tickets from his personal stash.

It's the hypocrisy that has to be most galling. I don't think or believe there is any real sleaze going on. But to see an AD preach high and mighty cosmetic ethics to the underlings while reserving the same perks for himself and the powerful coaches is disgusting.

The Obligatory Paterno Stuff 

Joe Paterno was doing his swing through Pittsburgh yesterday, so it can't be avoided to mention it. Part of me wants to. It seems a tired topic. It's easy to bash him, and it's not that it isn't fun to do so to him and Penn St., goodness no. It just seems like the same old dance.

Here's the obligatory column on Penn St. and Pitt should play each other. Mike Prisuta does the honors this year.
On Thursday night, Joe Paterno, often accused of being out of touch in recent seasons, displayed a keen understanding of what a great many Pennsylvanians have always suspected is the main reason, the only reason one of college football's storied rivalries has been put on hold.

"I'm the bad guy, and I'm the guy in the black hat in this one," Paterno offered prior to a Nittany Lions' gala at the Duquesne Club.

"But I'm not."

Sensing a more detailed explanation was necessary, Paterno expounded.

The game can't be played, he maintained, for a variety of reasons.
Pitt wants the series to resume on a home-and-home basis badly enough that Wannstedt made a priority of reaching out to Paterno upon taking over in Oakland.

"Dave talked to me, and I tried to tell Dave, I said 'Dave' -- look, I tried to get Dave out of high school, and I think Dave's gonna do a heck of a job for Pitt, and I think that's great -- but Penn State's gotta take care of Penn State.

"We're not an Eastern institution as far as football goes. We're a national institution playing in the Big Ten, OK?"

Actually, it's not.

Penn State remains first and foremost a Pennsylvania institution, but that seems to have been lost on Paterno, just as 27 Big Ten games have been lost by Paterno since Nov. 6, 1999.

Eventually, JoePa grew tired of even his rhetoric yesterday.

Once that happened, he established that his memory is as sharp as ever.

"Pitt years ago, when I tried to put the Eastern Conference together, Pitt decided to go in the Big East for basketball," Paterno said. "Fine, they had to make that decision. Now, though, everything's kind of become convoluted.

"We'd all like to re-evaluate how we got where we are and the whole bit, but you know when Pitt went in the Big East, that cut my legs out from me, what I was trying to do, because I felt we needed an all-sports conference."

For Paterno, it always comes back to that. Paterno has his version of what happened, even if it doesn't jibe with reality. Funny how only Pitt, cut him off at the knees back then. Never a word about the Big East, Syracuse, BC or the others. Only Pitt did his dream in.

Instead, there is the news the same day of how the PSU-Temple rivalry is again to be played -- at a 2-for-1 deal.

The biggest news, though, is his disappointment with his own coaching. Reflecting uselessly that he may have to go if the team falters again.

This time, if Penn State labors through another disappointing season, Joe Paterno won't blame his players (because now, he finally likes his team's talent) and he won't blame his assistants (because after all, he recently pleaded to keep his staff intact). One more losing season -- which would be Penn State's fifth in six years -- will only prompt Paterno to blame himself.
Speaking first to a small table of media members, Paterno suggested that he would consider retirement if this season -- one he believes is filled with promise -- instead leads to disappointment.

"If we don't win some games, I've got to get my rear end out of here," Paterno said. "Simple as that."

When he actually gets out is still up in the air. As for not blaming anyone else? Right. I notice he left out the referees.

What more is there to say really? A tired topic and a tired old man. Let him hang on as long as he can. That is what Penn St. deserves.

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