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July 8, 2010

Football Lists

Filed under: Football,Players,Power Rankings — Chas @ 11:13 am

Lists. An essential part of getting through an offseason — for readers and writers. Especially if you can spread it out over a few weeks.’s Big East writer, Brian Bennett put together his top-25 Big East players for 2010. He has been revealing them for the past several weeks counting down to #1, Dion Lewis. The debate is over whether it should have been Lewis or WVU’s Noel Devine. Cardiac Hill has his take on it which is very solid. Devine has the higher yards per carry but Lewis has more total yards and TDs.

For me, beyond the simple homerism, the reason I go with Lewis over Devine is consistency. Devine is a potential homerun threat with the ball, but also it means there are a lot of strikeouts. In 8 of 13 games, he accumulated at least 30% off his total yardage for the game from one run. Lewis did that in only 3 games. You know Lewis is going to move the ball forward.

Pitt, really, to noone’s surprise placed the most players on the list with 6. Jonathan Baldwin, #3; Greg Romeus, #4;  Jason Pinkston, #14; Jabaal Sheard, #19; and Tino Sunseri, #24. Sunseri seems like the biggest guess on the list since no one really knows what he will do.

The folks at Football Outsiders are putting together a historical list of the 100 greatest college football teams. They aren’t even half-way there yet, but Pitt has a few entries. At #81 is the 1936 team.

There’s a lot of love for the Pitt teams of Jock Sutherland so far. Placing the 1933 squad at #75 and the 1937 team at #67. Football Outsiders refers to Sutherland as being at the top of the “list of underrated and somewhat forgotten coaches from the first half of the twentieth century.” This seams accurate.  Interesting little addition regarding the eventual end of the Sutherland era, for those of you unfamiliar with it.

Almost as interesting as Pittsburgh’s performance was what was happening to the university behind the scenes. Pittsburgh chancellor John Gabbert Bowman was bound and determined to improve academic perceptions of his university at all costs. He initiated the construction of Pitt’s famous Cathedral of Learning and worked to deemphasize the role athletics played at the school. He dissolved the school’s Alumni Athletic Council and placed the athletic department under faculty control. He instituted the strictest recruiting standards in the country. This had a rather predictable effect — Sutherland resigned after the 1938 season (he ended up coaching two pro teams, the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Pittsburgh Steelers), the university’s academic reputation grew, and the football program fell apart, winning no more than six games (rarely more than four) from 1940 to 1955.

It does seem to be a pattern at Pitt where the school administration seems to swing manically at times between embracing and rejecting college athletics.

The basketball program also struggled mightily as those controls came into place. Under Doc Carlson, the Pitt basketball team had some of its best years in the late 20s and 30s. Between 1927 and 1937 there was only one sub.-500 season. Seasons that included 21-0, 23-2, 20-4, 17-5. Eastern Intercollegiate Championships and two mythical Helms Foundation National Championships.

Bowman came to Pitt in 1921 and right away started planning the Cathedral. He was there for years of the football program’s success, and dismantling. I can’t be the only one thinking of Wesley Posvar’s time at Pitt.

Right now Pitt seems to have finally comprehended that both can be embraced and compliment the other. Kind of sad it took this long to get the hang of it.

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