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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:
Monday, July 31, 2006
Panthers All-Access" is a must for the serious Pitt fan. Providing the most comprehensive Pitt coverage on the web, Panthers All-Access gives you such exclusive content as live game broadcasts, highlights, press conferences, special behind-the-scenes features and more!Now, when you are given that kind of limited information, and it sounds suspiciously like the Yahoo! broadcast package that costs less than half that amount, well some healthy cynicism about what is really being offered kicks in.
Panthers All-Access will be available through a $69.95 annual subscription or $9.95 monthly subscription. Come back to www.PittsburghPanthers.com on August 7 to begin your FREE trial!
Despite my urge to just issue a pissed off rant, I actually opted to send an e-mail to Tim Kelly, the contact person the release listed. Tim is the Internet Services Coordinator for Pitt.
I had a 10+ minute phone conversation with Tim on Friday about Panther All-Access. So here's some information on it.
The All-Access program is part of the CSTV package. CSTV, of course, is also responsible for the Pitt and Big East websites. So this is just another aspect being done exclusively for Pitt. At the present time, there will be no podcasting, but it will be recorded and archived streaming.
By necessity, and not terribly surprisingly, the Yahoo! broadcast package is going away. So, if you have a monthly subscription, you might as well cancel.
Mr. Kelly talked about a rather ambitious slate of offerings for the system.
Panther All-Access (PAA) will be offering live video broadcasts of the football press conferences after practices and during the season. There will also be audio clips from the practice -- interviews with players and coaches. These will also be on the site as archived materials so you can listen to them at your leisure.
Other things that will be offered on PAA will be Dave Wannstedt Radio Show. On the Sunday following a Pitt game, there will be a highlight package video. Live chats with players and coaches are also in the plans.
One of the more encouraging things, might be providing feeds for the actual football games. The problem there are the rights issues. For example, Mr. Kelly said they are working to see if they can get the rights to stream the Virginia-Pitt game on September 2 since it airs on ESPNU, and "the U" doesn't exactly have wide access unless you have a satellite. Personally, I doubt that ESPN will be that accommodating. Providing live feeds for the Toledo and The Citadel games (both not scheduled for any TV) are more likely.
Similar things are planned for basketball season. They are planning a 15-20 minute exclusive PAA basketball show with player and coach interviews. Video highlight packages the day after games as well. The Jamie Dixon Radio Show, of course, will also be available.
The big issue, though, is still figuring out if its worth $69.95/year or $9.95/month. That's the very controversial aspect. Mr. Kelly admits he is bracing for some negative feedback for that kind of pricing. Especially with the elimination of the more affordable Yahoo! option if you just want to listen to games. Mr. Kelly is in charge of implementing the system and running it, he was not the one to set the price. He did offer to put me in touch with those who arrived at the pricing decision, and I may take him up on that at a later time.
I'm really not sure about the price-point. Especially just as its launching. It would be one thing if it was somewhat established and all the features, offerings and plans were more solidified. The plans are ambitious, but how much of them actually occur is hardly guaranteed. That could lead to some hard feelings as subscribers may come to feel that what they expected/were promised fell far short of the reality and they didn't get their money's worth.
This is something brand new, and I'm not sure that a limited trial period during football training camp will be enough time. Especially when they will need to get all the kinks and glitches that have to expected with a new multimedia platform.
This is the sort of thing you offer free for at least a few months while you get it up and running and make it clear how much of a value it is for fans.
"It's something all the college kids around here needed," Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. "It's beneficial for all of the teams from Division I through Division III. It's been great. All the feedback I've been getting from the coaches at all the schools is that they're very appreciative of the league."
"The competition is good," said Mike Cook, a guard/forward at Pitt who is preparing for his first season with the Panthers after sitting out under NCAA transfer rules last season. "The guys from Duquesne and Robert Morris are good and the guys from the smaller schools can shoot. Everyone is good. Everything I do here is getting me ready to play in Big East games."
Cook spent his previous summers in his native Philadelphia playing with college and NBA players in a Pro-Am League. And while the Pittsburgh Basketball Club Pro-Am pales in comparison, he said the foundation for a good league was set this summer.
"This is just the first year," Cook said. "I see this getting better."
I pointed out when the first article ran, that Coach Dixon did some great behind the scenes work for basketball in Pittsuburgh in encouraging this. John Giammarco, the organizer of the summer league agrees.
"Now you can come and watch Sam Clancy give tips to Division III kids. That's good stuff. We're starting to rebuild that basketball togetherness. Jamie deserves the credit for this. He sincerely cares about basketball in Western Pennsylvania. I don't think you could have said that about other coaches who have been at Pitt in the past."With Coach Dixon's off-season extension with Pitt, there is a real possibility of seeing something long-term built with him and the basketball program here. I find that tremendous considering that there hasn't been anything like that for I don't even know how long.
Pope, who has Pitt on his short list of colleges, was involved in an on-court altercation at the Junior AAU Super Showcase boys' basketball tournament in Orlando, Fla.
Pope, playing for the Pittsburgh JOTS, was sent home and will miss the 17-and-under Junior AAU National Championships, which began Thursday in Orlando.
"It was how the game was played," Pope said. "I got hit. I never threw a punch."
Said JOTS coach J.O. Stright, "He got into a fight, which is a no-no down here. He was suspended. He's back in Pittsburgh."
It was uncertain whether Pope's suspension will affect the status of his scholarship offer to Pitt. Pitt assistant coach Orlando Antigua, who was in Orlando at the AAU national championships, would not discuss Pope's status. Pitt coach Jamie Dixon was in Los Angeles on a recruiting trip and did not return a phone call seeking comment.
The 6-foot-8, 220-pound Pope, however, said Pitt has not pulled his scholarship offer.
"That's not true," he said. "I talked to Coach Dixon and Coach Antigua. That's incorrect."
This article strikes me (pardon the pun) as an incredibly bad piece in trying to report Pope being booted from the tournament. No actual details of the incident, and the plain fact is that under NCAA regs, Pitt coaches can't really discuss unsigned recruits in any detail. Of course Pitt wouldn't pull the scholarship based on this. The story doesn't even give any version of what happened. Suggesting even the reporter doesn't know.
On the recruiting front, Big East Basketball Blog has a look at Pitt's work on the recruiting class of 2007.
Sunday, July 30, 2006
Not sure what I'm going to do with it, exactly. I suggested that it could be mounted on some other material and used as one of those car flags. She didn't agree. It's roughly 8 X 7 inches.
Collier points out the lack of running game, determining the starters at receiver and the lack of an offensive line. He runs out of room before discussing the lack of a d-line.
When Wannstedt returned to Pitt before last season, he had been out of college coaching for 16 years, out of Pittsburgh for 26, and relearning both instantaneously represented a challenge with which he essentially went 1 for 2.
"The easiest things were recruiting and connecting with the community," he said, "although I might not have been able to say that had I come from Oregon or Texas. But I had a hard time adjusting to the restrictions.
"Football hours for these guys are only 20. Twenty hours a week. I remember with the Dolphins, Zach Thomas would spend 20 hours in a day sometimes getting ready for a game. As a coach, you have so many things pulling on you in college. I could spend a month doing nothing but fund-raising. A month doing nothing but recruiting.
"But this year, I feel a lot better about what I need to spend time on."
Even if he didn't, within two weeks, it'll be pretty clear.
Senior Linebacker Brian Bennet, gets a nice piece about his future career plans.
The Pitt fifth-year senior linebacker is focusing on his future after an internship with the U.S. Secret Service's Pittsburgh field office. Instead of sacking the quarterback, the former Big East Defensive Freshman of the Year hopes to one day protect the president.
"You've got to be wild to even think about doing it," said Bennett, 22, who graduated in December with honors and a bachelor's degree in administration of justice and legal studies. "You're throwing yourself in front of bullets. That's the type of job I want to do, something exciting."
"It makes our agents feel young again, to be able to explain the job to him and see his eyes light up," said Matt LaVigna, assistant special agent in charge at the Pittsburgh office. "He's going above and beyond. He does fit the profile of a candidate we've been looking for."
Bennett endured a hectic schedule for six weeks. He awoke at 5:30 a.m. for Pitt's voluntary workouts, followed by a 9-to-5 Secret Service shift and a three-hour abnormal psychology evening class.
It is a welcome diversion for someone who spent the better part of the last two years rehabilitating injuries.
"Most of the time you think about football, then reality starts hitting you," Bennett said. "You get hurt a few times and start thinking about your future."
After an internship with the University of Pittsburgh police department this past winter, chief Tim Delaney recommended that Bennett apply to the Secret Service.
"You read about the players who get in trouble. This is stuff you don't read about," Delaney said. "He's a sharp kid. He's a real success story. He's not your typical student-athlete."
It didn't hurt Bennett's cause that LaVigna played linebacker at Pitt from 1984-87 and can relate on a personal and professional level.
"I see a lot of me and my experiences in what he's going through," LaVigna said. "I did the same thing -- tore a ligament in my knee and went through the rehab and played another two years. I feel his pain, so to speak."
Bennett also learned during his background check that someone had stolen his identity. The article didn't say how that worked out.
Bad news for Rod Rutherford, who was cut by the Steelers. Hopefully he can catch on with another team.
Then there were the stories about some Pittsburgh area HS players who are headed to Milford Academy, New Berlin, NY, one of the top prep football schools in the country. Two of the players could very well be headed to Pitt.
Aundre Wright hopes to be one of those players.
Wright was a wide receiver at Perry, and received some interest from Division I schools, but his test scores were not high enough to enroll.
"I was struggling in school in ninth and tenth grade, and by eleventh grade, it was too late to get caught up," he said.
So his coach told him about Milford, where he can work on his grades without losing college eligibility.
When he graduates from Milford, he hopes to play college football at Pitt. He said that he has been in touch with the coaches at Pitt, and they are excited about his decision, because if he is successful academically he will be able to enroll in time for spring football.
"As long as Aundre does what he's supposed to do, he's going to be ready to enroll at Pitt in the spring," Siegel said.
The other is Chris Hanna.
Hanna was an offensive tackle at Gateway, and was recruited by Division I programs. However, his test scores weren't high enough to get admitted into college, so he will spend a semester at Milford to work on both his schoolwork and his football.
"I'm coming here to get my grades up and retake the SAT so I can play college ball," he said.
He said he is probably going to play in college for either Illinois or Pitt.
Siegel said that if he has a good year, he expects to turn himself into one of the country's elite prospects. That's part of the appeal of Milford, which finished last season with a record of 9-2.
"Chris will end up at a very high-profile school," Siegel said. "If he plays to his full potential, he could very well go to one of the top 20 schools."
Another player heading Milford -- at last check, he does have a little history of changing his mind -- LeSean McCoy. McCoy, for those who forget was one of the top RB recruits in the country last year out of the Harrisburg area. He eventually verballed to PSU then changed his mind and said he will be heading to Miami. Who knows where he might decide to attend after Milford.
Saturday, July 29, 2006
In its continuing crackdown on on-air profanity, the FCC has requested numerous tapes from broadcasters that might include vulgar remarks from unruly spectators, coaches and athletes at live sporting events, industry sources said.You see where this is going? Nevermind the Palko expletive after the ND win -- which would now fetch him and NBC a $325,000 fine -- just imagine what happens at a home stadium or arena when a ref blows the call against the home team. There's that little chant that fans release. Rhymes with 'tool kit.' I know I've often heard it make its way over the audio of live games. How do you filter that without keeping crowd noise permanently muted? Helping to ruin the effect of the game.
Tapes requested by the commission include live broadcasts of football games and NASCAR races where the participants or the crowds let loose with an expletive. While commission officials refused to talk about its requests, one broadcast company executive said the commission had asked for 30 tapes of live sports and news programs.
"It looks like they want to end live broadcast TV," said one executive, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity. "We already know that they aren't afraid to go after news."
While live programming always has been problematic for broadcasters, it has become even more difficult under tougher commission rules approved in 2004. The new rules found that virtually any use of certain expletives will be considered profane and indecent, even if it is a slip of the tongue. In a March decision, the FCC found that the CBS news program "The Early Show" violated its indecency rules because of a profane slip-up but did not issue a fine because the incident occurred before the new rules were instituted.
Live sports -- amateur, college and professional -- have long been a broadcast programming staple. Broadcasters have spent enormous amounts of money and energy to come up with ways to give audiences a better feel for the action. As broadcasters vie for viewers, technical advances that include such things as on-field microphones and in-car cameras have become as important as the announcers.
As such, Dixon set up the Maggie Dixon Classic. Details are still being finalized but the unique doubleheader will include Army's women's team against Ohio State and Dixon's Pitt men's team against Western Michigan at the Academy on Sunday, Nov. 12. ESPNU tentatively is scheduled to air the doubleheader. Aeropostale is a sponsor, as well.
A pre-existing scheduling conflict prevented DePaul, where Dixon worked prior to going to Army, from playing on that date. Ohio State coach Jim Foster also knew Maggie. Army's men's team also is in another event, which is why Western Michigan was added. WMU coach Steve Hawkins is a friend of Dixon's and was willing to go to West Point. The two teams were already slated to play.
Meanwhile, the Panthers upgraded their schedule even more with a home-and-home series against Washington, the first of which will be on Feb. 17, likely at noon or 2:30 p.m. on ESPN. The contest should be a big man's dream with Pitt's Aaron Gray against UW's Spencer Hawes. The Panthers already are playing Florida State and UMass at home, Wisconsin and Auburn on the road, and South Carolina at Madison Square Garden for their other high-profile affairs.
The Panthers have been criticized in the past for their nonconference schedule, but Dixon has a top-five team returning. Pittsburgh also rates well nationally, so get used to seeing the Panthers on TV quite often.
Something to consider, when we discuss Dixon's coaching and teaching. Unlike almost all of the other teams being put in the top 5-6: Florida, UNC, Kansas, Ohio St., UCLA; Pitt's roster is devoid of any McDonalds All-Americans. That needs to change (hopefully soon), but it points out how well the coaches have found talent and actually done a good job with it.
While talking about recruits, Mike DeCourcy at the Sporting News points out some prospects that seem to be falling in the opinion of scouting services.
Herb Pope, PF, Aliquippa, Pa. Pope was hot after a dazzling performance at the 2005 ABCD Camp. But his inconsistency on and off the court -- in the past 11 months, he talked about changing high schools and withdrew a commitment to Pitt -- dropped him out of the Scout.com top 10. He will be great only if he decides he wants to be. Possible colleges: Kansas State, Pitt, Louisville, Connecticut.Considering that most of the Pitt basketball players have been in Pittsburgh taking classes, working out and playing ball all summer, plus the very early hype the team is already receiving; you would think there would be more articles about individual players sooner. Well, finally the first of what will probably be many more through August is written. It focuses on Antonio Graves.
Julian Vaughn, PF, Reston, Va. Vaughn looks so much like a player that scouts got excited, perhaps prematurely. Vaughn is effective, but he does not impose his will upon a game. Considered a top 35 type, he probably belongs in the second half of the top 100. Possible colleges: North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Florida State, Kentucky, Virginia, Virginia Tech.
Yet, it took much of the season for Antonio Graves to realize how valuable his role was with the team.
"I struggled with it, no question," Graves said Friday, as he took a break from summer workouts to fly to Atlanta for his sister's wedding. "I struggled with it, mentally. I didn't know what to think.
"Finally, it hit me, and I began to believe in myself and understand that it wasn't about me. It was about the team."
"I'm working a lot this summer on getting stronger," he said. "I watched how the players got to the basket in the NBA playoffs, and I talked a lot to Carl (Krauser, Pitt's leading scorer as a senior last season).
"The key is getting to the free-throw line. Even if you don't make the shot, you want to have the opportunity to get those points somehow."
Graves enters his final college season with a chance to make a big impact on a Pitt team that's expected to be highly ranked in the preseason.
He understands all of it.
"I'm excited. I expect my senior year to be a good one," Graves said. "I know I'm one of the leaders of this team now, and I can tell you that, since my freshman year, I've been through it all."
Graves is not a starter, but he is a good bench player. He has improved and is willing to go inside, but is still inconsistent. He needs to improve or abandon his 3-point shooting which was atrocious last year (23-82) after looking very comfortable out there the previous year (36-78).
"We only lost one person (Krauser) who gave a major contribution," Graves said, who was quick to point out he meant no disrespect to Krauser's fellow senior, John DeGroat, who started nearly every Pitt game last season but averaged only 10.7 minutes per game.
"We have a good core coming back," Graves added. "I think we gained a lot of experience in big games, and we proved, in Big East games, that we could get it done, even when Carl was in foul trouble."
The pitch in Graves' voice began to elevate with excitement as he continued to look ahead to the coming season.
"It's going to make us a lot better, knowing we can play the way we did last year in certain situations," he said. "We're all going to be working hard, because we're playing for a position. We're all going to be pushing one another."
It is always scary as a Pitt fan, to have these big expectations. Not to mention, there's still an unfamiliarity with them.
This helmet is a replica of the Pitt helmet from 73-80.
Now you can compare it to the 1996 model.
Something even the helmet project missed.The colors got noticeably darker shortly before Pitt went to the navy and gold tones of today. The thing is, I don't think the road jerseys at that time were that dark a shade of blue. At least the one I have from circa 1995-96 isn't. I knew the yellow had gotten darker, but not the blue.
There's also a great throwback.
This is a 1963 replica with Paul Martha's number. Martha, for those who need a history refresher, was a 1st team All-American RB for Pitt in 1963 and the #1 pick by the Steelers in '64.
As a little additional digression, Martha is still practicing law in San Diego and consults for another former Pitt player turned lawyer/uber-agent Ralph Cindrich. Okay, the digression is really just an excuse to link to Mr. Cindich's daughter's website. She just happens to be a model and aspiring actress, and has a bunch of tasteful photos. And really, that's all I'm going to say since I suspect Mr. Cindrich could beat the crap out of me and even if he eschews direct violence has the means to either have someone else do it for him or completely ruin my life with a few well-connected phone calls.
Friday, July 28, 2006
The Greece loss was particularly bad with a final score of 89-59 (so bad, that no one even bothered with a game recap). No one is even hiding how bad the Canucks are.
German coach Dirk Bauermann plans to use this weekend's FIBA World Championship warm-up games against Canada to integrate Dirk Nowitzki into the team.Maybe their Coach can use that as bulletin board material.
The Canada games on Friday and Sunday are Germany's first tests in the build-up to next month's event in Japan.
Bauermann's team then play at the Supercup in Berlin the following weekend, with Italy, France and Turkey also involved, before finishing their preparations with three games in a tournament in China.
"It's very important that we improve our game in each match," Bauermann told the Neues Deutschland newspaper.
The German team arrived in Hamburg on Wednesday without Nowitzki, who stayed at home for an extra 24 hours following the death of his grandmother.
"The Canadians are certainly the weakest opponent, and that gives us the chance to integrate Dirk Nowitzki into the team without any pressure," the coach added.
Kendall did well in the opening game against Italy. He led the team with 16 points and 7 rebounds. There's nothing about his numbers in the third game, though he is credited with being the only other player doing well in the game aside from Carl English.
That game against Germany could be a massacre.
UPDATE (11:25 pm): Holy spit, Canada won.
Dirk Nowitzki was far from his NBA superstar form as Germany lost to Canada in a friendly on Friday night.
Carl English from VidiVici Bologna scored 18 points and Jermaine Bucknor added 12 as the North American side, who went on a decisive 16-2 run in the fourth quarter to take control, won 73-68.Kendall scored 7 points on 3-7 shooting in 18 minutes (PDF). Germany plays Canada again on Sunday.
Canada and Germany started the game cold, but the hosts used a 6-0 run to open a 13-8 lead after seven minutes. Canada took advantage of Germany's inexperienced bench as English, Bucknor and Levon Kendall - the star of Canada's team at the FIBA U21 World Championship in Argentina last year - all hit three-pointers in an 11-4 Canada run to lead 19-17 after one quarter.
Mr. Football appears to be Mr. History.
Brandon Barrett, a two-time Kennedy Award winner as West Virginia's finest scholastic football player, has been removed from the Mountaineers' depth chart, where coaches were counting upon him to be one of the team's top four receivers this season after a long run of off-field problems.
"I'm not optimistic at all that Brandon Barrett will be in a Mountaineers uniform," coach Rich Rodriguez said yesterday of a receiver who was the MVP of the spring game, with five catches for 105 yards, and a starter in the Sugar Bowl. "Brandon, he started out summer school well. He's really fallen off. You can't go run a guy in summer for missing class [because rules prohibit coaching intervention]. He's a walk-on, so you can't [threaten] to take a scholarship away. It's been unfortunate."
Barrett was academically ineligible as a freshman in 2004.
Then in February 2005, he was arrested in his hometown for driving under the influence and marijuana possession, later pleading no contest to the DUI and getting sentenced to 24 hours in jail plus a $100 fine.
He worked his way back to resume playing with the team in the eighth game last season.
Rodriguez said the academic eligibility of "three to four" undisclosed players remains up in the air, along with some incoming freshmen who have yet to be cleared by the NCAA, though he expects few surprises or problems.
So there was some amusement when I saw this headline from a West Virginia paper on the same day.The R-Rod theorem: Why pass when you don't need to?Okay, so the article is about the fact that WVU runs the ball a lot, but you have to love the timing.
On the other hand, I do feel bad for Adam Bednarik. The kid got injured and lost his QB job, and now it would seem his whole career is at risk.
Another player with his Mountaineers' future in question is former starting quarterback Adam Bednarik, who had offseason arm surgery that prohibits him from throwing a football until November, but might prove to be career ending.
"We're hoping he can come back," Rodriguez said of Bednarik, who compiled a 6-1 record as a starter last season before his shoulder was injured against Louisville and he gave way to Pat White. "But it's still iffy whether he can come back."
That just sucks.
The young quarterbacks, along with the camp counselors made of elite college QBs Drew Stanton, Troy Smith, Tyler Palko, Trent Edwards, Jordan Palmer, Mark Sanchez and JaMarcus Russell, were throwing in groups of threes spread out across a lush green field that sits perfectly in the center of the canyons of Orange County at posh SOKA University. Along the sidelines were a handful of parents (including former NFL star Jessie Tuggle whose son, a promising young QB, was assisting as a ballboy) as well as dozens of baby-faced receivers and DBs from local high schools who were there to catch passes, run routes and take part in 7-on-7 drills.
It was really quite a scene.
Hopefully there will be something more.
It looks like Pitt has a couple more added to the slate.
Last season, the non-conference schedule for the Washington men's basketball team was panned as way too easy.
This time, at least when the Feb. 17 game is considered, people might be asking, "What were they thinking?"
The Huskies will play at Pittsburgh, a Big East power once again worthy of national top-10 consideration, with the teams presumably meeting in a televised game. No network coverage has been firmed up.
The teams will play a home-and-away series, with the Panthers facing the UW in Seattle during the 2007-08 season.
Pitt and Washington have a preliminary agreement for a two-game series, but the contract has not yet been signed. This season's game will be played in February at the Petersen Events Center with Pitt playing at Washington next season.
Pitt also is expected to play an opponent, possibly Western Michigan, in an early season game at Army, part of a men's and women's doubleheader that will honor Maggie Dixon, Jamie Dixon's late sister and the former coach at Army.
Other non-conference teams Pitt is expected to play include: Massachusetts, Wisconsin, South Carolina, Auburn, Florida State and Dayton. Massachusetts and Florida State are expected to be part of tournament at Pitt. Massachusetts officially has announced Pitt as an opponent. Florida State has not.
The article also lists Army as an opponent but I guess they would be coming to Pitt. This article goes with Pitt playing Western Michigan (sort of).
Anderson confirmed that the Army women's team will play Ohio State at noon. Pitt, which finished 25-8 last year and reached the second round of the NCAA men's tournament, will follow at 2:30 p.m. Pitt officials expect to play Western Michigan, but Anderson said the Panthers' opponent is subject to change.
Contracts for the doubleheader have yet to be signed, but that seems like a mere formality. Both games are expected to be televised on one of the ESPN networks.
Throw in the Duquesne game and probably Robert Morris and the non-con is already up to 11 games. Pitt will probably add a couple more games against some patsy teams, but that's fine at this point.
This year, when Coach Dixon says this will be Pitt's most challenging and exciting non-con since he's been at Pitt, it won't just be spin.
Aaron Gray is still back home. He will be taking part in an NCAA-certified basketball tournament in his area.
All-Big East Conference center Aaron Gray, former Colonial Athletic Association all-rookie guard Ray Barbosa and 2005-06 Morning Call boys basketball Player of the Year Terrence Roderick from Allen will play in the sixth annual Adult Mid-Summer Basketball Classic, which runs Friday through Sunday at Roosevelt Park.Just don't get injured.
The three players give the tournament headline attractions.
The tournament is NCAA-certified for the first time and is now coordinated through the Wall 2 Wall Urban Youth Organizers, a nonprofit organization comprising former Lehigh Valley standout athletes and current youth directors.
Wall 2 Wall's main focus is on building athletic talent as well as the character of inner city youths by establishing leagues, tournaments, mentor programs and other activities. The organization currently runs a youth basketball league on Saturdays and Sundays at Roosevelt.
The games don't change. They figured to be intense and competitive again. Teams from Harrisburg, Philadelphia and Prince George's County, Md., have already paid their $250 entry fee, and many of the local Lehigh Valley teams are loading up with talent.
Thursday, July 27, 2006
Dick Vitale ranks Pitt at #6 in his pre-season top-40. His top-5 are North Carolina, Florida, Kansas, Ohio St. and UCLA. Other Big East teams are Georgetown (8), Marquette (12), UConn (15), Villanova (16), and Louisville (20). Noticeably absent is Syracuse.
A syndicated writer from the Sports Network puts out his pre-season top-5:
5. Pittsburgh -- Aaron Gray returns in the middle with Sam Young complementing the big man and forming a solid frontline. The loss of point guard Carl Krauser hurts, so expect head coach Jamie Dixon to use a trio of off-guards (Levance Fields, Ronald Ramon, Antonio Graves) in a rotation at the point.The 4 above are Florids, North Carolina, Kansas and Ohio St.
Finally Pitt has the 2006-07 pre-season prospectus (PDF) posted. No schedule info in there. Not even the games that are confirmed. Usual stuff. Coaches and player bios. Stats and the collected box scores from the past season.
As usual the Media Guide is broken up into sections and are all in PDF format for downloading and saving or printing. Or of course, you can order a regular copy for $15 (full disclosure, the Pitt Athletic Department is sending me a free copy).
What are they? The Duquesne Stage Magicians?
The new design, created by Rickabaugh Graphics of Columbus, Ohio, replaces the script "D" and "Duquesne" used since 1998.
I wanted to make a note of the company that was responsible, so that other schools know who to cross off the list when they want to update their logo.
So what does the new b-ball coach think?
"I really like the new look," said first-year men's basketball coach Ron Everhart. "That Duke really looks like he means business. I think the image is something fans of Duquesne will rally around."If by business you mean sawing a lady in half or pulling a rabbit out of that hat, then yes he does. As for rallying around? Um, perhaps if they need to burn it.
Can't wait to see what their live mascot looks like.
4. PittThat much is true. With such a young team, it should be a better team later in the season. I just don't buy their big love for USF -- picking them in a tie for 2nd with WVU. I have a lot of questions about their offense. The loss of Hall at RB, the questions at QB. And I'm not sure what they mean by the potential to be the second best receiving corp? I'm reasonably certain that Johnny Peyton, their top receiver last year, left the team. "Potentially" you could say the same about Pitt and a couple other teams. Again, it seems they are failing to take into account the loss of half of USF's recruiting class to academic issues.
Predicted record: 8-4 Conf. record: 4-3
Best Player: LB H.B. Blades, Sr.
Offense - Running game, running game, running game. Head coach Dave Wannstedt wants to move the ball on the ground more, but he might not have the horses to do it effectively at a high level. The line has the experience with four returning starters, and now it has to push someone around. LaRod Stephens-Howling is a small, quick back who'll need help to stay fresh and healthy. The receiving corps loses top target Greg Lee and now needs Derek Kinder to grow into a number one star and several true freshmen to play like seasoned veterans. QB Tyler Palko has to be a consistent leader who takes the next step up in his production and becomes the type of player who makes everyone around him better.
Defense - The secondary should be among the Big East's most productive thanks to the return of All-America caliber corner Darrelle Revis and Mike Phillips is coming back from an ankle injury. A second corner is needed along with far more production from the front seven against the run. The linebacking corps should do its part with H.B. Blades sure to be one of the nation's top tacklers in the middle and Clint Session and Brian Bennett returning healthy to the outside spots. The line isn't all that big and could be a big problem early on until several sophomores start to play like veterans. More of a pass rush is needed from ends Chris McKillop and Charles Sallet.
This season will be a success if ... Pitt wins the Big East title. Crank the expectations up a notch. The team should be an experienced, hardened squad by mid-November. It's not often you get ten games to prepare for your two biggest home games.
In their All-Big East squads, no Pitt players made 1st team on offense. On the 1st team defense as you would expect its H.B. Blades at LB and Darrelle Revis at CB. Revis was also 1st team for Punt Returner. On the second team offense, Derek Kinder, WR; C.J. Davis, OL; and John Simonitis, OL. Adam Graessle was 2nd team Punter. They also listed the Top 30 players in the conference:
5. H.B. BladesIn their Unit rankings, Pitt was middle of the pack, and honestly I don't put much stock in these. It strikes me as guesswork from last year with some expectations.
9. Darrelle Revis
19. Tyler Palko
22. Clint Session
Offense -- 4thFinally is their lists of 5. They have the top 5 games that will shape the Big East race: WVU at Pitt and Louisville at Pitt are of course there.
QBs -- 3d
RBs -- 5th
Receivers -- 3d
OLs -- 5th
Defenses -- 4th
LBs -- 3d
DBs -- 3d
Special Teams -- 6th
5 non-con games that teams need to take seriously include UCF and Toledo for Pitt. Honestly, for the Big East, the teams need to take every non-con very seriously. Especially the way the conference stunk it up last year in the non-con showings and in the bowls.
Blades is listed as one of the top-5 pro prospects in the BE and Kinder has one of the biggest sets of shoes to fill in place of Greg Lee.
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
Winston was the last player the Texans signed. He agreed to a $608,000 signing bonus in a four-year deal, which likely will be restructured after three years. He is slated to make $275,000 this season, $360,000 in 2007 and $440,000 in 2008.
Winston, who was drafted 66th overall, is expected to back up right tackle Zach Wiegert this season.
To make room for Winston, 6-6 and 311 pounds, and fellow third-round offensive tackle Charles Spencer on the roster, the Texans waived defensive back Jammal Lord and running back Nick Luchey.
Fine, I guess. I kind of understand the whole stigma argument. I'm sure A-10 schools just get sick of it in trying to recruit against the ACC and Big East and treated like some also-ran group. The important thing would be to keep the names simple and short so they can be easily adopted and understood. Thank goodness the NCAA and the schools pushing the change understand that.
For the first time since they were created 28 years ago, the top divisions of NCAA football could get new names next week.That's catchy.
Division I-A would become the "Football Bowl Subdivision" and Division I-AA the "NCAA Football Championship Subdivision."
The 16-team postseason tournament in Division I-AA would be called the "NCAA Division I Football Championship."
Here's a tip from fans that never stopped calling Pitt, Pitt. You can make it official. You can send out the press releases. You can insist on news and media outlets using the offical names. It won't make a bit of difference.
If you make the name more cumbersome, it is less likely and harder to be accepted. It will be mocked and derided instead. The differences will be accentuated, not minimized. The name isn't the stigma. Any stigma is from the fact that you can't bring b-ball recruits to big football games, the football games aren't on TV to further promote the school, and show the fanbases. And even that hasn't stopped Kentucky, Duke and Kansas from still doing pretty well in basketball despite little evidence of real football programs.
It's expected that this will be adopted at meetings on August 3.
The 1-AA schools are using another approach to get the 1-A schools to go along with this. Trying to increase the palatability of bringing in a 1-AA patsy for a home game.
Another reason for changing the I-AA name and including everyone in Division I is scheduling. Currently Division I-A teams can count one game against I-AA opponents each season toward bowl eligibility. Removal of the I-AA moniker could make scheduling easier for all schools in Division I.Temple would be happy.
"It wouldn't be a conflict in scheduling if everybody was Division I," LaFleur said. "It would be a huge gap between the schools that are I-AA and I-A. I would go for having one moniker."
There would also be benefits to the Division I-A schools. Currently, Division I-A schools have to meet minimum football attendance requirements (average 15,000 fans in actual or paid attendance per home game).
With all schools in Division I, the attendance requirement would no longer be necessary.
Pitt's Jamie Dixon and Boston College's Al Skinner watched Teeng Akol in the morning along with assistants from DePaul, Florida, St. John's and Georgetown.Akol, is without a doubt, very raw. He came to the US from Sudan in 2005. He's also 6' 10" and apparently loaded with potential. Scout.com considers him a 4-star, 30th best PF prospect. Rivals.com is higher on him. They put him as the 48th best overall prospect and 14th best PF prospect. Lots of teams interested including Kentucky, Maryland, UConn and Cinci; but it doesn't appear anyone has actually offered him yet. Not surprising since Pitt is in pursuit of kids like Beasley, Patterson and Vaughn who also play the PF position and are much more advanced in their game.
Here's another player drawing some interest from Pitt.
Blake Hoffarber said he has around 20 offers from mid-major schools and picked up free rides from Cincinnati, Rutgers and Washington State since the ABCD camp while Indiana, Iowa, Iowa State and Pitt have also shown interest since then.Hoffarber is a shooting guard from Minnesota. He's listed as about a 3-star recruit, left-handed, good range and an excellent free throw shooter.
I'm not sure if their damning another potential Pitt recruit with faint praise or what?
Bradley Wannamaker, 2007 – Here is a guy with a great future ahead of him somewhere in the Atlantic 10. The Philly guard can dial it up from deep and he has a body that can take the banging when driving into the paint for buckets. Against the Mean Streets crew, Wannamaker made sure he wasn't left out of the compliment party for the guards. He finished with a hard earned 22.Pitt showed some interest in him at the ABCD camp earlier in the month. He still hasn't received a major offer yet.
If you can't get enough of reading about how sordid and just generally creepy AAU and summer league basketball can get, this series of articles -- Part 1, 2 and 3 (via Big East Basketball Blog) -- is must read stuff.
UPDATE (2:52 PM): Damn. Here's some more about Hoffarber. He's the same kid who shot a desperation shot from his ass a couple years ago in a Minnesota HS championship game.
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Grading the Panthers Unit Grade Offense C+ Special teams B- Defense B- Intangibles A-
Wannstedt and his staff learned some realities of making the transition back to the college world in '05 the hard way. They found that talent wins, no matter how good the system is. That means this year's Panthers will be using schemes that fit their abilities. That's a good thing, to a point.
Pitt lacks team speed and outstanding athletic ability. That shows up in the ground attack, where a shaky line and unproven stable of backs means the Panthers must be content with a station-to-station run game. There won't be too many breakaways, and yards will come slowly. But there must be a commitment, or Palko won't be able to break in the crop of young receivers. Pitt will score more points this year, but it could take a while for it to happen.
The defensive side is in better shape, provided the line comes along. McKillop and Sallet are strong on the outside, but the young tackles could get manhandled, at least at first. The back seven is strong, and if there is a push up front, the linebackers and defensive backs could be dominant at times.
They essentially see 7 wins as well within reasonable expectations. Talking about Coach Wannstedt, they see his need to get speed.
That's why Wannstedt was in full assistant coach mode throughout May, crisscrossing Pennsylvania, Florida and points in between in search of recruits. The Panthers' 2006 class received fairly high marks, especially for its pro-active nature; Pitt did grab a lot of commitments early. But it wasn't enough. At least it wasn't enough for Wannstedt. He needs to get more speed, the better to play the kind of attacking defense he prefers and the better to assemble special teams capable of making big plays.
"We've got to get more talent," he said. "When I was here, we had a first-round draft choice every year. We've got to get back to that." So, Wannstedt rolls on, trying to convince high school standouts that Pittsburgh will be as great to them as it has been for him. He'll talk about the school's rich history and potential for a great future. He'll pitch the city itself. He may even break out a few pictures of an old Panther. The good news is that he's selling himself and his town, and there's no better product to sell than that.
"Recruiting is just selling, and if you're selling something you believe in, it's easy," Wannstedt said.
Once you close the deals, all you have to do is win. That, as Wannstedt found out last season, is the hard part.
As you can expect, the lines are still the big question marks.
If you want to look at the one big reason for any offensive ineffectiveness the Panthers had last year or could suffer through in 2006, look no further than this unit, which lacks standout performers and depth. Four starters return, and that's good news, although none of them distinguished himself all that much in '05. And as for the backup situation, well, don't ask.
"We don't have enough depth on the line," Wannstedt said. "It's shocking that we were as thin as we were there."
This isn't exactly a strong point, either. Both tackles are gone from a unit that allowed 185.2 yards on the ground per game, an average of 4.3 yards per rush and 14 touchdowns. Pittsburgh managed just 22 sacks all year and lacked any of the dominance Wannstedt wants from his front four.
"We've got to find ways for the defensive line to make more plays," Wannstedt said. "It all starts up front. It's not a matter of how many tackles the middle linebacker makes. You've got to have your down guys make plays."
The offense may still struggle to start the season with new receivers and a mostly new backfield. We will know quickly, however, if there is a reason for optimism for the year based on what the lines show.
This one with Coach Dave Wannstedt (Windows Media), is decent. It's about 10:40 in length. Some of it is stuff already read or heard elsewhere like how this team is really Palko and Blades's. He had a lot of praise for Blades in the interview.
On the discussion of the offseason, it was asked how you know you have had a good offseason beyond what the strength and conditioning coach tells you. Wannstedt talked about issues of leadership from the seniors and who/how many are showing up for the workouts and voluntary stuff.
There was a little talk about Greg Lee leaving school early, and my impression was that Coach Wannstedt all but said, "I tried to warn him." Encouraged, prompted by the host, Coach Wannstedt stressed that he knows what it takes for NFL people to consider drafting someone. That he knows what it takes to get a player to the next level and whether the player is ready yet. Definitely part of the recruiting pitch.
There is also an interview with Big East Commissioner Mike Tranghese that runs a little over 12 minutes. Most of it was pretty standard stuff well-repeated from various media sources about no plans to expand and how the conference is improving in football.
The only part that was interesting to me was near the end when the conversation turned to basketball and how some coaches wanted to expand the NCAA Tournament. Since Syracuse's Boeheim was one of the most vocal supporters of it, and his status, I figured Tranghese might hedge. Instead, while not directly addressing Boeheim -- simply saying, "I know some of the coaches in our conference support it" -- he dismissed it. He said -- quite correctly -- that coaches want the expansion for their own selfish reasons.
The Sporting News College Football Preview is very unsure about Pitt. They like the team a little more than some, but hedges. In their Total Rankings (p 10) they put Pitt at #42, but then includes them in a sidebar under "Could Fade Fast." The reason for why is not unreasonable: young talent and major questions about the line play on both sides of the ball.
This preview is big on doing all sorts of lists. One list of players was for "Best QB in 2 Minute Drill" (p 8). Tyler Palko was on this list along with Akron's Luke Getsy.
TSN preview has lists for the top players by position.
QB: Palko, 12thThe conference preview sections has various "best" categories. For the Big East (pp 118-120), under "Hardest Hitting LB," Clint Session is listed. Revis is considered the "Fastest DB." The genuine, "you can't be effing serious" moment came when the name Paul Rhoads followed "Best Defensive Coordinator." Needless to say, I apologized to other people in the bookstore following that outburst.
ILB: H.B. Blades, 6th
OLB : Clint Session, 19th
CB: Darrelle Revis, 6th
P: Adam Graessle, 5th
Return Men: Revis, 16th
The copy for the BE preview was written by Paul Zeise, the P-G Pitt football beat writer. Zeise, as you may recall also did the Pitt preview for Lindy's. Good to see he's nabbing some freelance work. The preview rankings for the BE:
Rutgers fans will obviously dislike this ranking. It's their lowest showing in any of the mags. The USF prediction is looking quite shaky these days. As for Pitt, that was, as in the national preview portion, a little on the hesitant side. The questions about the youth and lines, especially with a more challenging non-con.
For the all-conference squads, Blades, Revis and Graessle all made the first team.
The second team had Mike McGlynn and C.J. Davis on the O-line. Chris McKillop on the D-line. LBs included Session and Revis showed up again for returns.
JUCO transfer Tackle, Jeff Otah was predicted to be "Newcomer of the Year, Offense." I hope so.
The Pitt Preview (p 125) really didn't say anything that already hasn't been said. The team is rebuilding under Coach Wannstedt to run more. There are questions on the lines. The team is young, but 7-5 is a reasonable possibility.
Monday, July 24, 2006
This story on the action at the Adidas Super 64 Tournament in Las Vegas has a note on a top player Pitt has only recently gotten involved in recruiting.
Julian Vaughn said he is drawing closer to making a decision. The Oak Hill bound big man said he could make his decision by late August, early September. Florida State, Pitt, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Kentucky are looking like players in his recruitment.The early signing period for basketball is in November.
Closer to Pittsburgh, Moon Township's Brian Walsh, a shooting guard has seen his stock rise in the camps this year.
Thanks to an impressive performance against some of the top players in the nation, Walsh himself is now considered one of the elite players in the Class of 2008. Walsh was selected to play in the underclassman all star game at the ABCD camp and came away ranked as the No. 16 shooting guard in the nation by Hoop Scoop.Just something to watch.
"I really didn't know what my potential was," said Walsh, who will be entering his junior season for the Tigers, who move up to Quad-A this season. "It was crazy. I had a good camp and everything swung for me."
But there were more benefits to his impressive performance. Less than 24 hours after his return, he was offered a scholarship from St. Joseph's coach Phil Martelli. Within the week, he got offers from Akron, Duquesne, Penn State, Xavier and Memphis.
Ackermann has also received inquiries from Pitt, Maryland and Clemson about Walsh. As a sophomore, Walsh was Moon's leading scorer with 15 points per game.
Aliquippa's Jonathan Baldwin also received an invitation to the ABCD camp and came away ranked by Hoop Scoop as the 17th-ranked wing-forward. Baldwin has received inquiries from West Virginia, St. Joseph's, Marquette and Tennessee.
Finally this tidbit from Mike DeCourcy.
Although not all the dates are firm yet, Pittsburgh has received enough interest from ESPN about arranging big games that the Panthers expect to play their most difficult nonleague schedule in years. Playing a lot at home, with only a few major challenges, is a formula that had worked since the program's renaissance began early this decade. But the coaches believe this team wants the challenge of playing more tough games. One test that's certain: a return visit to Big Ten contender Wisconsin.I don't think it has hurt that the fans themselves seem to be getting restless about all the patsies on the non-con. At least as far as getting people to pony up the money for those tickets and actually attend.
Honestly, I don't care what the reason is. I'm just happy Pitt is making more efforts to schedule real opponents.
Those Home Depot/Team Colors paints (PDF Listings). They have them for Pitt.
I don't know why it took nearly a month to end up on the Pitt site, but a press release about some players from the football team doing some community outreach stuff.
Members of the Pitt football team paired with 45 children from two local YMCAs to participate in the First Annual YMCA Football Clinic on Friday, July 7. In addition to teaching fundamental football skills, the clinic focused on teaching good decision-making with an emphasis on the importance of staying in school and developing teamwork skills.
"It is always a great feeling to come out and support younger kids," said Derron Thomas. "The YMCA Football Clinic allowed us to show children the right way in life rather than finding trouble on the streets."
In addition to Thomas, other participating Pitt football players included Joe DelSardo, Corey Davis, Doug Fulmer, Adam Gunn, LaRod Stephens-Howling and Cedric McGee. Each took time to talk with the children about the importance of teamwork not only on the playing field but also in everyday life. The participants also received instruction on football fundamentals, including blocking, tackling and route running. The clinic ended with a fun obstacle course that integrated all of these skills into one.
Don't know if this on the Pitt propaganda show (seems like the kind of thing that would), but not all of us live in Pittsburgh to catch it.
I noted earlier that the NFL Network will air and be the sponsor for the bowl game being held in Houston. That's not all they get.
The NFL Network also received all media platform rights, including Internet, wireless, video-on-demand, satellite radio, and international TV rights for this bowl game.That may seem like small potatoes for a minor bowl. So, who cares? But I'm thinking about what those rights mean in the football and basketball deals the Big East will be announcing. These are new, growing, emerging revenue streams that the Big East -- and therefore the member schools -- won't be able to tap. Those will remain with ESPN/ABC and CBS (for some basketball).
That's why professional teams are moving to their own networks as well as college conferences. Not just the revenue but distribution of the content. Future revenue that will only grow as more and more people don't just use the TV. Additionally, by controlling the distribution of the games, the conference is not beholden or required to air the games when the network says so.
That means avoiding the Wednesday and Friday games to fill ESPN programming. Limiting the Thursday night games to keep them relatively special events. That was one of the major reasons the Mountain West went in a new direction. Being forced by Disney to play more and more games on weeknights began showing diminishing returns from the flip-side to network exposure -- reduced live fan support/attendance. How many fans can keep coming to non-Saturday games? How does getting on national TV help, when the cameras show half-empty stadiums because people can't make a Wednesday night game?
Again, this is about forward thinking.
The Big East seems to be allowing ESPN to control the where and when of airing games in a straight cash deal. While this is not as big a deal with basketball, it really makes a difference in football since that means they decide which games will get any TV -- even if it's just ESPN regional or to air in their gameplan package. The conference is dependent on the network to choose to provide TV coverage. For Pitt, that means going into the season, 3 games will not have any TV coverage whatsoever. Now while the Louisville game may ultimately be picked up, it seems unlikely the Toledo or The Citadel will.
I am well aware that the Big East schools are no where near the Big 11 in terms of size, popularity, alumni base, marketing strength, etc. -- especially in terms of football -- but the conference does need to do more to leverage the strength and interest that exists on the basketball side to plan ahead.
Sunday, July 23, 2006
Wannstedt predicts that senior quarterback Tyler Palko will have a big season for the Panthers.
"We need him to move the chains," Wannstedt said. "That's what we need from him -- just manage the game and let the other guys around him make plays. He will do that. He has prepared himself for this season and worked as hard as any quarterback I've been around. I wouldn't want anyone else leading our team this year."
Maybe, I hope, it's just a matter of semantics. Perhaps what he really means is Palko shouldn't feel or try to do everything. That he needs to let the team help and make plays.
It's just I read something like "just manage the game and let the other guys around him make plays," and I think about Coach Wannstedt and OC Cavanaugh's history with QBs and what they want from them in the offense. Well, it takes a concerted effort not to start rolling around on the floor in a fetal position.On the positive side, the same article mentioned that the academic performance of the team has been excellent.
The planned first week of camp for Pitt, with the freshmen and redshirt freshmen getting separate practice sessions to allow for more repititions and evaluation of the players, gets positive reviews from the players.
"Looking at it now, that's probably the best thing to do for everybody to get a chance to show what they can do," redshirt freshman receiver Oderick Turner said. "Everybody is going to be fighting to get on the field. We're all trying to get the same two spots."
By the second week of training camp, when the "orientation" period ends, Wannstedt wants to have an idea for a depth chart.
"I think it's a smart decision," junior cornerback Darrelle Revis said. "We've got a lot of freshmen who were highly recruited out of high school. They'll get the opportunity to learn the offense or defense and be ready to play. We can see their talent and potential, and they're trying to get them on the field. It's going to be real intense. This is going to be the toughest camp we've had. It's going to be a challenge."
This is the sort of thing that will likely be copied by a lot of schools by next year. Especially if Pitt has a good season.
It's the first indication that almost every job is up for grabs, as the Panthers will spend extra time evaluating a highly touted recruiting class with at least six incoming players expected to make an immediate impact.
"Honestly, looking back, I probably should have done it last year," said Wannstedt, who led Pitt to a 5-6 record in his first season. "Everybody looks at this as it just benefits the freshmen, but really it's not like that."
The premise, Wannstedt says, is to take the emotion out of decisions and develop a depth chart based on production. Each player gets five practices. Veterans will be given a chance to solidify starting spots. Newcomers will be given more repetitions and time to digest the playbook.
Wannstedt warned that the groupings will be fluid, with players potentially moving between the squads on a daily basis.
This is only for five days so a player would have to absolutely blow or blow up to move up or down in that limited time.
Finally a bit from AD Jeff Long about the status of the Big East conference. Talking about Bowls.
"We are excited about all of our bowl partners and really we are already starting to look ahead to the next round of bowl contracts to see who might be interested in the Big East," Long said. "The Toronto Bowl is really important because we as a conference are trying to brand ourselves in Canada and I know for Pitt, we have a lot of licensed products in Canada and this will only reinforce our brand as a football program.
"But I think one of the main reasons we've had some changes in our bowl lineup is that we felt like we had to play some BCS conferences more than just the ACC for a lot of reasons. As we go along we'd like to get more bowl games against the Big 12, the SEC and the Big Ten because those are the games that are the most attractive and they are all a part of our strategy as we go forward."
A nice subtle shot at the ACC as well. Love it.
And then there are some new restrictions that go into effect conference-wide.
The conference also made another change when it passed a rule barring its members from accepting non-qualifying freshmen athletes, a move that was met by some resistance but has been applauded by the majority of its members.
Pitt had a policy against accepting such freshmen. Long said the rule evens the playing field in recruiting.
Only 2 schools voted against it. One was WVU -- shocking, I know -- and it was likely USF or possibly Louisville who also opposed.
Saturday, July 22, 2006
"He was in the NFL, bouncing around and doing those things," H.B. said. "At first, ours wasn't like a normal father-son relationship because he was doing football stuff."I did not know about the past estrangement with his father. Mainly because in the last couple years, the focus on H.B. and his family has always been about the bloodlines. The mentions of his tight relationship with his uncle never accompanied that it was in part because his father wasn't there.
Bennie Blades, who earlier this year was voted into the College Football Hall of Fame, played nine seasons with the Detroit Lions and another with the Seattle Seahawks. During that time he largely ignored H.B. and his other children and in 2005 was ordered to repay almost $300,000 after pleading guilty to a felony for failing to pay child support.
But now, the relationship between Bennie and H.B. is closer than it ever has been.
"Our relationship is good," H.B. said. "He realized he missed out on a lot. Now, we're making up for things. It's never too late to make a relationship better or get it back." ...
The tragic part of their reunion is that the death of Al Blades, H.B.'s uncle and Bennie's brother, who drowned following a car crash in March 2003, helped bring them together. H.B., who was a freshman at Pittsburgh then, said his father became more involved with him after Al died at just 26 years of age.
"We grew up in the same household and (Al) took me under his wing because he knew my dad couldn't be around as much as he wanted to be," said H.B., who was raised by his grandmother. "He was my best friend. He taught me everything I knew about football. Even if he did something wrong, he'd say make sure you don't ever do that. He taught me to be a gentleman and to be well-spoken and to carry yourself in the best situation because you never know who is watching. Everything he taught me I took to heart and still use it today."
UVA was wildly inconsistent last year. Their QB graduated, their top runner graduated, and their stud LB Ahmad Brooks was dismissed from the team (he was drafted by the Bengals last week in the supplemental draft telling you about his character).
On top of that, their recruiting class which was decent is not going to be so in reality. 8 of the 24 commits have failed to make it academically to Charlottesville. The latest casualty is now heading to Rutgers.
Friday, July 21, 2006
Athlon is one of the early releasers. They hold a special place in preseason mags, because they helped pioneer the cheer-babe contest. Not a lot to say about Pitt, though.
They rank all 119 teams and put Pitt at #49 (p. 36).
As for Pitt's place in the Big East (p. 40), the conference predictions are:
As for the team page, I could tell you that they see the season as a growing year, but you can actually read the Pitt preview yourself since they partnered with SI.com. Essentially, they see no reason Pitt can't have a winning season.
On offense, they seem more concerned about WR and RB than anything else:
But Palko needs some support, and beyond wide receiver Derek Kinder (37 catches for 374 yards), there are far more questions than answers on offense. True freshman wide receiver Dorin Dickerson, a consensus Top 100 recruit, could have an immediate impact. So should classmate Kevin Collier, a tailback brought in to jazz up a running game that ranked 93rd nationally last year. Sophomore LaRod Stephens-Howling was Pitt's top rusher last fall with only 434 yards, though he did average a solid 4.5 yards per carry.They almost seem optimistic about the O-line. A lot more than most Pitt fans.
The Defense is trying to get faster to make up for the lack of size. They don't say much about how they think Pitt will be able to improve against the run.
While not on the SI.com-partnered preview, the print version (p. 131) does try to project the season on the schedule.
5 Likely Wins: UVA, Cinci, Citadel, 'Cuse and UConnBack in April when this was put together, I wouldn't disagree with that kind of projection. Now, with all the problems USF is having getting its recruiting class academically eligible (8 aren't and 2 others have other issues), I would move USF to a "Likely Win."
2 Likely Losses: WVU and L-ville
5 Toss-ups: Mich. St., Toledo, UCF, Rutgers and USF
10. College GameDay will become a two-hour show this fall.
We started 20 years ago with a half-hour show in studio. Then, in 1993, we took it on the road for the first time at the Florida State-Notre Dame game. Then, several years ago, we went to 90 minutes on the road every week. Now, the demand for the show is so great that we’re going to two hours. The College Football Hall of Fame is going to honor the show in December for its contribution to the sport. We are just a bunch of guys sitting around talking about college football. How great is that ?
I have a bad feeling about this. That means more time for longer, more annoying musical intros and graphics; more soft-focus profiles in overcoming tradgedy/hardship/poverty/bad parents/raised by another family member/crime story where "football was his escape/outlet/refuge."
The latest incarnation of the unnamed bowl to be held in Houston now has a title sponsor, but no name determined. The NFL Network which was going to hold the broadcast rights to the game now holds the naming rights. They haven't announced the name yet.
Then there is the Birmingham Bowl. They just hired an Assistant AD from Middle Tennessee State as their executive director. His first job is to go out and get a title sponsor for the bowl.
At least there's a kind of symmetry.
Thursday, July 20, 2006
There is the toothy, beaming smile of Julius Page that was as much his identifying feature as his ability to sail over a would-be shot blocker and flush home a dunk.
There is the slightly pudgy profile of Jaron Brown, whose ferocity, versatility and Kentucky-bred kindness made him a fan favorite on a team that was the foundation for Pitt's resurgence.
There is the long sinewy body of Chris McNeal, with his sharp elbows, deft body control and a never-quit motor.And the space-eating chassis, soft hands and incessant grin that endeared Ontario Lett to fans.
They all made their marks on a basketball floor in Oakland, and that is where they gathered again yesterday. Those former players were at the Petersen Events Center, working as counselors to the 200 campers at a weeklong basketball camp operated by Panthers coach Jamie Dixon.
"To me, it is important to make sure there is a welcome feeling and a sense of family that runs through not just our current guys, but past players," Dixon said. "That is why guys like these have an invitation extended to them to work here. Sometimes, I think it is overlooked how vital it is to bridge the gap between past players and the current program, and this is a way to do that. It is also a way to make sure the campers get solid instruction."
I'm not a fan of living in the past, but I think for college athletics one of the great things is emphasizing the tradition and the links. Whether it was laziness on the athletic department and the school, money things, or something else involving personality conflicts; Pitt from the late-80s to the 90s really did a poor job of connecting the past and present. That was definitely one of the more easily overlooked things that former AD Pedersen did at Pitt -- reestablish the ties to past players and coaches.
And the players are aware of it now.
Keeping up those ties and warm feelings to Pitt cynically also helps for the future, when a guy like McNeal can think positively about Pitt and be receptive to Pitt recruiting efforts with his kids.
"I know I have a lot of friends here in Pittsburgh," Lett said. "And everybody is always calling me saying, 'Come back, come back.' When I saw that they could use some guys to work camp, I had to come back here. Wherever it is I am in the world, I know I can always come back here to Pitt, and that is important to me."
McNeal, who played for former Pitt coach Paul Evans and graduated from the university in 1993, has the same feeling. He is an assistant coach at George Wythe High School in Virginia and helps organize the Virginia Storm, an AAU basketball program.
Even though he played three Pitt regimes ago, the guy whose crowning night was a 27-point, 20-rebound performance in a win in March 1992 against Boston College at Fitzgerald Field House knows he has an open invitation to come back because he's part of the family.
You would think Rutgers, after beating Pitt, having a winning record for the first time since 1992(?), and its first bowl game since 1978 that Rutgers would be a little annoyed to be picked behind Pitt for 4th place in the Big East. You don't know the disturbingly relentless optimism that comes from Rutgers -- shining through the cynicism, bitterness and toxic fumes associated with the NY/NJ pro sports scene (and I type this as a Yankees fan).
Following up its first bowl game since 1978, Rutgers was selected No. 4 in the Big East preseason poll as voted by the media.
It's the first time they've been included in the upper half of the conference in the preseason.The Scarlet Knights received 125 points, just two shy of No. 3 Pittsburgh. With a 4-3 conference record, Rutgers finished tied for third last season, the first time it finished in the top four since 1992.
"It's a huge shot in the arm for the program. Winning begets winning," Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said at Big East Football Media Day here yesterday. "It helped in recruiting. The more we can win, the more we can leverage that and continue to build a program.
"All along, that's been the plan. To have any success we had to build an infrastructure of a program that was missing. It took some time but I really enjoy our football team."
You know, when I first came to Cleveland in '94, I likened the residents to beaten puppies still trying to get affection and validation. We're an up and coming city, we're coming back! Really! We have the Indians winning, the Browns are close (whoops), we have the Rock Hall, the Flats are awesome, there's so much here! There's no burning river! Doncha' agree?
Instead there was great celebration on the banks of the old Raritan. Rutgers played in the first legitimate bowl game in history, losing 45-40 to Arizona State in Phoenix's Insight Bowl. Surely Rutgers has passed the critical stage.
"I never looked at it that way," said Schiano, who will take part in Big East Media Days today and tomorrow here. "We set out to build a championship program and that's not about one season. Last season was great for the program and for the university and what it created was a window of opportunity. We have a foundation. Now we have to keep building on it."
...The days of walking into a recruit's house and not being able to satisfy the question why the Scarlet Knights don't play in late-December or January are over. Rutgers plays in a BCS conference, has state of the art facilities, and now expects to go to a bowl every year.
"We'll have to play better in every game this year than we did last year," Schiano said. "I was on the other side and I know there were programs out there that no matter what the score, believed they would beat Rutgers. Those days are over. People know they have to play a complete game, which means we have to be better."
For UConn, their coach just wants to get them out there playing soon.
"I know I’ve been champing at the bit since the end of last season to go out and play," Edsall said. "None of us were satisfied with what happened last year. The best way to get past that feeling is to get back on the field and compete."I was hoping to find out about the TV deals for the Big East, but they are keeping that underwraps for a bit longer.
Translation: get ready for plenty of weekday games and expect the Big East to be one of the last conferences to get their own channel. So much for being proactive and forward thinking with media delivery to fans and viewers.
"The football deal alone will surprise a lot of people because we weren't supposed to be able to sell Big East football according to the doom and gloomers," said associate commissioner Tom Odjakjian, who deals mostly with the conference's network partners. "The football deal is very good. It will guarantee a lot of exposure for our programs. The basketball deal, however, is off the charts. Any questions about our conference, if there are still any out there, will be put to rest."
Odjakjian said the new football contract, which begins in 2008, will still have weeknight games. But the ratings for those games have been very good, he said, and they have been national broadcasts. The game of the week package will remain with ESPN Regional but will include more networks because the Big Ten is moving a lot its games to the newly formed Big Ten Network.