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.

Friday, June 30, 2006

And Then There Were Three 

Just because there is always some sort of domino effect, even if it isn't actually related. Pitt has yet another commit for today. Greg Gaskins out of York, PA gave a verbal to Pitt. Gaskins is a center and considered by PantherLair.com (Rivals.com) as the 32nd best player in the state. The 6' 4", 290 pound center also had an offer from Maryland. He was starting to draw interest from BC, WVU, PSU and Rutgers but not offering yet.

No rhyme or reason to the commits by way of geography, but over the last couple days the theme has been O-line. This is a good thing. Geez, this is a good thing.

Heart Failure 

All condolonces to Northwestern University football and the Walker family. Randy Walker, well to be honest I know nothing about the man himself, but he was a hell of a good football coach. The job he has done at Northwestern in the Big 11 has been extremely impressive.

Much closer to home, a good friend and commenter here, Shawn, just lost his mother to a heart attack this week. Norma Jean Furey was 61. There are never any good words. Just letting you know we are very sorry.

A Very Good Recruiting Week 

If nothing happens from now through the July 4 holiday, I would still say that Pitt has had an excellent recruiting week. Now comes news of 2 more recruits.

The big one (in more than one way) is Dan Matha out of Erie, PA. Matha is the top rated OT in Pennsylvania. PSR has him at #16 overall in rankings of players in Pennsylvania. PantherLair.com (Rivals.com) puts him as the 14th best player in PA. Scout has him as a 3-star recruit. He had offers in hand from Maryland and WVU, and was drawing interest from Penn St. and Notre Dame.

The other verbal comes from a kid out of Santaluces HS in Lantana, Florida (not Texas). Nick Krupa is a 6'3", 225 pound TE. He's (hopefully) something of a sleeper. Pitt appears to be the only one who offered so far, but it would appear he had interest from Auburn, Miami and UCLA among others.

[Your Name Here] Bowl 

Houston has finally confirmed that it will host a bowl this year.
The yet-to-be-named bowl, which will replace the financially strapped Houston Bowl, will be held Dec. 28 at Reliant Stadium. The game will be managed by Lone Star Sports & Entertainment, a subsidiary of the Texans. Under the four-year agreement, the bowl will rotate in teams from the Big 12, Big East, Conference USA and Mountain West conferences.

Details have not been finalized, but this year's game tentatively will feature the Big 12's No. 8 team against the No. 4 Big East team, according to two college football officials. C-USA would provide a team at least twice during the four-year agreement, conference commissioner Britton Banowsky said.

The title sponsor and broadcast partner could be named later this week. The game is expected to be televised in prime time on the NFL Network.
The payout was dropped from $1.2 million to $750,000. The bowl still owes around $1.2 million to the Big 12 and Mountain West for this past year's Houston Bowl. There's no guarantees that they'll ever see that money. Still the Big 12 continues to participate because they aren't going to give up their "turf".

Recruiting The Lines 

As posted late yesterday, Myles Caregein out of Keystone Oaks High, gave his verbal to Pitt.
Myles Caragein has played virtually every skill position on a football field, but his prowess on a wrestling mat had college coaches dreaming of the Keystone Oaks star playing defensive tackle.

The sport has taught Caragein an understanding of leverage, and he used his considerable talent to draw 30 scholarship offers from schools in the Atlantic Coast, Big East, Big Ten and Pac-10 conferences.

The 6-foot-3, 270-pound Caragein ended his recruitment Thursday by making a verbal commitment to Pitt, choosing the Panthers over North Carolina, N.C. State, Northwestern and Purdue. Clemson, Iowa, Maryland and Stanford were among his offers.

"I've been thinking about it the last couple weeks, and it just came to me that I wanted to go to Pitt," said Caragein, who has a 3.7 grade-point average and was recruited by Greg Gattuso. "The hometown atmosphere, good academics and, more importantly, the coaching staff - I fell in love with them."

Caragein plays DE at Keystone, but will move to DT at Pitt.

"It became very clear to me that coach Wannstedt was the coach I trusted the most," said Caragein, who stands 6 feet 1 and weighs 265 pounds. "Once I established that, I figured it was time to end the recruiting process and start focusing on Keystone Oaks getting a WPIAL championship."

Caragein, who is rated the 15th-best prospect in Pennsylvania by Rivals.com and the 11th best by Scout.com, had offers from a number of schools, but the ones he considered most were from Iowa, Purdue, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Stanford and Northwestern. He carries a 3.8 GPA and said academics were a big part of his decision.

Both consider Caragein a 3-star prospect. Additionally Chris Dokish for PSR has Caragein as the 12th best prospect in the state.

The day before, OT John Fieger committed, and PSR has him as 33d best in the state. Fieger likes the idea of being part of something with the class that is coming in for 2007.

Fieger is projected to play left tackle, where he has been a two-year starter for Upper Perkiomen, a District 1-AAA school in Pennsburg. Fieger spent time at Pitt's skills camp with two Panthers recruits, Keystone Oaks offensive guard Chris Jacobson and Manheim Township quarterback Pat Bostick.

"Knowing you're going to have the best quarterback in the state going to the same school, I'd like to block for him and help him win championships," Fieger said. "Pitt is going to be on the rise. I'd like to be a part of the program and help build it."

Amazingly, and somewhat rare to read, he seems patient about when he gets out there.

"There really was nothing not to love about the city, the campus and the coaching staff," said Fieger, who is the first player from Upper Perkiomen to receive a Division I scholarship since 1968. "I really fit in well there. I know they are trying to rebuild the offensive line and hopefully I can be a big part of that."

Fieger benches 280 pounds 18 times and squats 475. He had offers from Akron and Temple and also was attracting interest from Virginia and Connecticut.

Fieger's commitment means the Panthers are halfway to finding four offensive linemen for the class of '07.

"I think early playing time wasn't a big factor -- I'd probably rather redshirt because I think that's what is best for a player at my position," Fieger said.

Just nice to see the lines starting to fill.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Good Night and Good News 

Well this is a nice thing to read before bed. Courtesy of the Pittsburgh Sports Report e-mail and Chris Dokish.
The University of Pittsburgh has landed 6'1" 270 pound defensive lineman MYLES
CARAGEIN of Keystone Oaks High School. Caragein, one of the top dozen prospects
in Pennsylvania, is also considered one of the best defensive end prospects in
the east. Blessed with very good athleticism and excellent functional strength,
Caragein was recruited by the Panthers as an end. A national Greco-Roman
wrestling champion, Caragein could very well grow into a defensive tackle. He
had numerous offers, including North Carolina, N.C. State, Clemson and Iowa.
More in the morning, but definitely some good news on the recruiting front heading into the holiday.

Alumni Update 

Tyrone Gilliard has decided to give football another try.
An impact player is defined as someone who can make an immediate and definite impact on a team. For the 2006 Bluefield Barons, Tyrone Gilliard could be such a player.

"He makes us a lot better at defensive back," said Barons head coach Bill Dudley. "We have some good ones, but that was probably the weakest part of our defense."

That defense dominated the Alliance Football League in 2005. In the meantime, Gilliard was taking a one-year hiatus from football. However he continued to train and eventually chose to return to the game.

Gilliard's pedigree is just as impressive as that of his new defense. Gilliard was an all-state running back for Princeton High School and was a three-year starter at the University of Pittsburgh, including his final game, 35-7 loss to Utah in the 2004 Fiesta Bowl.

"What made me come out here was me wanting to go back and play ball," Gilliard said. "After I was done and I was out for a year, I decided I had enough already and I wanted to play."
"One of my teammatesm -- who was out for two years -- he went to NFL Europe this past spring," Gilliard explained. "He said I needed to go, so I came here to get in shape and get ready for NFL Europe in the spring."

Bluefield is actually Gilliard's second stop this year. In January, he tried out and made an Arena Football 2 team. However, Gilliard much prefers the outdoor game to the indoor game.

"I did play Arena in January," Gilliard said. "I just didn't like it. The rules, the short field so closed in, it wasn't a good feeling for me not to mention that I hurt my foot first day on the Astroturf.

"Just being out here where it's grass, a hundred yard field, it's comfortable for me."
"I've got an education. I've got years to make money," Gilliard philosophically noted. "I'm young. You only get so many chances to play ball."
No, I never heard of the Bluefield Barons, let alone the Alliance Football League either. Not surprising since it is semi-pro. Good luck to Tyrone Gilliard for taking a shot at playing football a little longer.

Now here's the part I'm really confused about. Bluefield, WV is no where near NYC. The Barons play in (a nice) high school stadium. Yet there is an announcement on their site that the Barons will have their games streamed live on the internet in a deal with ESPN 1050? Is there another ESPN 1050 I don't know about?

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Draft Night Blogging 

Okay, first the priorities. I went with the bourbon. A nice dollop of Makers Mark by my side.

Just hit refresh periodically.

Missed the first 10 minutes of the prelims as I had to drive back and got caught in a t-storm. Crap if ESPN isn't doing it's damnedist to suck the life out of this right away. Everyone is earnest and serious about it.

Jeez, Dick Vitale shouting from a camera in Tampa with some god-awful red curtain behind him. Dan Patrick really needs someone to crack some jokes for him. He looks like he wants to say something, but there is no one to help him. Maybe they can check in with Olbermann over at his MSBC show.

Hmm.Celtics are trading with the 'Blazers.

Just to let you know my biases. I'm a Sixers fan. Living in Cleveland, I feel bad for the Cavs and their history. I would actually like to see them succeed with LeBron James.

7:23: Okay, J.J. Redick interview. "How have you dealt with the DUI?" Answer: "I hired a lawyer." Now that's the way to respond. Sorry, with the back injury, I guess the only thing I can think is that he's just a pedigreed Luke Jackson.

7:26: I don't really care about the Rudy Gay interview, but really ESPN needs to pan to all the tables to spot the hot girlfriends, wives and escorts of the "invited" draft prospects.

7:30: Adam Morrison ad for an EA NBA game encourages people to weep openly. I think I now dislike him more than Redick.

7:33: David Stern managed to work a plug for the WNBA in his introduction. Jeez, talk about flogging a dead horse. Toronto is on the clock.

7:38: Toronto takes the Italian as everyone knew they would. How many Benetton stores are left in the US. So that's the new hat from Adidas. Curious how some of the others will look.

7:44: Chicago is trading the #2 pick LaMarcus Aldrige (Texas) and somebody for the Blazers #4 pick and a 2nd round pick next year. Only the Blazers could be this active in this flat of a draft without any real "must take" picks.

7:50: The Bobcats do go with Adam Morrison. No one thought MJ would dare take a white guy who doesn't play defense. Maybe he doesn't have as much influence over the picks as was reported.

7:55: Portland (for Chicago) take Tyrus Thomas. Jay Bilas is trying to avoid using the term "long" any more. Choosing "freakish" as his key word of the night.

7:59: Atlanta on the clock with Pitt great Billy Knight in charge. The reports are Sheldon Williams. Crap. It is.

You want to see the Pitt guys do well, but Knight is one of many GM jokes in the NBA. He's not helping disprove the case. Picks a guy who is maybe a 12-15 pick at best.

What a shock that Vitale loves a Duke player. Go figure.

8:05: The less said about Stuart Scott interviewing the guys after they have been drafted, the better.

How has Brandon Roy slipped this far already?

8:09: Minnesota take Roy. A big whiff by the Hawks, and a great pick for the Timberwolves.

8:17: Celtics suck! But they are picking for the Blazers who apparently hoped to get Roy here. Shocking that the Blazers effed up their projections.

(Dang, did anyone see the watch on Rudy Gay? Someone raided the Liberace museum.)

Randy Foye from Villanova gets picked. Eh. Seems to be getting way too much credit. Just not that wild about him. Especially the way everyone keeps bringing up Wade. He's no Wade. He's not even a poor man's Wade.

8:20: T-storms in the area are continuing. Power has been knocked out twice.

8:22: Houston is apparently trading the pick at #8 -- Rudy Gay -- to Memphis for Shane Battier. It's official, Jerry West is just plain desparate to try and win outside of LA. I suppose you could argue Gay has just always been eyeing the NBA all this time and that effected his college game. Or he could just be another Darius Miles type.

8:27: Everyone is blasting Houston for the apparent deal. Either I'm an idiot or Steven A. Smith. I like my chances.

8:30: Golden State takes Patrick O'Bryant as expected. I don't think I can say anything here that won't sound bitter. Of course, Chris Mullins has been doing such a great job at drafting. Continuing the Warrior tradition.

8:34: Portland apparently had to make a deal with Minnesota to get Roy. The team sucks, and they are trading even more of the future for now? Wow.

8:38: Seattle reaches for a HS/foreign Center from Senegal -- Sene. The last HS project Center from Senegal drafted was DeSagna Diop by Cleveland. That worked out well... for Dallas. He's the type of player that may eventually succeed with another team. It's why teams wanted the age limit imposed. Too many of the HS players took so long to develop and eventually needed to go elsewhere to thrive.

8:44: Magic go with the pretentious Dukie, Redick. This means Vitale will be brought in to rave about him. Yep. Not even a doubt. Not that I'm actually listening.

He can't create his own shot. He's going to be a poor man's Steve Kerr (at best).

Hell, Jay Bilas in defending him said he'd be better than Trajon Langdon (picked 11th by Cleveland -- unknown if he's even playing anywhere in the NBA or NBDL). Talk about damning with faint praise.

8:50: Hornets of wherever picks Hilton Armstrong. 4th Center picked. Think Aaron Gray isn't starting to have just a twinge of doubts about his choice? I'm not complaining. I'm just typing.

8:57: Philly picks some guys with corn rows from Switzerland. I'm not even going to try and type that. Um, okay, Katz is reporting that the pick will be traded to Chicago and Philly will pick at 16.

I hope they trade Iverson for future picks. It's the only way they can even come close to getting value. Potential chances over whatever scrubs they would end up with.

They horribly teased us by announcing the Blazers-Celtics trade first. Telfair and Ratliff w. 2nd round 2008 pick for Foye, Dickau and LaFrentz.

9:00: David Stern does his best to try and loosen up the ESPN crew. Utah picks Ronnie Brewer (Arkansas). That's a nice shade of blue for his suit.

Bilas makes his first "length" comment of the night with regards to Brewer.

9:05: Commish make its official for the Minnesota-Blazers trade.

The Hornets of somewhere takes Cedric Simmons of NC State. Guess it worked out for him that Sendek left for ASU.

9:10: Chicago picking for Philly. Rodney Carney (Memphis). Crap. Hate this pick for Philly. Just not a fan for Philly. The fit is wrong.

By the way, I switched to Jim Beam about 40 minutes ago.

9:21: Indiana takes Shawne Williams (Memphis) who wasn't even invited to MSG tonight. Can we now start questioning Larry Bird's draft accumen?

The ESPN crew is asking lots of questions about why Marcus Williams hasn't been drafted. I have to let Bill Simmons sum it up:
Unfortunately, he has a few things working against him: the incredible laptop scandal (Red Flag No. 1); UConn's stunning exit in the NCAAs (Red Flag No. 2); the whole "I have no problem being overweight and out-of-shape for these pre-draft workouts" (Red Flag No. 3); major questions about his outside shot (Red Flag No. 4); his defensive ability (Red Flag No. 5); and his attitude (Red Flag No. 6). In other words, just call him Six Flags.
All that's missing is a DUI or marijuana bust.

9:23: Wiz pick some Ukaraine player called Pecherov. A chance for most of the crew to just kind of pretend they know something about him when they clearly don't.

9:30: Sacremento grab Quincy Douby from Rutgers. Not there, and didn't spring out of the crowd. I like him a lot better than someone like Redick. Went a little higher than expected.

9:35: Excitement time at #20. The Knicks are finally picking. The crowd is now loud. The mere mention fo Isiah Thomas' name elicited a cascade of boos. Party time.

Stern fully there to deadpan. Announces a trade first -- the Philly-Chicago trade -- Philly also gets a 2007 2nd round pick and cash.

Renaldo Balkman (South Carolina) is picked. Naturally, plenty of boos and the good news is Balkman wasn't there. That would have been a reach at the end of the 1st. To say this pick was panned was being kind. The funny thing is, Isiah hasn't actually sucked in drafts, but now...

9:43: Go Boston. Andy Katz syas Boston wants to get Rajon Rondo (Kentucky) with a deal with Phoenix. Rondo is a bad pick that will go no where.

And the Suns do indeed pick Rondo. Anything that will help keep the Celtics down, and Rondo will. A workout stud, but a brick shooter as a player. Heh.

9:48: The Nets grab Marcus Williams as the heir apparent for Jason Kidd. That couldn't work out better for Williams for his future. Knicks fans are ready to slash their wrists.

9:52: Nets have this pick as well. Wow. They pick Josh Boone. Same team and back-to-back UConn players. He had been rumored to be promised by the Knicks at #29. 2 years ago I wouldn't have argued. Now, I just question his desire and interest.

For the record, I've switched to Yuengling Lager at this time.

9:57: Memphis grabs Kyle Lowry (Villanova). This is a good pick. He's got energy, scraps and has talent.

10:03: Okay, time to see what Cleveland can do with this pick. They need a point guard (Jordan Farmar -- UCLA). Ideally, someone who can help right away, but at a minimum someone who can start within a year or two. Or do they go with a power forward/center? Someone like Paul Davis. Depends in part with what they think they can get in the 2nd.

The pundits talk about shooting. Yeah, but, they really need defense as well. Damon Jones, Donyell Marshall could rebound this season. As might Larry Hughes so there are issues.

Instead they pick SG Shannon Brown (Michigan State). I don't like the pick. He has top flight talent. I have real doubts about his "motor." He's reckless and careless at times. At least with his teammate, Paul Davis (who also would have motor issues) he would provide size and depth up front.

10:10: The Lakers grab the local kid Jordan Farmar. He will work with the Lakers since all he has to do is pass to Kobe.

10:17: The Suns pick again. A trade apparently with -- of course -- the Blazers for cash?? to pick a Spaniard. Point Guard Sergio "Spanish Chocolate" Rodriguez.

Trailblazers = deck chairs + Titantic.

10:21: The Dallas Mavericks -- a favorite for Pittsburgh area fans by virtue of Mark Cuban -- go with Maurice Ager (Mich. St.) at #28. No solid opinion other than to rip on MSU for underachieving like UConn by having multiple 1st round picks and doing so poorly in college. Actually, I'd say MSU was worse. At least UConn waited until the NCAA Tournament to underachieve.

10:22: Knicks time again. Wheee. I'm betting on solid 2nd rounders Curtis Stinson (Iowa St.) or Pittsnogle from WVU just to send people into riot mode.

10:25: Stern looked like he was announcing a death. Close. Mardy Collins from Temple. Okay, a little unfair. He doesn't suck. He actually plays defense -- not surprising playing for Temple and John Chaney. Of course, the amount of time he'll see on the court is a big question.

10:29: Portland is on the clock, officially, but I have no clue if it is actually their pick.

10:32: At #30, (I think) Portland picks Joel Freeland out of England. Whatever. Apparently he's pasty and tall.

Now it's time for the second round and it really moves quickly. Portland picks again to start it.

10:35: Russ Granik takes over for his final call of the 2nd round. Yippee.

Please shoot Dick Vitale. Or at least sever his vocal cords. Please. How unfair is it that Myron Cope can't call games any longer but Vitale can.
10:39: Portland picks -- oh, like I need to even make the Jailblazer crack with a Thuggins kid -- James White from Cinci.

10:43: Houston takes Novak out of Marquette. Eh. He has no defense and I question his ability to generate his own shot. He took a lot of his high% shots off of catch and shoots. The Rockets are my sister's adopted team since she went moved down there years ago.

10:45: Hawks and Knight get Solomon Jones of USF. Hey, three Conference USA Big East players taken in a row.

The commercials are really starting now.

10:50: The Clippers are picking, and widespread snickering is lacking. That's just wrong.

Paul Davis (Mich. St.) is snagged. This actually looks like a good value pick to back-up Kaman.

Rapters take P.J. Tucker from Texas. Bilas makes a "long" reference without saying it. Talks of his wingspan instead.

10:55: ESPN pundits are trying to deal with the more rapid picks by creating pithy one-liners like they will be quoted for a movie poster.

Craig Smith?? picked by the T-Wolves. I'm thinking Chevy Troutman just broke his hand hitting a wall in furstration with seeing that. Especially the way he dominated him. Smith is a good player, but you would have a hard time convincing me that Troutman isn't better.

11:01: Billy Knight interview pretends that they hadn't promised that they would pick Sheldon Williams even though every news outlet reported it for the last week. Billy, Billy, Billy.

11:07: Seattle grabbed Denham Brown at #40. Another UConn player is about the only thing worth noting.

Cleveland at #42 takes Daniel Gibson out of Texas. He's a guard with talent and questionable as to whether he's a point or shooting guard -- not to mention whether he should have returned to Texas for another season. He's got potential, but he is a bad pick for Cleveland. They don't need a guy with potential. If they were going to take a guard who can shoot from outside, they would have been better served with someone like Mike Gansey. Someone with range and already knows his range and is more defined in ability and role. Mistake.

11:20: Right now the slider seems to be Guillermo Diaz, Shooting Guard out of Miami. He was thought to go late in the 1st.

Hey, a Jew gets drafted. Lior Eliyahu out of Israel gets taken by Orlando at #44. He still has his Army obligation so there is a question whether he'll ever play. The last Jewish player in the NBA, Danny Schayes. Steven A. Smith was exceptionally quiet. I'm sure it was mostly because he knew nothing about him.

11:27: I guess it could be worse. Jim Belushi could be providing color commentary.

Denver apparently can't get enough of players with knee issues -- Kenyon Martin, Marcus Camby -- and now Leon Powe (Cal).

The James White era in Portland is already over. He got shipped to Inidana.

11:34: Unlike the NFL draft they don't even bother with a little sound effect to let you know a draft pick has been made. While I've been ignoring the commercials, there were several picks. Once you see who they were, though, I guess ntohing was missed.

Eliyahou goes from Miami to Houston in a trade for cash. Since my sister is already married, that's kind of moot.

Diaz out of Miami gets picked finally at #52 to the Clippers.

Who even cares that the Trailblazers move another player for a 2nd rounder. Well, Portland looks to dominate the 2nd round in 2007.

11:43: Almost over.

At #53 Yotam Halperin out of Israel gets taken by Seattle. 2 Israelis in the 2nd round. An interesting showing.

Cleveland has the 55th pick and takes some guy from Nigeria. Uh, yeah. Great. Taj Gray from Oklahoma, a small forward was still there. As was Gansey, though that would have been overkill at this point for SG. Not to mention Brandon Bowman (Georgetown) at SF sitting there. Wasted pick.

11:52: No, Carl Krauser will not be drafted tonight. Hopefully, very soon we will hear about a team signing him to a free agent deal.

The end of the draft is populated by Eurotrash picks.

Adding An OT 

An Offensive Tackle from Pennsburg, PA made a verbal today according to the e-mail update from PSR.
...Upper Perkiomen High School’s JOHN FIEGER committed to the Panthers. The 6'5" 265 pound Fieger possesses quick feet and good athleticism, and though he likely needs to add strength, he has the makings of a top tackle prospect. His other offers were from Akron and Temple, and he there were interest from West Virginia, Virginia, Rutgers, Connecticut, Iowa, Purdue and Maryland.
Scout.com and Rivals.com both have him as a minor prospect at this time. Chris Dokish tabs him as a potential sleeper. Assuming the information is accurate about some of the other schools starting to become interested in him, then it seems very likely that there is more to him than the single star rating.

Phillips Ready for '06 

As far as I know, no one has posted the clip of Mike Phillips breaking his ankle against Nebraska on You Tube, but that image has stayed burned into my memory. The Warren, Ohio native gets a story in his local paper.
"It was tough because I had never had a major injury like that," said Phillips, who was an instructor Monday at the Korey Stringer Community Fund football camp. "Believing in God and praying and having a lot of good people around me telling me to keep my head up. I took a positive approach to it. It wasn't like, 'Why did this happen to me?' At rehab they tell me I'm ahead of schedule."

The 2006 season could be a breakout time for Phillips, who played cornerback and quarterback at Harding. He's been moved to free safety, where his speed and football instincts can be best utilized.

To get ready for the move, Phillips accommodated coach Dave Wannstedt by increasing his weight 20 pounds to 205. The time off the field also gave him a chance to study the entire defense.

"I believe I can provide a leadership role more this year than last year because I think I'm wiser," he said. "Getting hurt might have been a good thing because I studied film a lot more. Before, I knew what I did and the corners. Now I know my position, the corners, the linebackers, and I want to know more about the defensive line. That will make me play a lot faster."
The injury also seemed to effect his overall outlook.
Phillips has two more years of eligibility remaining, but he was eligible for the NFL draft this year. At this time he plans to use all of his eligibility and then see what develops concerning a possible NFL career.

Realizing how fragile an athlete's career can be, Phillips is taking nothing for granted. He'll graduate next spring with a degree in communications. He wants to get another major to enhance his chances of succeeding in life outside of the football lines.

"As I saw in the Nebraska game, you're one play away from not playing again," Phillips said. "You always have a backup plan. Football can be taken away. A degree can't."
I'm looking forward to seeing him back on the field this fall.

Draft Night 

The Big East is expected to be the big conference in the draft. Specifically, UConn.
This year, the Big East figures to dominate the NBA draft. At least six and as many as eight from the Big East could hear their names called in the first round of the draft, which takes place tonight in New York (7 p.m., ESPN).

The record for first-round draft choices out of one conference is eight, set in 1995 by the ACC. The Big East established its record with six first-rounders in the 1996 draft.

"There are years when leagues dominate the draft," ESPN analyst Jay Bilas said. "In 1986, the ACC had four of the first five players picked. I think you can look over the years and you'll see several instances where a league had a bunch of players. The Big East was a great league last year because it had great players and this is the result."

The Big East contingent will have a Connecticut flavor. Four former Huskies Rudy Gay, Marcus Williams, Hilton Armstrong and Josh Boone could go in the first round. Denham Brown and Rashad Anderson are potential second-round picks for an astounding six players from one team.


Along with the UConn group, Big East alums Randy Foye and Kyle Lowry of Villanova should go in the first round. Quincy Douby of Rutgers, Steve Novak of Marquette and West Virginia's Mike Gansey and Kevin Pittsnogle are first-round possibilities.

The number of potential first-round picks out of the Big East would have been one higher, but Pittsburgh center Aaron Gray, who was a first-round lock, elected to return for his senior year.

Of course, the NFL Draft's opening round was dominated by the ACC and that didn't exactly translate well on the field for the conference this past year.

WVUs' Kevin Pittsnogle couldn't seem to raise his draft status from last year to this. He's still a mid-2nd round pick. The cost of being incapable of playing defense and rebounding despite being 6' 11". Mike Gansey, on the other hand, has climbed to an early-2nd, possible late-1st (though I don't believe the latter), and I have to agree with this assessment.

According to Chris Ekstrand, who is a consultant for the NBA and a draft expert, both are likely to be drafted, and it wouldn't be a surprise if either made it into the first round.

"Mike Gansey is a throwback type of a player," Ekstrand said.

"His greatest strength is in his ability to fearlessly take the ball to the basket, and he has enough athleticism to play in the NBA. His value will depend on the style of the team that drafts him, much like Rick Barry's sons, who have been more useful on certain types of teams than others."

If he makes it to the Cavs picking at #42 in the 2nd round, I could see them taking him. He's a local product and the Cavs GM, Danny Ferry, came over from San Antonio which has used Brent Barry and players like him as important complimentary players. That is unless they take a SG or PG with their pick at #25.

As for Carl Krauser, while there's always a chance some team may take a shot at him at the end of the 2nd, he is more likely (and probably better for him) to be signed as a free agent and play the NBA summer leagues.
"I don't expect he'll be drafted, but that's not a bad thing," said Jay Bilas, a basketball analyst for ESPN. "If he's undrafted, it might be better for him. There are a lot of guys out there who are capable of playing in the league, even though they aren't drafted. Carl Krauser is a solid prospect, though not spectacular."

If Krauser, who turned 25 in May, is to make it in the NBA, his critics repeatedly have stated that he'll need to think "pass first," an idea that is growing rapidly on him.


While hearing his name called tonight would be a significant accomplishment for Krauser, going undrafted would present an opportunity for a host of teams to shop for a free agent who may best suit their needs.

"He's helped himself, but whether he gets drafted or not, the consensus is he's going to make the league," Krauser's agent Keith Glass said.

I would still love to hear Krauser's name called tonight.

Summer Gigs 

Ronald Ramon has been staying in Pittsburgh this summer. He has an internship at Fox Sports Net Pittsburgh. His roommate, Keith Benjamin, also is in Pittsburgh for the summer. I suspect most of the team stayed to take some classes and just keep working with each other.

Whenever the weekly Pitt propaganda TV show airs next, it will likely include a tour of Ramon and Benjamin's apartment.
Nicknamed the "Young Gunz" by teammate Carl Krauser during their freshman season, junior roommates Keith Benjamin and Ronald Ramon of the Pitt men's basketball team are key components to a program that currently ranks as high as third in national preseason polls. The two roommates have taken time out of their summer training to put together a list of their top nine songs. In addition to their playlist below, they invited FSN Pittsburgh to tour their apartment earlier this year as part of a feature on "Panthers Weekly."
As Juniors, they will no longer will be the kids any longer. As for their playlist, well, no one really needs a white guy in his mid-30s living in Ohio commenting on music choices.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Still Unconfirmed 

No other confirmation that Dave Cox was hired as Pitt's Director of Basketball Operations right now. Here's not a lot of info on the guy right now. He was a coach on the AAU team DC Assault's Blue (17 year-olds).

On that squad includes Anthony McClain. He's a 4-star recruit on Rivals.com. 65th best player overall and 4th best Center. Scout.com also considers the 7-footer a 4-star recruit, but maybe the 27th best overall and 3rd best Center. Other players on this AAU team of interest include Mike Davis, who is getting interest from Illinois, Tennessee, USF and VT. Jamar Samuels has interest from Duquesne, NC St., Syracuse, Clemson, DePaul and Providence. Darnell Dotson, a small forward is not considered a high prospect at this time.

St. John's Prep., which the story says was where he was an administrator, features Chris Wright. Wright is a 6'1" 5-star point guard recruit. His offers include 'Nova, G-town, Maryland, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest. Scout.com lists him as the 17th best prospect (just behind Herb Pope) and 5th best PG. Rivals.com has him at #21 and also the 5th best PG.

Now, while he may have a relationship with Wright, I have to note that David Cox is not listed as being one of the coaches.

As for what else I can tell you about David Cox. He apparently attended St. John's Prep and was a pretty good basketball player (listed in the honorable mention). Unconfirmed at this time, but the time frame fits, a David Cox played college basketball at William & Mary from 1992-1995, and it would seem by his place in their records to have been a good point guard and 3-point shooter for them.

Unconfirmed At The Moment 

This is a stunner (big Hat Tip to Scott) .
i95Ballerz.com would like to give a big up to former St. John's College Preparatory High School administrator and D.C. Assault coach, David Cox. The seven year St. John's and Assault professional shared during a recent phone interview, he is presently poised to accept the Director of Basketball Operations position at the University of Pittsburgh.

At Pitt, Cox relayed his upcoming duties as "I'll be the fourth assistant coach" working for that program's head coach, Jamie Dixon, while also functioning as "a liaison between the administration and the basketball office". The position contains several restrictions not imposed upon other assistants, as during practices he "can't supply input", and can only "go out on the road and recruit" within a 30 mile radius of Pit'’s campus.

The long expected rumor was that Brandin Knight would be taking that job come August. Looks like Knight might be taking one more run at pro basketball. More later.

Draft Plans 

I've been debating about doing a live blog of the NBA draft tomorrow. I know I'll end up watching. I always do. Sure it's not nearly as entertaining with ESPN making it into a drone fest of seriousness, as it was when TNT did it almost with a tounge-in-cheek approach. And yes, I know the live blogging of the draft has probably been done to death.

But like I said, I know I'll be watching it. I'll be curious to see which player(s) will take a Chris Taft-like tumble or even fall out of the draft. Will Carl Krauser get picked in the 2nd round? Isn't it stunning to see Patrick O'Bryant parlay that one game against Pitt into a lottery draft pick? And why did it take until the day before the draft for someone to finally write -- even in a complimentary way -- about that fact?

Quick thought as to why the NBA draft under ESPN sucks so bad. The obvious answer is that they treat it like the NFL draft and just don't have any sense of humor with it. But that isn't quite right, because there is something somewhat humorous in the NFL draft. And here's the difference. The NFL draft takes forever and a day. There's interminable periods between picks. People are on the set all day, and frankly, they get punch-drunk after a while. Heck, it doesn't even take too long for the slight goofiness to kick in, when it takes over an hour to get through the first 4 picks.

In the NBA draft, though, it moves too quickly. There's no chance for the people working the draft to start slipping and having any fun. The whole thing is over in just a few hours. There's no chance to really get off-script. Or at least the producers won't let them. It also doesn't help that the ESPN personalities are generally wooden. The only wild card is the local crowd. That is the best chance for some fireworks. That they will overwhelm the mics with booing of whatever the Knicks do (and they don't pick until #20) or a Vescey-esque chant directed towards Steven A. Smith.

So, yeah, I'm probably going to do it for at least the first round and maybe the second. Right now, my biggest issue for the draft is deciding on Scotch, Bourbon or Beer to accompany it.

Because There's Nothing Else 

And I'm somewhat amused.

As you can expect when a NASCAR driver is involved in non-NASCAR model, she will be taller than him (look at the picture).

The four-time NASCAR champion plans to marry Belgian model and actress Ingrid Vandebosch.

The two started dating in 2004 and appeared together in the movie Taxi, in which Vandebosch played a bank robber and Gordon made an uncredited cameo appearance at her invitation.


Vandebosch has also dated actor Bruce Willis and former Baltimore Oriole Brady Anderson.

And yet, she is only 5'7".

Her "acting career" is a total of two movies. The aforementioned Taxi (don't tell me you've already forgotten that classic Fallon-Latifah team-up) where she played "Third Robber" (as a supposed Brazilian no less).

Her other acting credit was in the underrated flick (straight to DVD?) Going Greek for her understated role as "Beautiful Girl" in 2001. There is not even an entry for her on the Celebrity Nude Data Base, telling you all you need to know about the quality of that movie.

Really, a European engaged to a NASCAR driver? Isn't that embarrassing for her to her friends and relatives back in Belgium. Not even a Formula 1 driver.

Preview Mags: Lindy's 

I'm not saying high glossy covers and lots of photos are bad. I'm just suggesting that it can be a bit of a warning as to the overall content. Okay, done with the commentary as to the overall product offering.

Lindy's is one of the earliest publications to come out, and produces its team previews by hiring local beat writers. Paul Zeise of the Post-Gazette provides the Pitt write-up -- presumably a freelance gig. I don't think this is a bad thing. They actually know the team, its strengths and weaknesses and might be more accurate with information. On the other hand, there's little value in reading a summary of stuff you've already read from him before.

One of the things Lindy's has in this year's preview is an "All-American Team for the Past 25 Years" (p. 11). They place one first-teamer and a second-teamer from Pitt. Offensive lineman, Jimbo Covert (1982) on the 1st team and WR Larry Fitzgerald on the 2nd team. As previously noted, Lindy's has a couple Pitt players on its All-American Squad for 2006. Darrelle Revis, 1st Team DB and H.B. Blades, 2nd Team LB (p. 33).

Lindy's does the individual position ranking and so you see them placing Tyler Palko as the 15th best QB (p. 34); Darrelle Revis is the 2nd best DB in the country (p. 42); Adam Graessle is considered the 9th best Punter (p. 44); and H.B. Blades is listed as the 2nd best LB in the country (p. 41).

Each of the lists is accompanied by a profile article on one player. The Linebacker list has a story on Blades (written by Zeise). As you would expect, there's a bit of talk regarding his bloodlines. Lindy's also partners with NFLDraftScout.com for some content to list the top draftable players. They list Blades at #17 (p. 61). Right now, the site lists Blades as the best ILB for the 2007 draft.

They also provide their opinion on leading candidates for the various CFB awards. They put Revis at #9 on the list for the Bronko Nagurski award (p. 62).

Lindy's does a "complete" ranking from 1-119, and places Pitt at #51 and 4th best in the Big East (p. 26). On the Big East preview pages (pp. 148-9), the predicted finish is WVU, L'ville, Rut, Pitt, USF, UConn, Cinci and 'Cuse. Blades is picked as the BE Pre-Season Defensive Player of the Year.

On the All-Big East squad, Revis and Blades are 1st team defense. John Simonitis and Mike McGlynn (OLs) make the 2nd team offense. Adam Graessle is 2nd team Punter. Showing the need for a fact checker or something, Tez Morris is also included on the second team. He, um, graduated. Here's a hint. The Pitt roster page, isn't updated until sometime in July. Add a year.

As for the Pitt preview page (p. 153), well as I said it's Zeise, so you should have something of an idea. He sees the team as going anywhere from 5-7 to 7-5 and he focuses on the line play. He thinks the offensive line should be better but the defensive line is the big problem.

Monday, June 26, 2006

That Would Put A Dent In the Heisman Candidacy 

Okay, this seems very unlikely. I just don't see the NCAA having the stones to do it. But, this would be an astounding event (no #@$%^*& permalink, but look under the entry for June 25, 12:15pm).
A league source with intimate knowledge of the applicable NCAA regulations tells us that Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis might have rendered quarterback Brady Quinn and other incoming seniors ineligible if, as we previously have reported, Weis has directed the seniors with designs on pro football to pick their agents before the start of the 2006 season.

Rule 12.3.1 of the NCAA bylaws states that "[a]n individual shall be ineligible for participation in an intercollegiate sport if he or she ever has agreed (orally or in writing) to be represented by an agent for the purpose of marketing his or her athletics ability or reputation in that sport." Rule elaborates on the general principle set forth in Rule 12.3.1: "An individual shall be ineligible per Bylaw 12.3.1 if he or she enters into a verbal or written agreement with an agent for representation in future professional sports negotiations that are to take place after the individual has completed his or her eligibility in that sport."
It has been well-publicized that Quinn and his family have already been whittling down the potential agents to hire after the '06 season. Nor has there been any hiding that Weis has at least encouraged Quinn to take care of some of this business early to eliminate distractions.
Quinn, a senior, is not allowed to sign with an agent until his eligibility is exhausted. But, per NCAA rules, the family can interview prospective representatives.

Team Quinn is roughly defined as Slates, another uncle Scott Bender, described as a venture capitalist, and Quinn's parents Ty and Robin. Oh, and of course Brady, who will make the final decision.
Understandably, coach Charlie Weis has had a big influence on the process. It is in his best interest to eliminate distractions before the season. Notre Dame is expected to be ranked in the preseason top 10.

"I don't think Coach Weis would mind me saying it ..." Slates said. "(He wants to) make sure that Brady doesn't get a guy that makes the process about the agent.

"At least we can narrow it down so at least we can tell everyone else to bug off. Coach Weis wants Brady to focus so he's not getting calls from Joe Schmo agent."

Weis already has addressed all of his draft-eligible players.

"Obviously they have a resource which they didn't have before," Weis said of himself.
Now, there is nothing right now out there. Not at the WWLS, not at SI.com, not even at DeadSpin, EDSBS or even Blue Gray Sky. So I am very hesitant to say this is going anywhere or is a legit rumor. Still, this at least has a whiff of Savior Weis trying to run his program a little too much like the NFL club and ignoring/missing a big rule.

Additionally, as I said at the beginning, I don't think the NCAA would pull the trigger on declaring top players from Notre Dame ineligible this season. They would probably look the other way while whispering sternly in their ear not to do it again.

UPDATE: CollegeFootballResource posted on this yesterday and doesn't think much of this for scandal potential either.

Magazines Checked 

These are the preseason mags I've taken time to view.
Street & Smith's
The Sporting News
The Gold Sheet
Phil Steele's
Your best bet, so to speak, is still Phil Steele's College Football Preview. Sure he's heavy on the self-promotion and the tiny font. But it really is the best of the bunch overall. Here's the site to go to for reviews of the magazines themselves for overall evaluation.

The one thing consistent in all of them is the last two teams in the Big East. All of them pick Cinci for 7th and Syracuse for 8th in the Big East. Amazingly, there is at least one mag that doesn't pick WVU for 1st.

Preview Mags: A Preview 

Just about all of the college football preview mags are on the racks. Few people will actually buy each and every one of them. And let's face it, all we really want to see is where Pitt is and how they feel about the team. And going into this year, you can scan that info in just a few minutes of paging through each

Now, I didn't go out and buy all of them. Instead, while on a couple coffee-fueled binges at the local B&N I took down some notes on all of the mags on the rack as they pertained to Pitt.

In case you haven't noticed, news is bordering on totally absent these days. That's making daily posting a bit more difficult. So, it's time to get into some real white noise.

Over the next week or two -- however frequently I get to it -- I'll be posting my notes on the various preview mags.

Kids Today 

If anyone really cares, the Big 33 game will be played against Ohio for at least one more year. There had been talk of changing the opponent back to Maryland, but that doesn't appear to be the case any longer.

Everyone has their favorite theory as to why athletes get in trouble or screw-up. This despite mandatory preparatory seminars from the pro leagues for rookies and compliance classes in college. Pitt has an interesting and probably quite valuable speaker talk to its football players.

When Dave Wannstedt was looking for a multi-purpose speaker for Pitt's football players this spring to augment the school's compliance programs, he went with Ralph Cindrich. A former Pitt and NFL player, a current agent, Cindrich has perspective across the spectrum.

Whether he's talking with college players, or giving advice to his clients, Cindrich knows the message is not always taken to heart.

"Lots of times," he said.

Cindrich also believes the explosion of media coverage has led to more reportage on the foibles and legal missteps of young athletes. Here he sounds like Penn State's Paterno, who in the past has expressed nostalgia for the days when, if a Penn State player ran afoul of the law, "I would go down (to the police station) and take him home. Then I would kick him in the rear and run him until his tongue dragged."

But Cindrich sees the proliferation of legal problems for athletes as more than a case of additional media messengers.

"It's the age we live in and the scrutiny athletes are under, along with the fact that a lot of these individuals are different than old-school players," he said.

Wannstedt also sees more than one explanation.

"I would agree everything is magnified because the sports networks have grown and talk radio and the Internet," he said. "I also think there are more guys leaving early."

To some degree, I happen to think (hey, I said everyone has their own theory) there isn't that much difference between then and now except we find out about a lot more than it used to be. There was a lot more opportunity, ability and chances to keep things quiet or covered-up.

Personally, I'm glad that it's not so easily shoved aside. Not just for the comedy value, but because when a program or organization starts covering things up it's hard to stop when the big stuff hits. The impulse is to still think you can still hide it, that it isn't so bad. Then everything comes out. Think Colorado football for the last few years as an example.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

A Good Day For Hoopies 

I'm sure almost all of you already know that Gino Gradkowski verballed to WVU. That means, like his brother Bruce, he can later make Pitt's world more difficult.

Gradkowski, a 6-foot-3, 285-pound offensive lineman, drove to Morgantown on Saturday to tell West Virginia coaches that he was picking the Mountaineers over Pitt.

"I liked the college atmosphere better at West Virginia," Gradkowski said. "I had a gut feeling that I should be a Mountaineer, so I went with it."


Gradkowski has cousins playing receiver at both Pitt (Joe DelSardo) and West Virginia (Carmen Connolly). Making Gradkowski's choice even more difficult is that he developed relationships at both programs.

"Both schools were great situations for me," Gradkowski said. "It was hard to make a choice. Both coaching staffs were great, and I knew I had a good situation no matter where I went. That was the hardest part, having to say no to one of them."

The biggest difference from last year to this year is that Pitt is facing fiercer competition for the local kids. Last season, it almost seemed as if the other schools were completely caught off guard by how aggressive and quickly Pitt pursued and secured verbals. Not this year.

Yesterday, the Mountaineers finely (and wisely) locked up their head coach Rich Rodriguez for a few more years.

Negotiations for the extension between Rodriguez and West Virginia officials reportedly had stalled over Rodriguez's request for a raise for his assistants, a promise for facilities improvements and a break from a $2 million buyout clause.

He got an increase in the compensation pool for his staff, although it is not known if it matches the $50,000 per man he wanted. The university also announced plans to renovate Milan Puskar Center, including the study center and locker rooms, dependent on fundraising.

It's not known whether the Mountaineers lightened the buyout figure, although Rodriguez has long maintained he wants to remain at West Virginia for the balance of his career.

The issue of the buyout isn't about leaving WVU, it's about leveraging a bigger raise the next time they opt to renegotiate. With a high buyout, it is less likely another school will come in to make an offer that he couldn't refuse. That reduces the competition for his services.

The extension puts him about 3rd in the Big East coaches pay.
West Virginia football coach Rich Rodriguez extinguished a host of rumors, including one that he was moving up the list to eventually replace Bobby Bowden at Florida State, by signing a three-year contract extension Saturday that will pay him at least $1 million a year.

Rodriguez earned about $850,000 in total compensation last season, including $185,000 in incentive bonuses.

Rodriguez's new package still leaves him slightly behind Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt, who is expected to earn about $1.1 million entering his second season in the Big East.


West Virginia officials confirmed yesterday that Rodriguez signed the extension through the 2012 season. He will receive an additional $100,000 in deferred salary that will be paid in 2011, if Rodriguez remains the Mountaineers' coach.

Rodriguez's extension still contains a base salary of $150,000, but he also is guaranteed $850,000 in promotional income through Mountaineer Athletic Club appearances and television, radio, Internet and endorsements. The contract includes increases each year, Mountaineers officials said.

The contract also includes incentives for additional income through graduation rates, team grade-point averages, bowl appearances, Big East championships, season-ticket sales and summer camps, Pastilong said.

The top salary in the Big East is Bobby Petrino at Louisville pulling in nearly $1.4 million.

More Meaningless Rankings 

Rivals.com offers its own revised really early advanced pre-season top-25 basketball rankings.

The voters all faced one big question: Just how much of a difference can one player choosing to stay in school make on a team? If the player is Aaron Gray and the school is Pittsburgh the answer is a tremendous one.

Thanks to Gray's decision to pull out of the draft on deadline day the Panthers jumped from No. 16 to No. 7. Gray emerged as one of the best big men in the Big East and many felt he was the piece that could lead the Panthers on a deep postseason run.


7. Pittsburgh (90) 25-8
Could Aaron Gray mean the difference between contending for a league title and an NCAA title? We think so. The 7-foot center who averaged a double-double last season announced he was taking his name out of the draft just minutes before the withdrawl deadline. The decision led every voter to place the Panthers in his top 10. The Panthers lose star guard Carl Krauser, but three other starters are back and promising power forward Sam Young is poised for a breakout year.
Pre-season top-10 is looking like a lock going into the season. Coach Dixon is going to have to be working hard to keep the kids from reading too much of their own clippings it would seem.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Somewhere In Between 

Tom Luginbill for ESPN.com looks teams (Insider subs.) that need big years on the field and teams on the rise with regards to recruiting. He finds Pitt somewhere in the middle of those classifications. As he lists them as part of "Other Notables" (with Penn St.).
Pittsburgh: Are the Panthers for real? Was the 2006 class a fluke? Well, the bottom line is that if coach Dave Wannstedt and his staff proved anything, it is that they can do a fantastic job of recruiting locally.

They dominated in the state of Pennsylvania, with top prospects like tight end Nate Byham (Franklin), wide receiver Dorin Dickerson (Imperial-West Allegany) and defensive tackle Jason Pinkston (Pittsburgh-Baldwin). It was a strong and deep class across the board and a great way to start the Wannstedt tenure.

The 2007 class of early commitments stands at three, and all are Pennsylvania kids. Headlined by quarterback Pat Bostick (Lancaster-Manheim Township), the class so far is entirely on the offensive side of the ball.

The question many fans have is whether Wannstedt can get it done on the sideline. A repeat of last season's disastrous start will not help in recruiting over the long haul. If Pitt gets back on track in terms of win-loss record in 2006, expect another impressive class in 2007.

I don't think Pitt has to have a monster year (yet). Progress, though, has to be made. Not just in terms of wins and losses. The team has to actually look like one. Competency in the game plan and the execution at a minimum. Even in several of the wins last season, it often seemed more on the greater incompetency of the opposing team (Syracuse) or lesser talent (Cinci).

The SEC Is Next 

Via Fanblogs, I read that it looks like the SEC will be next to get their own channel.
Southeastern Conference Commissioner Mike Slive says the league is interested in forming its own television network, an "SEC Channel" similar to the one the Big Ten has planned.

"There is an ego element to having your name on a channel," Slive said.

The commissioner said the conference is looking into establishing a channel when the league's television contracts expire in 2009.

"I think you're going to find the concept of the channel has been on the drawing board for most of the conferences," Slive told The Birmingham News in a story Thursday. "The question is really one of timing, when your own contract comes to terms so you can find out the market place."
As the SEC enters TV negotiations with CBS, ESPN and Lincoln Financial Sports, it will explore the league channel option, Slive said.

"It has to be part of the overall discussion of television so you're dealing with all your inventory," Slive said. "We haven't decided to do it. You need to evaluate all those relationships and whether or not in that mix it makes sense to add an SEC Channel."
[Emphasis added.]

That chilled my bones. While the Big East has yet to announce much of the terms of its deal with the mouse channel, I have this sinking feeling that the Big East locked itself out of being able to start its own channel until the next contract -- some time in 2013.

That would likely make the Big East one of the last BCS conferences to go to having its own channel. This despite the Mountain West making plans for such more than a year ago and the Big 11 rumors were swirling even while the Big East was negotiating its new deal. This is the sort of thing I mentioned a couple days ago.

I believe that Commissioner Mike Tranghese has some serious questions to answer about how he sees the marketing and growth of the league in terms of media exposure and avenues.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Honorable Mention 

On his ESPN.com blog, Bruce Feldman has been passing some of the downtime by compiling some of his favorite college t-shirts (Insider Subs.).
I searched for the most clever -- and the added bonus of biting humor helped. But some rules applied: it had to be clean enough for me to run here and unique to the school or its rival. There are plenty of witty "seven things you'd never hear a (college x) fan say," or "a good (logo of our team), bad (logo of one of our rivals) and an ugly (caricature of one of our rivals' coaches)," but my reasoning was, if it was part of some cottage industry where you could just substitute any school in, it wasn't making the cut.
His top 3 were: Catholics vs. Convicts, Fat Phil Loves to Squeal and Ron Zook For Frat House President.

He comes back to the topic again today with a couple others while going into his mailbag.
Two others that I was tempted to use for that list: "The Rich Brooks Farewell Tour" (which listed the 2005 Kentucky schedule) and "I can't Hackett" (created by the Pittsburgh fans in regards to their former coach Paul Hackett, although I think that one probably would've been a big seller in Los Angeles a few years back too.)
[Emphasis added.]

Very occasional poster, now just with the random comment to complain about what I write, Lee, still takes great pride in the fact that he was part of the group in Tower C to hang Christmas lights to spell out "Fire Hackett" from their windows.

Slightly Amiss/Amusing 

So I took this screenshot from today's SI.com NCAA Basketball page. I've mentioned the article that is linked to Gray's picture earlier in the week.

It's the photo itself that caught my eye. Talk about pulling one from the archive/stock photos. That picture is from the 2004-05 season. Specifically, the February 28, 2005 beating Pitt administered to BC in Chestnut Hill. The sixth straight win over those Eagles and 10 out of 11.

I mention this in part to gleefully recollect that game, including seeing Doug Flutie in the stands seeing his team crushed and humiliated. Also, just because it seemed like a very odd photo to pull.

One Recruiting Breakdown 

CollegeHoops.net has a multi-article bit on the Big East recruiting classes for 2006. Top-5, 6-10 and 11-16.
Pitt's Jamie Dixon is set for the 06-07 ledger as he added a pair of recruits in 6-6, 190-pound Gilbert Brown of South Kent Prep. in Conn. and 6-9 center Austin Wallace from LaSalle Academy in the Bronx. Dixon also adds impact recruit Mike Cook from East Carolina. The Panthers are deep and talented along the front line as both of their recruits will have to work extremely hard for many minutes. Brown is a Top 100 player who could player at a 3-guard or power forward position.
I'm a little surprised they put Pitt's class way down at #12. Somehow Mick Cronin and Cinci is at #7. It may be that the discussion is as much about the expected impact as it is the recruits themselves. Cinci is leaning heavily on JUCOs considering how late they got in the recruiting situation and how much they lost from the team. Their recruiting class is expected to have an immediate impact. Pitt has a deep team that with the exception of Cook, will make it difficult to get much playing time.

Or I could just be rationalizing.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Texting, Texting, Texting 

I love how the NCAA decides to deal with the idea of rampant texting and recruiting.
An NCAA committee has advice for coaches who are using text-messaging as a recruiting tool: SLO DWN.

The NCAA recommended legislation Friday that would limit text messaging between coaches and recruits, a practice that has become popular because it skirts the NCAA's limit on phone calls.

The Academics/Eligibility/Compliance Cabinet's recommendations would limit text-messaging to between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. during the week and between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. on weekends.
I get that the idea is to limit the amount of text messages that can be sent by limiting the time frame in which they can be sent.

Unfortunately, the legislation is being written by those who apparently never even totally comprehended e-mail service. The loophole should be obvious.

I send and receive maybe one or two text messages a month, and even I can see the "drafts" category on my cell. How hard is it for a coach to simply write a ton of text messages during the day to various recruits maybe leave a final letter off of each to claim that the message wasn't completed until after 4 pm? Then when the designated hour arrives, simply "finish" the text message and send (making sure the time stamp reflects the time sent not written).

Heck, for the top recruits you could draft several and dole them out every hour on the hour or so. There are services to let you send text messages from a computer. Heck, if you know the recruit's cell service, you can go to that company's website and send them the text messages.

Back to the drawing board.

It's Not The Shoes 

No, picking the Ducks of Oregon to be underrated going into this season can not be blamed on some subliminal programming from their unis. Looking at the four models for this year only prevokes annoyance and a desire for their failure.

Another Way Too Early Advanced Ranking 

Looks like Andy Katz no longer holds the spot for highest ranking love for Pitt.
3. Pittsburgh: Panthers guard Carl Krauser is gone, but Jamie Dixon will welcome back virtually everyone else -- including 7-footer Aaron Gray, who decided to return for his senior year and will be one of the top big men in the country next season. Krauser was tough and his fearless approach will be difficult to replace, but Pittsburgh will return a trio of quality guards -- juniors Ronald Ramon and Keith Benjamin and sophomore Levance Fields. The Panthers will also add East Carolina transfer Mike Cook, a versatile wing who could even see time at the point. Dixon & Co. will have forwards Sam Young and Levon Kendall -- who split time at power forward this season -- alongside Gray.
Other Big East teams listed are #13 Marquette, #16 UConn, #17 Georgetown, #25 Louisville. Syracuse and Villanova are listed amongst the next 10. Wisconsin, which Pitt will be playing in Madison was ranked #7.

The Altoona paper has an interview with national college basketball color guy Bill Raftery. Even more shocking is that it's online.
Are you surprised the NBA went to a rule that you cannot draft kids right out of high school, and that these kids have to play at least one year of college basketball?

I would prefer they had gone for two years. A youngster would then have half of his degree accomplished. A kid would have a far better chance, if he fails [in the NBA], to come back and get his degree, and because he has 48 or 55 credits, you are in the hunt now.

What do you think about Pitt's Aaron Gray pulling himself out of the NBA draft?

From his standpoint, he probably would have been able to play in the NBA, but I think his stock will go up next year. He's getting better and better, and he's starting to play with confidence.
"Starting to play with confidence."?


A story today on Anthony Jackson's verbal to Pitt following a big showing at the Pitt camp.
Jackson had an impressive showing at Pitt. Not only did he turn in the sub-4.4 40 on two coaches' stopwatches, but he also had a standing broad jump of 10 feet, 11 inches - or more than 5 yards - in testing.
Pause for a "huh?" Maybe I don't understand the test or how defined, but wouldn't "more than 5 yards mean at least 15 feet? 10' 11" is quite impressive, I would say, but that is more than 3 yards. There's an error/discrepancy in one of the numbers.
"He's got great hips," said Scout.com recruiting analyst Bob Lichtenfels, who watched Jackson perform. "That 4.31 speed almost reminds you of (Steelers cornerback) Ike Taylor. That's a good comparison. Cover corners are scarce to begin with, especially ones who run a 4.3."

Pitt was the first school to offer Jackson a scholarship, but he said Bowling Green, Central Florida, Colorado State, Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Minnesota and Southern Illinois were showing interest.

Obviously he has great speed and athleticism that he relies upon. He is apparently on the raw side, so he will be something of a project to actually teach.

Last week Dom DeCicco committed to Pitt. Another article about him today.

"Just the coaches and everything down here," DeCicco said Monday afternoon. "I just felt really at home down here on the visit."

DeCicco, 6 feet 3, 206 pounds, met with Panthers coach Dave Wannstedt and came away ready to commit immediately. Thomas Jefferson coach Bill Cherpak -- who was in Hershey for the Big 33 game last weekend -- advised DeCicco via phone to sleep on it for a night.

He reconsidered and thought he might wait longer but made the commitment Friday.

"I just wanted to get it over with now," said DeCicco, who also had considered Ohio State -- his childhood favorite team -- West Virginia, Iowa, Arizona State and Georgia Tech.

I think Coach Wannstedt caught a lot of schools off guard last year by being so aggressive early in recruiting and getting commits. A quick glance over the archives from a year ago, shows that Pitt ended the month of June very strong with about 10 verbals. Most of them, though, came in the final week.

But what stands out, is that schools like Penn State, WVU and ND had nothing from Western PA at that point. This year we are hearing and seeing those schools move much more aggressively and sooner in the area. Other schools seem to have adjusted to the situation. I think that is part of the reason Pitt seems to be moving slower in accumulating the number of early verbals.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Recruiting Notes 

Pitt got a commit today. Anthony "Buddy" Jackson out of Florida. Can't say much is known about him, except that he is a CB with tremendous speed, is 6' 1" and apparently made quite an impression at the Pitt camp.

Pitt had plenty of potential prospects at camp last weekend.
Perry cornerback Jared Williams' decision to renege on his commitment to Pitt hasn't soured the Panthers on City League players. Although they pulled Williams' scholarship, they offered one to Perry lineman Cameron Holland on Saturday.

Perhaps Pitt is bracing for Seton-La Salle offensive lineman Gino Gradkowski to commit to West Virginia, because the Panthers also offered a scholarship to Upper Perkiomen tackle John Fieger.

Other WPIAL standouts at Pitt's camp yesterday were Woodland Hills safety Rontez Miles and linebacker Devan Johnson, Penn-Trafford linebacker Paul Stefanik and Aliquippa sophomore receiver Jonathan Baldwin. Another player who opened eyes was Elizabeth Forward's Devin Goda, a 6-2, 185-pound receiver who was smooth in drills.

Pennridge linebacker Tristan Roberts attended Pitt's camp and is on the Panthers' radar for good reason. He is the nephew of former Pitt star Tim Lewis, a former Panthers and Steelers coach who is now defensive coordinator for the New York Giants.

Aliquippa running back-linebacker Brandon Lindsey (6-2, 220) has scholarship offers from Boston College, Connecticut, Ohio State, Pitt, Temple and West Virginia. Among the others showing interest in him are Marshall, Maryland, Miami (Fla.), Miami (Ohio), Michigan and Michigan State. Lindsey is already qualified for freshman eligibility.

Pitt is pursuing a lot more players who are in no rush to decide this season. Or maybe it just seems that way.

Additionally, an Illinois linebacker, Kevin Rouse has Pitt on his list.
"I don't have a leader right now. Iowa, Northwestern and Wisconsin are all equal right now but I have a real interest in Pittsburgh now as well as North Carolina State.

"I had a long conversation in May with Coach (Dave) Wannstedt from Pittsburgh. He seems like a down-to-earth type guy. Pittsburgh has a good program and Coach Wannstedt told me that I could have a chance to get some early playing time.

"I like North Carolina State because I have family down there but I also like them because of the coaching staff, the tradition and they have an attacking style defense that fits my game.

"Iowa State has a great group of coaches and they are recruiting me hard. Minnesota is probably the school that's recruiting me the hardest right now.
Scout.com has him listed as the 25th best linebacker and a 4-star recruit. He seems to be waiting for more offers including WVU and BC. He is supposed to visit Pitt in July.

Conference Things 

I guess there is still the accounting.
Let's talk about this $2.3 million.

That's the final tab that West Virginia, Connecticut, Pitt and Rutgers paid -- each -- for legal representation in a suit against Miami, Boston College and the Atlantic Coast Conference. It was a largely failed suit, given that the parties were asking for far more than the pittance they received after two years of haggling.

Or did it fail? Well, perhaps that's a matter of opinion. And it's one worth delving into given that $2.3 million is no small change.

West Virginia officials revealed last week that their part of the costs for the suit were a staggering $2,299,658.20. For the sake of simplicity, we'll throw in the other $341.80 and round it up to $2.3 million.

From a purely bottom-line point of view, yes, it was a miserable failure. The four schools settled out of court just over a year ago for a reported $4 million, or $1 million each. That still leaves a deficit of $1.3 million per school.
Well hopefully the other side also had similar costs. The article makes the argument, that it was still worth it based on the other part of the agreement -- 9 guaranteed and stipulated games.

What you can't put a price tag on is the Big East getting nine non-conference BCS games handed to it. Remember, the mantra of this rebuilding football conference is to schedule quality games and start winning some of them. Getting those games was a huge piece of the puzzle.
Well, if you look at the $1.3 million simply as a one-time expenditure, no, it wasn't worth it. And you'll be hard pressed to find an accountant who can make it look like anything but wasted money, given that the actual payback in the form of revenue from those court-mandated Big East-ACC games won't show up for years to come.

But while both sides will benefit fairly equally from those games from a financial standpoint, the Big East needed them a lot more than the ACC. The league's very football future hinges on playing games like that and proving it can win them.

That the ACC was forced to provide them with the forum to do so is, like the credit card commercial, priceless.

In case you forgot the terms and the games: WVU has a home-and-home with FSU, Rutgers gets Virginia, UConn faces UNC and Pitt in addition to the home-and-home with NC St. gets a home game against Miami in 2010.

Over in the Big 11, they have made it official with regards to their new deal with ABC/ESPN and the start-up of their own channel.
The new channel -- which will be created in partnership with Fox Cable Networks -- is expected to launch in August 2007, Big Ten commissioner James E. Delany said.

"It will be a destination for all things Big Ten," Delany said.

The league also announced it has reached a new 10-year agreement with ABC and ESPN for coverage of football, men's and women's basketball and volleyball.
The Big Ten Channel will be available to satellite and cable distributors nationwide and will be available through the Internet, i-Pods, cell phones and other technologies, the league said. DirecTV will offer the channel on its Total Choice package, which currently reaches about 15.4 million households, according to the news release.

"The Big Ten Channel will provide our conference the ability to strengthen both its brand and its long-term destiny as one of the leading academic and athletic conferences in the nation," Delany said.

The new cable channel will carry not only football and basketball, but also such sports as soccer, tennis, swimming and diving and wrestling -- the so-called Olympic sports, the conference said.

The Big Ten channel will carry more than 35 football games, at least 135 basketball games, at least 55 women's basketball games and 170 contests in such sports as tennis, wrestling, baseball, swimming and diving, and gymnastics.
With the Mountain West's channel launching soon and now the Big 11 following suit, and lots more exploration of multiple media delivery outlets I am wondering about the Big East. What is the Big East doing with regards to its growth and exploiting of the strong media markets it likes to talk about occupying?

The Big East loves to pat itself on the back for its innovation as being one of the first to recognize the value of ESPN and cable TV exposure. The thing is, in the last 15 years all it has done has been to react.

Whether it's conference expansion, being raided, oversized expansion, and a crap load of things with regards to media exposure the Big East hasn't shown any urge or instinct to be proactive in what it is doing. Maybe part of that is the fact that its member schools rarely like proactive things.

It took Pitt until 2004 or so before it finally got around to producing a weekly propaganda sports show to highlight the school athletics. Hell, Lehigh even had one going before Pitt.

It's a real concern to me that this conference seems to lack any foresight or desire to try and see what is coming. All it seems to do is react and get into a defensive stance.

This next TV deal is supposed to be for a lot of money, and that's great. But does it consider the distribution of content in other ways? Does it take into account possible broadband video and audio distribution, podcasts and whatever else is next? Or did it all get left in a vague terms that would require a lawsuit later to resolve actual ownership, distribution, fee rights and such?

Does the Big East, the school presidents and ADs even care?

Getting Out Is Best 

So is this worth noting?
The 6-foot-9, 227-pound Pope, the 2006 Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Basketball Player of the Year, counts Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas State, Louisville, Memphis and Oklahoma among his favorites. Pope apparently is in no hurry to decide.
Herb Pope no longer even lists Pitt amongst a 7-deep list. At this point, and at the risk of seeming like sour grapes, I'm not sure is a bad thing. He is an assured 1-and-done player at this point.

I just don't think with all that has already happened in just a short time with his recruitment, that it would work out for that year. Anything less than the Final Four would make it a lost season. Pope has already created a lot of strong feelings with the Pitt fans. Not much of it positive. Winning may cure everything, but if the team fell short he would be blamed for having his own agenda, plan and interests ahead of the team.

At this point, he is going to have to leave Pittsburgh if he wants unconditional acceptance and support.

Pitt would be better off focusing on other local players worth pursuing and let Pope go his own way.


I know, no one wants to see pictures of other people's kids. The joy of it being my blog, is there are moments of being selfish and not caring. Today is my daughter's 4th birthday, so posting could be spotty.

Alumni Update 

Who knew (hat tip to Frank)?
The Steelers released first-year linebackers Malcolm Postell, a two-year starter at Pitt, who didn't play in 2005...
Apparently for part of the year he was with the Berlin Thunder, but it implies he never even got on the field there.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

(Unofficially) Starting Next Week 

I hope no one was too sorry that I didn't bother much with the Big 33 game this past week. Yes, there were plenty of incoming Pitt freshmen there from Elijah Fields, Nate Nix, Dorin Dickerson, John Malecki, and plenty of others. But between a lot of things I had to do last week, and just not being overly interested I just didn't find it worth blogging.

Not that I didn't read many of the stories. In fact this post-mortem focusing on Tyler Tkach raised the first thing that should get most fans pulse racing just a bit.
His final high school game now behind him, Tkach now has to pack his bags. He has to report to Pitt for summer school and workouts next Sunday.

''Football was always my love,'' Tkach said. ''I get to go to Pitt. They are paying for everything. It's just awesome.''
[Emphasis added.]

That's right June won't even be over, but the kids will be working to get ready for practice in August and kickoff on September 2 .

Plus, just about all of the college football previews should be on the magazine racks now.

BlogPoll Roundtable: Preview Time 

The BlogPoll Roundtable has returned. Actually I think there have been one or two prior, but I hadn't gotten around to them. As this one stands I'm a little late but not outside the participatory realm. This one is hosted by Bruce Ciskie (Wisconsin) and you can find links to other blog participants here.

Honestly, I'm going by more instinct and bias at the moment. I'm just not feeling fully versed in the college football situation right now. I think of this as a way of exposing some instinctive biases.

Which preseason college football magazine is your favorite?

I'm probably going with the majority horde here, but Phil Steele's College Football Preview is the densest, detailed best fix for the college football junky.

I give a second place to Athlon, who distinguishes an otherwise generic and indistinguishable product from the majority with some pleasant work-safe eye-candy throughout the year with their "spirit contest."

What team is being supremely overrated in the preseason rankings?

Looking at the early pre-season consensus rankings, the easy answer is Notre Dame. And, honestly, you can't go wrong with that as they are perched at #1.

I'm sure WV will get plenty of votes, but it's hard to distinguish my natural bias from thoughtful reason. (Which is also the reason I won't pick ND right now.)

The top 4 overrated teams I see right now are:
Florida St.
Southern Cal
Louisville's defense wasn't that good last year and lost their best player to graduation. Brohm is still rehabbing from major knee surgery, and I don't think their O-line will be as good. They may, unfortunately, be good enough for second in the Big East, but not to be near the preseason top-10.

Florida St. was even worse, but between the fact that its Bobby "daggum" Bowden, a Florida school, and they actually played Penn State tough in the Orange Bowl; FSU is getting way too much respect. Maybe around #20, but to be placed any better is just silly.

Southern Cal will still be good but they have lost so much talent in the last couple years, the rest of the PAC 10 seems to be closing the gap a bit more, all the off-field stuff has to take something of a toll, and I think they are due for a step back. They may still end up a top-10 team, but not top-5.

As for Oklahoma, it is just something about their O-line that seems unsettled to me. Just the sort of thing that can hold them back from being a top team.

Turn the tables. Who is underrated?

Hard to say. It's just a hunch. Maybe I've been subliminally programmed by their god-awful wardrobe selections and variations just within any given season, but my unsubstantiated hunch is that Oregon will be very good this year and end up somewhere near the top-10.

Which conference will be the best in 2006?

I'd give anything to be able to say the Big East. Of course, I just don't drink that heavily during the week.

It seems to come down to the SEC. More from elimination. The ACC isn't that good overall, neither is the PAC-10.

The Big 12 South has some very good teams, but then the entire Big 12 North is suspect -- to be kind (possibly excepting Nebraska).

In the Big 11 it's Ohio State, Michigan, Iowa and then 3 question marks in Penn St., Michigan St. and Wisconsin. The rest are either rebuilding or just trying to build period.

That leaves the SEC despite the 3 sure-fire bad teams of Kentucky, Vandy and Miss. St. They have a lot of teams that can arguably be included in the top-25 or fighting to get in.

Which "non-BCS" conference will be the best in 2006?

The Mountain West is not just the easy choice, it is still the right one. Conference USA is getting closer with UCF improving, along with ,UTEP, USM and Memphis still trying. Mountain West, though, is still slightly better at the top with TCU and Utah.

Which non-BCS conference team will have the best season?

It better not be UCF or Pitt is going to have troubles. I think Utah will be a big surprise and have a very good year.

Let's get your first read on this one...who will win the H*i*m*n? Oh, by the way, players whose last names begin with the letter "Q" are ineligible.

I hate thinking about the Heisman.

Fine. Ginn and Smith will split votes if tOSU does well. I'll go with Kenny Irons, the running back from Auburn.

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