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May 15, 2012

A little further down the food chain of college athletics, there is plenty of conference realignment happenings that I’ve ignored. With Temple re-joining the Big East, but this time as a full member, the A-10 had a need. They called Butler up from the Horizon League and VCU from the CAA.

Meanwhile C-USA is seeing UCF, SMU, Houston and Memphis coming to the Big East so they need anyone new blood. They pulled Charlotte and their soon-to-be-minted-in-2013 football program from the A-10, and are trying to get Old Dominion from the CAA. ODU, though, is taking a page from Mizzou and may not decide until the end of June.

That leaves an opening in the Horizon and maybe two spots in the CAA.  So, who is under consideration for membership in both conferences? How about Robert Morris?

The Horizon would seem like more of a natural fit with geography. It has Cleveland State, Youngstown St., Detroit and Wright St. within 5 hour bus trips. The problem is that RMU plays football, and the Horizon has no home for football. That’s where the CAA comes into play.

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February 29, 2012

Is there any doubt at this point? Rick Pitino spends October through February banging away on how the Big East needs to add Memphis. Now they are coming. His other team to add was Temple. Guess who is on the verge?

It appears the board of trustees of Temple is meeting Wednesday via a conference call to decide if it wants to accept a Big East Conference invitation, if offered.

Discussions between the Big East and Temple regarding the Owls’ joining the conference, possibly for all sports, are hitting the final stages.

Assuming Temple gets an invitation and accepts it, the school has to quickly negotiate exit fees.

Hope you understand the key area: Temple is only deciding whether it will accept an invitation to join the Big East — you know if the the Big East makes them an offer.

Despite all the rumors and noise last week about Temple joining the Big East, there is still no official offer, invitation, or even known vote by the Big East on the matter. In other words, beating back the Villanova opposition.

 

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November 3, 2011

Lots of open tabs. Some with direct Pitt stuff. Others not so much.

Attendance, attendance, attendance. The Wednesday UConn non-attendance issue was a popular topic of angst. I’m not going to rehash the reasons/excuses. I didn’t make the trip, but I knew that even before I ordered season tickets. Chris Dokish looks at Pitt’s (paid) attendance relative to many factors to conclude, that things aren’t really that bad. I’m just not too worked up over it. Especially when I look at the conference to where Pitt is heading.

Miami tried to one-up Pitt on their Thursday night game. They at least had a beautiful evening. Then there was Maryland on a Saturday (click to see the picture).

Eric Prisbell wrote that there “appeared to be no more than 10,000 fans at Byrd Stadium.”

“Saturday’s abject eyesore, where lower-level tickets at Byrd Stadium were going for a penny on StubHub? That’s more than frigid, rotten weather. That’s unacceptable,” Mike Wise columnized.

At least Pitt’s tickets on StubHub were 99 cents. We will fit right into the ACC.

Honestly, I’m not too stressed on attendance. It’s frustrating at times, but the fact is there are a lot of Pitt fans hanging back right now. Frustrated by the past decade, maybe even the past 30 years. Happy to cheer and support the the team (and even buy tickets), but not quite willing to make that final action of going to the games. The only way it changes is with Pitt winning.

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October 25, 2011

There was a report — quickly debunked — over the weekend of a possible tri-merger of the Big East, Mountain West and Conference USA. Turned out the report was based on a possible plan that Mountain West and C-USA that never really had any juice.

Well, it looks like they are still trying to pitch it.

Commissioners from the Mountain West Conference and Conference USA are scheduled to meet with the head of the Big East Conference on Wednesday to discuss the formation of one 28- to 32-football team super conference to try to gain automatic Bowl Championship Series status.

The Mountain West and Conference USA already have agreed to merge by either next year or in 2013. The Big East has automatic BCS status, but is in danger of losing it after 2013 and has been exploring adding teams from the Mountain West and Conference USA in an attempt to salvage it. But the two Mountain West members face hefty exit fees should they leave — Boise State up to $21 million and Air Force up to $9.6 million — that could dissuade them from jumping to the Big East.

Seeing an opportunity, Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson and Conference USA’s Britton Banowsky will make the proposal to the Big East’s John Marinatto in New York to create a mega conference.

And this was scheduled before the West Virginia news broke.

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January 27, 2011

Expansion Fantasy Zone

Filed under: 1-AA,Big East,Conference,Money,Non-BCS — Chas @ 2:41 pm

I really didn’t want to do this. I wanted to at least make it to May when there is a real dearth of subject matter. Reality, trending topics and of course the comments kind of forces my hand. If you can read this with the idea that I am speaking in a world-weary tone, while on my fourth Scotch (just enough so that I am a bit more tired, and slightly buzzed) it would be best.

I believe this spring and summer will see almost as much expansion rumor-mongering as this past offseason, but with even less action. We already have two teams heading to the Pac-12. The Big Ten gets its 12th member. Texas and the other nine of the Big 12 are staying together for the near-term. The ACC is holding until it has to. Same with the SEC — except that they are more in a crouch and pounce mode at all times. Notre Dame is still independent and will remain that way for some time.

The MWC is putting a brave face, while muttering about being justthisclose to being a BCS conference. The WAC is trying to avoid being at the Sun Belt bock level.

The Big East is the only conference that will make some sort of expansion move. Regardless of whether it is Villanova or UCF, that constitutes only a minor ripple in college football and college sports.

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November 2, 2010

Oh joy. Well, at least the Big East waited to stir things up until there was a bye week for Pitt.

The BIG EAST Conference submitted the results of its extensive self-analysis and evaluation of the college athletics environment today at its annual Conference Board of Directors meeting.  Based on those results, the BIG EAST presidents agreed that the interests of each of the conference’s 16 member institutions would be served by increasing the number of Bowl Subdivision football-playing members to 10.  They unanimously approved the process to evaluate the terms and conditions for potential expansion candidates.

That means — nothing. It means the only they approved the concept that going to 10 teams in football is a good idea (duh). The other thing they approved is the manner in which they will decide to figure out the best way to figure out the best possible options.

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August 30, 2010

Little Views to the West

Filed under: Conference,Money,Non-BCS,Pac 10 — Chas @ 3:35 pm

A couple stories of interest with teams not involved with Pitt and a couple that do.

Really interesting article about Boise State and being able to keep up with the money part of college football. The school has been trying to get a $100 million stadium expansion plan launched so that they can generate more money. This on the heels on $48 million on new pressboxes/skyboxes and a practice facility.

At some point, the Broncos are going to hit a ceiling when it comes to raising money for football.

The Broncos have not found their T. Boone Pickens, an oil tycoon who has donated $400 million to Oklahoma State athletics. Or their Phil Knight, the Nike founder who has showered Oregon with nearly $200 million in gifts.

Boise State does not have a law school or a medical school, two professions that tend to produce wealthy alumni. It is still a young university. The local population/fan base simply may not be big enough to support the ambitions of the program.

And then there is a question of interest. Boise State, in the midst of a 14-0 season, sold out only two games last season. This season, only Oregon State is assured of being a sellout. Do the Broncos really need 53,000 seats, especially when the inevitable 8-5 season comes around?

They have had great success. At the same time the money they keep pouring into it is scary. It reminds me of public boondoggles in Cleveland (and plenty of other cities). Once they start the money flow to a project, the excuse for never stopping — even when it is clear how much of a sinkhole it is — inevitably comes down to, “well we have already put this much into it, we need to see it through and hope for the best.”

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August 23, 2010

Assorted Links

Filed under: Bloggers,Conference,Football,Non-BCS,Polls — Chas @ 3:12 pm

Football stuff that indirectly relates to Pitt and the Big East that are worth noting.

The AP has redesigned their poll page. It’s better, and easier to read individual ballots by voters, but Pollspeak is still the better option because of its versatility. The trump for Pollspeak is the fact that you can see on one webpage how all voters voted in a particular week for a team. That is much easier to figure out which voters hate your team or are clueless homers (I’m looking at you, Eric Hansen of the South Bend Tribune for not ranking Pitt, but putting ND #22).

Relating to the MWC/WAC and BYU stuff from last week, one of the things that came out near the end of the week were talks between the MWC and C-USA.

Two sources with knowledge of the discussions told the Orlando Sentinel on Thursday one of the scenarios being discussed includes a possible merger of 20 teams from the Mountain West Conference and Conference USA, with the champion claiming an automatic BCS bowl bid. However, the sources stated such an agreement is complex, could easily fall apart and is far from being completed.

That would be something interesting. As both conferences also have TV deals that involve CBS media (C-USA on CBS College Sports and WMC’s “Mtn.” channel has CBS as a partner), there could be something to this.

The benefits to C-USA are obvious. Keeps the MWC from raiding their conference for Houston or SMU or Southern Miss. It also gives the conference a shot at BCS bowls. Not a great shot, but far better than they have right now.

The benefit of this alliance for the MWC is less clear, other than to provide some more protection if BYU decides to bolt or TCU gets a call from the Big 12/10 at some point. For the MWC, the benefits may be more long-term.

In case you missed it, this is a fine timeline of Big East expansion rumors in history. And from the Mountain West, well-learned advice on dating Cougars.

August 19, 2010

I would argue that nothing in the June conference expansion insanity was matched for sheer lunacy in such a compressed period as yesterday.

Briefly recapping and a hat tip to the Wiz of Odds for some links.

News leaked that BYU was going to bolt the MWC and strike out as an independent in football. They would pull a ND and join the WAC in all other sports.

Keep in mind that BYU was the lead team in creating the MWC and crippling the WAC in the first place.

The WAC, though, with losing Boise to MWC kind of has no choice. They need something to help them, and if they can get BYU to at least play a few home-and-homes with their schools in football (like ND and the Big East) it keeps them viable.

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May 10, 2010

It really does seem to be it’s own beast now.

The reports are swirling that offers have been made. Honestly, while the story may be close to what could ultimately be reality — Nebraska, Mizzou, Rutgers and then a last chance offer to ND followed by one more team if they say yes — I don’t believe anything has actually happened yet. It doesn’t pass the smell test — right down to the outlet reporting the story.

So, another round of speculating and dreaming…

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December 2, 2009

Don’t mistake my disdain for the venue for any lack of caring about the game itself. It’s the City Game, local bragging rights are always important. This game may no longer have the deep hate, but it matters.

It’s also a big game because Duquesne keeps improving under fifth-year coach Everhart, and Pitt is perceived as vulnerable in a rebuilding year. The Panthers have five new starters, while Duquesne returned four starters from its first postseason team in 15 years.

Still, Pitt is 27-3 against Duquesne since 1982. Pitt assistant coach Brandin Knight was a sophomore guard at Pitt the last time Duquesne beat the Panthers (December 2000).

Both teams are missing top players. Duquesne sophomore wing Melquan Bolding (wrist) is out, and Pitt senior guard Jermaine Dixon (foot) and junior forward Gilbert Brown (academic) will watch the game in street clothes.

Wanamaker believes because of their “nice little bond” with Duquesne, the atmosphere will be heightened tonight. The rough-and-tumble open gyms have forged friendships but also the harsh reality of bragging rights.

“This game is going to be even more intense,” he said, “because we are more friends with them.”

Duquesne actually has a player that could have played in the Big East.

Saunders came to Duquesne and the Atlantic 10 Conference as one of Everhart’s best recruits in 2007 after originally signing with Marquette. But former Marquette coach Tom Crean didn’t have a scholarship available when all-conference guard Dominic James opted to stay in school instead of leaving early for the NBA Draft.

“He’s going to be a pretty good challenge,” Pitt center Gary McGhee said. “I think right now he is leading the nation in rebounding. He usually starts out on the wing and just runs in and gets a lot of tip-out rebounds.”

Saunders, averaging 16.7 points and 15.5 rebounds, smiled when it was suggested that he’s becoming Pittsburgh’s marquee basketball player.

The scoring of Saunders aside, the major concern for Pitt will be the pressing defense from the Stage Magicians. Pitt has struggled with turnovers and there is no doubt that it could be a lot more costly in this game than against Youngstown State or Wichita.

“I was really disappointed,” Dixon said. “We need to improve in that area. We had rebounding issues early and we solved that for a couple games. Then our turnovers are a little bit higher now. We’ve got to get everything together here.”

Along with more patience on the offensive end, the Panthers need to move more without the ball. Too often there have been big chunks of the game where players stop moving. The guards may be struggling to move the ball inside, but that means they need more help. Not less.

November 23, 2009

Hello Kansas City

Filed under: Basketball,Conference,Non-BCS,Opponent(s) — Chas @ 10:44 am

Good thing I’m not a Steeler fan. Otherwise, I would take yesterday as a bad sign.

Tonight’s game is 45 years in the making. The two teams met last in 1964 when the Schockers blew out Pitt 109-58 in Philly.

I can’t say I’m shocked that Jermaine Dixon is not going to be ready for the CBE Classic. Even if he was ready, I’m not sure how much he could contribute in his first game back. Not even surprised that he’s probably another 2 weeks away from rejoining the team. Just let it heal properly.

As for tonight’s game, well both coaches are being highly complimentary of the opponent.

“They really beat up Fairleigh Dickinson, that was very evident,” Dixon said Friday during a conference call with the four coaches. “This team is very physical and we’re going to get a quick look at that.”

WSU coach Gregg Marshall sends the compliments right back. The Panthers tied Michigan State for the NCAA lead in rebound margin at plus-9.3 in 2009.

“Big, athletic, very solid in their approach,” Marshall said. “They really rebound well.”

WSU (2-0) cruised to wins over Fairleigh Dickinson and Arkansas-Monticello. The physical edge enjoyed by the Shockers is over starting Monday.

“We’ve got two good wins, but this is a whole different ballgame,” Marshall said. “They’re going to be bigger, stronger, more athletic. We won’t be able to overwhelm them.”

And vice versa.

Still, while Coach Dixon is willing to talk-up the Shockers he isn’t short-changing his own players.

Dixon, who will be without shooting guard Jermaine Dixon (foot) until at least early December, is pleased with his youthful team’s progress.

“We haven’t gone backward in our three games,” the seventh-year coach said. “We’ve done things better. We’ve seen improvement, and that’s all you can ask.”

Wichita State has their own issues with youth, their leading scorer from last year suspended for one more game and an injury to one of their players that may at least hobble him a bit tonight.

Wichita State will play the game without its point guard and leading returning scorer from last season. Clevin Hannah, who averaged 11.2 points per game last season, was suspended by the NCAA for the first three games of the season because of an administrative error by the school.

The suspension has forced Marshall to reshuffle his lineup. Toure’ Murry, the shooting guard last season, started at the point in Wichita State’s first two games. Further complicating matters, reserve point guard Demetric Williams sustained an ankle injury against Fairleigh Dickinson and did not play against Arkansas Monticello.

“We’re a little undermanned with injuries and the suspension, but we’re playing pretty well,” Marshall said. “You have to have more than one point guard, and this is a great example why. It would be nice to get another win without him, but we just have to get by for one more game.”

WSU Coach Marshall admits that the Shockers will look to make a mark with the chance to play Pitt.

“I’m excited about the challenge,” WSU coach Gregg Marshall said. “Just like Arkansas-Monticello played up for us, we’ll likely play up for Pitt.”

And of course, a bigger stage and competition.

Wichita State steps up in class against the Panthers, the Big East power that lost four starters from last year’s Elite Eight team.

“We’ve got two good wins, but this is a whole different ballgame,” Shockers coach Gregg Marshall said. “They’re going to be bigger, stronger, more athletic.”

Last year, the Shockers played a tournament in Florida and gave Michigan State and Georgetown tough games. Then knocked off Siena — but then started 0-6 in the MVC to kill their season. Their relative youth (starting 3 sophs and 2 juniors) and their performance in the MVC have them tabbed for 5th.

Here’s a short Q&A with P-G’s beat writer Ray Fittipaldo by the Wichita Eagle‘s beat writer.

There will be a liveblog tonight at 7:30 where everyone can overreact to the action as it happens.

November 19, 2009

So, yeah there’s a basketball game tonight at 7. Eastern Kentucky comes to town. The Colonels are picked to be a middle-of-the pack team in the Ohio Valley Conference. They won their season opener against West Virginia Wesleyan (D-2) 102-71. They didn’t impress their own coach on defense and they have no player taller than 6-7.

That’s probably a good thing since Coach Dixon wants better rebounding from the Pitt players.

“We’re not worried about our height or size or anything,” Robinson said. “We just have to put a body on somebody and go rebound. Coach preaches about it every day in practice about how we have to outrebound our opponent. So I just try to focus on that, box out and beat my guy to the basket and grab the rebound.”

Some of the other issues have been inexperience and personnel changes. Wanamaker played mostly shooting guard his first two seasons, but he is playing small forward because of Gilbert Brown’s academic suspension. In Pitt’s offense, the small forwards crash the boards when the shot goes up and the shooting guard retreats to play defense in the event of a miss.

Wanamaker has admittedly had a tough time remembering to crash the boards. Getting the small forwards and guards to contribute more in the rebounding department is the main focus as the Panthers get ready to play Eastern Kentucky tonight in another non-conference game at the Petersen Events Center.

“We’ve played teams that have shot a lot of 3s, so there are a lot of long rebounds, and I don’t feel like we’re getting enough of those,” Dixon said. “But I’m always concerned about our rebounding. We’ve been the best rebounding team in the country in certain years and I’ve still been concerned about it. You’re never satisfied with rebounding or defense. We have to get our guards to rebound more, especially on the long 3s. [Binghamton] was taking deep 3s, and the guards have to get those.”

Coach Dixon had noted the problem rebounding by the guards right after the Binghamton rout.

September 9, 2009

I know. I know. Weak. Cliched. Trite. And all of that. It’s just that since this isn’t an NFL, NHL or MAC blog, how often will there be road trips to Buffalo for the team?

It’s not much of a series or history. The two teams met for the first time last year.

Despite the low wattage of this kind of game, it actually will be available in more places (Full list in PDF) than I would have thought — including Cleveland, Chicago, Philly, Tampa and Milwaukee. It will also be on ESPN360 if your broadband provider has signed on with it.

Naturally Buffalo is talking about the challenge of playing Pitt’s defense.

UB’s rebuilt-on-the-fly offense will face perhaps its stoutest opposition of the season in Saturday’s home opener against Pittsburgh.

Coach Dave Wannstedt’s defense has seven starters back from a unit that ranked among the nation’s top 30 in six statistical categories last season. Over the final five games of 2008, the Panthers gave up an average of 12.6 points. In Saturday’s 38-3 win over Division I-AA Youngstown State, they allowed just 159 yards.

“Their front seven is probably the best we’re going to face,” UB coach Turner Gill said Tuesday. “Size and strength … those are the first two things that stand out. They’re able to rush the passer and play the run very well.”

Pitt didn’t blitz at all in its opener, Wannstedt said, but is prepared to put pressure on Zach Maynard, the sophomore quarterback who will make his second start for UB. The Bulls made blitz preparation a priority for Maynard in training camp, due to his inexperience as well as the pressuring scheme used by their first opponent, Texas-El Paso.

They expect their stadium to approach a sellout. It holds about 25, 500.

The front line of the defense isn’t an issue. There is, though, questions of whether the secondary can be consistent.

Q: The defense seemed to play well against Youngstown State for the most part, but the secondary seemed to struggle with coverage at times. Do you think this is something that will work itself out over the next few games or will this be an ongoing problem all season?

ZEISE: I think this is a great question. You are correct, the secondary didn’t cover like it needs to once the varsity games begin. YSU had guys open. They also had a few chances to make some places but couldn’t connect. I think if you look around the Big East and at Notre Dame and even N.C. State (despite their awful performance the other night) you’ll find that Pitt will face some really good wide receivers and far better quarterbacks than Brandon Summers. For that matter, Buffalo has a kid, Naaman Roosevelt, who is going to be in the NFL some day and will be one of the better receivers the Panthers face. It will be very interesting to see how the secondary responds this week, especially since Buffalo, unlike YSU, will be able to get Pitt’s defensive front blocked, at least occassionally. This is an area of the team to keep an eye on because it clearly needs to improve from the way it played Saturday.

Recent history has been terrifying with road games and the MAC.

If recent history is an indicator, the Panthers be in for a tough game because the past two times the Panthers visited a Mid-American Conference team, they lost. In both cases, the game was treated as if it were the game of the century by the home crowd, creating an extremely hostile environment.

The first of those two games was in 2003 when the Panthers, ranked No. 9 in the country, visited the Glass Bowl in Toledo and were stunned by the Rockets, 35-31. In 2005, the second game of The Wannstedt Era, the Panthers visited Peden Stadium in Athens, Ohio, and lost a 16-10 overtime decision to the Ohio Bobcats.

In both cases, the crowd rushed the field and tore down the goal posts, and that is the kind of reaction the Panthers should expect Saturday if they lose.

One thing that should help Pitt’s cause is that, unlike those two games which were played at night, this one has a noon kickoff. That should take some of the edge off the festive atmosphere.

Yeah, that’ll be the difference maker.

On the bright side, they are breaking in a new QB.

Zach Maynard has replaced record-breaking quarterback Drew Willy at Buffalo, which is coming off its first-ever bowl appearance at any level.

The Pitt Panthers (1-0) will get their first look at Maynard when they visit the University of Buffalo (1-0) at noon on Saturday at UB Stadium.

Last week, in his first collegiate start, Maynard completed 12 of 19 pass attempts for 159 yards and one touchdown in a turnover-free 23-17 victory at UTEP on Saturday.

“The great thing is that he got some playing time and he didn’t turn the ball over,” said Gill, the fourth-year coach and former Nebraska star quarterback. “That is obviously what you stride for, but you don’t think it’s going to happen with a guy playing his first ballgame against a busy type of defense that UTEP has.”

The Buffalo coaching staff is helping Maynard’s transition by using an offensive scheme with some built-in protections. Maynard, a Greensboro, N.C., native, is doing more sprint outs and throwing more quick, confidence-building screen passes, including one that all-conference wide receiver Naaman Roosevelt turned into a 42-yard touchdown in the victory over UTEP in the Sun Bowl.

What? A sophomore with no starts being effective and trusted to run the offense? Preposterous. Give us a guy that can handle a warehouse.

On Bill Stull:

“He managed the game well. He got guys in and out of the huddle. There weren’t any delays, or miscues on snap count. The turnover he had was both a quarterback and receiver miscommunication. I was pleased with Bill’s performance. He didn’t make any major mistakes. It was a good start for him. He’s worked extremely hard in the summer and through camp. He’s doing the best he can do and that’s all you can ask for from my point of view. He’s doing all he can in order to prepare and he’s got to go out there and perform.”

Dave Wannstedt channeling his inner-Woody Hayes.

And once more this is why it doesn’t seem fair to say the fan ire should really be directed at Stull. It is really hard to imagine that Wannstedt would want anything different from the position.

It is that kind of statement that really brings me down with regards to just how far Pitt can go. Wannstedt is so inflexible on what he wants from a QB. That even if Pitt somehow lands a QB of significant talent, he wouldn’t be allowed.

March 14, 2009

It just comes down to this in the A-10 final. I get a cheap laugh everytime an announcer mentions, Jason Duty, in that standard clipped announcer voice, so that it comes out “Doodie.”

I just turn into Beavis everytime call out Duty.

So why not carry that into the NCAA Tournament?

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