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May 20, 2010

Good news of sorts. The Big Something expansion chatter has died down a bit. At least insofar as media coverage.

TNIAAM is cautiously concerned that the Big Something might still take two from the Big East and destroy the conference. At this point, I am a touch more optimistic that the conference can surviveĀ  because it really seems that only one team might be plucked — not thrive, but survive. The money is the problem, not the BCS bid for those left behind even if only one goes.

My comments on the new ACC TV deal has gotten some attention Brian Cook of Sporting(News)Blog and MGoBlog picks up on it. (Additional disclosure, Brian and I both wrote for FanHouse for a few year.)

That’s another pebble added to the pile of rocks hovering over one of the Big East’s most storied programs. The Panthers are widely regarded to be on the outside looking in despite making more sense academically, geographically, historically, and athletically than any team not named Notre Dame, the Panthers’ recent renaissance in both basketball and football may be a BCS farewell tour. If so, that would be thanks to the Big Ten Network already being on in Pittsburgh, a grinding irony that will not cheer up anyone grimly hanging on to the university of Tony Dorsett and Dan Marino as they prepare to meet new conference rivals East Carolina and Central Florida.

Even though it makes no sense from any other perspective, the Big Ten Network is the ruthless driver of expansion logic. That’s working to the detriment of Pitt and, frankly, everyone else. As always, this is Notre Dame’s fault.

This is not some hater on Pitt. He dislikes intensely the idea of Rutgers in the conference. Brian has been one of the bigger proponents of adding Pitt to the Big Something. He sees Pitt as a better fit to the conference in the broader sense, especially within the geography. The fact is, with the money continuing to spiral, the lack of football TV money in the Big East puts Pitt closer and closer to Mountain West and C-USA territory in the long-term.

Continuing that theme, in case you weren’t aware, Pitt has had one of the bigger declining populations in US markets this decade.

Moving to filler material. An annual offseason chestnut is the call for certain rivalry games to be played once more. Whether nationally — here and here — or in the Big East, Pitt-Penn State is always a popular one.

Brian Bennett at’s Big East blog breaks down the best units in RB and WR. Pitt is unsurprisingly #1 in RB.

1. Pittsburgh: The Panthers have the Big East’s offensive player of the year returning in Dion Lewis, who rushed for 1,799 yards and 17 scores a year ago. Backup Ray Graham, who averaged 5.7 yards per carry, could start for most teams. Henry Hynoski should be the best fullback in the league this year. That’s enough to merit the No. 1 spot here.

Edged out for #1 by Cinci for WRs.

2. Pittsburgh: It just doesn’t get any better than Jonathan Baldwin. Mike Shanahan came on late in the season a year ago and should provide a strong No. 2 target. Guys like Devin Street, Cam Saddler and Greg Cross could make this a corps that can give Cincinnati a run for its elite status.

So that’s two parts of the offense that looks hard to beat in the Big East. So, that puts some pressure on the QB. How does Tino Sunseri feel about that?

That’s a daunting responsibility, but he appears unfazed. “I’ve always had the motto: ‘Don’t feel pressure, apply pressure,’ ” he said.

Especially to an open cut. You have to keep the pressure firmly. Oh, sorry, wrong pressure.

“I don’t know if so much depends on me,” Tino said. “It’s about our team as a whole. The offensive line is a huge part. They have to open lanes for Dion and provide protection for me so Jonathan and our other receivers can run downfield. If it happens that we lose containment, I need to make plays on my feet to extend the play and make a throw downfield. We just have to prepare for the worst and hope for the best on every play.”

Obviously, complete success isn’t going to depend on one player, not even the quarterback. But erratic quarterback play was the primary reason Pittsburgh didn’t meet expectations in 2007 and ’08.

The Panthers didn’t challenge for the Big East title until Stull elevated his play. In ’08, he threw more interceptions (10) than touchdown passes (nine). But last season, he threw 21 touchdowns and eight interceptions while improving his passing percentage and passing yardage.

Pitt can’t afford to take a step back at quarterback. If Sunseri is successful, the Panthers could be among the best teams in the country. If he isn’t, another Meineke Car Care Bowl appearance may be in store.

So, yeah. Pressure.

Additional comments on Big Ten expansion. Of course the Big Ten needs to expand, the midwest is dying. While expanding south/southwest makes a lot of sense, I can not think of a big name school in the south interested in joining the Big Ten conference. (I’m not talking about the UCF’s or Southern Mississippi’s of the world.)

So logic dictates the Big Ten go after the big TV market in the East. This means one and only one school.(They don’t want to divide the money up too many ways.) They will go after Rutgers only.

The problem is The Big Ten feels they deserve a entrance fee. Guess what. New Jersey is broke! Rutgers can’t/will not pay to chang conferences. Frankly, Rutgers is the school providing the market. If anything Rutgers should be paid to join the Big Ten. Bottomline the Big Ten may end up doing nothing!

This brings me to my final point, the Big East already owns the Big Apple. Say what you want, Metro NYC is a big carrot for any conference. We need to think outside of the box. Offer some of our Football games with a shared Big East/Big Ten conference network in our markets? For a fee of course. Have a shared Big East/Big Ten Basketball tournament at Madison Square Garden? What about post seson football games under one of the domes available in each of the two conferences.

The arrangments I am suggesting can be made with any other conference. The Big Ten, at present, is the only one with a TV network. That will change in the future.

The important thing is to remember the Big East has a lot to sell/offer. . We should not give up Our identity.

We have people in Bergen County, New Jersey talking about Pitt again. (Thanks to the FB and BB programs) I bet the application for admissions
from that part of New Jersey to Pitt is up.

Bergen County, New Jersey is not losing population, has one of the highest incomes in the USA, and now has Pitt back on its radar.

The high schools kids from there, as a matter of course, apply to Duke, Va, NC, Mich, Rutgers, and Syracuse. Now Pitt is on some of their lists thanks to the Big East.

We need to have more confidence in who we are.

Comment by Old Pitt Grad 05.20.10 @ 4:11 pm

OPG, you make valid arguments.

First as a Central Joiseyan, I can confirm that many more Jersey HS seniors are applying to Pitt.

I would say the tipping point for Pitt was our victory over RU last year in front of the most obnoxious fans ever to attend a college football game. (Shame on RU fans. May you from now on spread your filth and venom on Big 10 fans).

The thing is, if RU goes it’s a big ho hum for the Big East. In fact in my opinion the only departing team which would threaten conference viability is, you guessed it, PITT.

Again, well said (but you really can’t be older than me!).

Comment by steve 05.20.10 @ 7:36 pm

FWIW, Brian Bennet the Big East ESPN blogger in his last chat said he thinks Pitt ends up in the Big Ten when all is said and done. Not that he has any info but nice to see someone thinking Pitt will be ok.

Steve agree with RU being the most obnoxious fans ever. I went to the game last year and it was disgusting what 50 year old men were yelling at Hutchins. The fans around me were far worse than any away game I’ve ever attended, and they knew nothing about Rutgers team, or football in general.

Comment by OntarioLett'sGoPitt 05.20.10 @ 8:24 pm

My oldest son has four season tickets (14Th row – 50 yard line) on the Rutgers side. He went to Rutgers Law. In years past it used to be the visitors side. In those days, it took me awhile to get used to how Rutgers fans treated the opposing team. I remember one game against Miami where many of the Miami players including Bob Marley’s son were being accused of shooting the Sheriff. Rutgers fans did sing in tune.

I was at last year’s game and on my side all were pretty classy. The fans knew Pitt was the better team last time out.

I really hope none of the important teams in the Big East make a move to the Big Ten. However I’m still convinced the only one that would do them any good in their minds is Rutgers. I really don’t think Rutgers will make the move without a major financial gain.

Comment by Old Pitt Grad 05.20.10 @ 9:30 pm

OPG, I’m guessing you weren’t in the Pitt section. Otherwise you would’ve been pelted by bottles of urine.

Comment by steve 05.20.10 @ 9:53 pm

I have read so many opinion pieces that Pitt adds nothing to the almighty Big 10 network and that Penn State has all of Pennsylvania locked down.

First off, the population of the Pittsburgh area has leveled off. The hemmorhage is over, at least temporarily.

Second, while the almighty Big 10 network is on here…who watches that stupid thing? PSU fans and alumni, but I doubt anyone else. Southwestern Pennsylvania is divided in its college football loyalties. PSU rules Harrisburg, but this isn’t Harrisburg, and Pitt, WVU and Notre Dame fans have no use for State College Bernie Paterno.

Put Pitt on it and more people in the Pgh area will watch it and as revenue will increase.

Delaney’s ego probably doesn’t realize it now, but after (I think) Texas blows him off for the SEC he will think again. I think he wants Texas and New York. Texas is too smart to be led around by the nose by the Columbus and Ann Arbor snobs. Rutgers will not deliver the revenue Delaney thinks it will but let him find out the hard way. Maybe Delaney throws a bid at Maryland thinking he can get the Baltimore-Washington area hooked up with his network. The problem there is that that area is Georgetown and ACC country and without Virginia Tech and UVA, Maryland won’t go anywhere.

Comment by Penguins Fan 05.20.10 @ 10:37 pm

I actually don’t believe that the Big 10 network is on in most of SW PA. Although I may be wrong. So the claim that PSU has the Big10 network on across the state is not really true.

Also, if the Big Ten ends up taking Rutgers (which it appears it will) this will go down as the biggest mistake as a conference possibly has ever made in terms of movement. Without playing in the east RU will become even more irrelevant than it already is. It will return to the state it was in 15 years ago.

Comment by PITTapotamus 05.21.10 @ 9:04 am

I can’t wait to tune into the big ten network to watch the yearly clash between northwestern and rutgers… That should be a ratings winner.

Comment by Greg in New Orleans 05.21.10 @ 10:57 am

As I posted on the next (chronologically) thread, the BE needs to be aware that the logical step if B12 loses Mizzou and Nebraska then it goes for Arkansas and Louisville. A BE hit regardless.

Comment by Dan 05.22.10 @ 9:25 am

So carry or no carry, eventually ad revenue has to play as part of the Big 10 network equation, and that relies on ratings, as in the # of active sets on to watch a broadcast. I haven’t seen any analysis of the BTN with regards to ratings and ad revenue as part of the discussion of teams in vs. teams out, and I’m sure in the long term plans it has to play a role.

Comment by Brian 05.25.10 @ 2:29 pm

[…] in rumors to various conferences. But it seems increasingly likely that the Big East will receive a stay of execution in the coming conference expansion apocalypse. The Big 10 is seems unlikely to take more than one […]

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