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September 6, 2017

Mandatory Silence

Filed under: Football,Media — Chas @ 7:38 am

Media blackout week for Pitt-Penn St. No assistants talking. No players. No meaningless window before the real practicing starts. Yay, stupid side-issue.

Head Coach Pat Narduzzi did it last year for this game. I thought it was pointless and silly last year as well.

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January 23, 2017

Fun and Losing Rarely Work

Filed under: Basketball,Fishwrap,Media — Chas @ 9:38 pm

In a way, this 4-game losing streak couldn’t have come at a better time for Pitt. In the midst of the Steelers playoff run. Heck, Pitt probably has another week of being mostly ignored while the venting and recriminations continue.

“Fun.”

That’s the way the Pittsburgh media decided to describe Pitt basketball in the first year under Kevin Stallings.

Here’s Kevin Gorman of the Trib right after the Notre Dame game.

Despite his success, fans had grown tired of Jamie Dixon’s stifling style of coaching. They wanted something more entertaining, something less focused on defense and rebounding.

They got that with Stallings, who loosened the reins. The Panthers have been given the green light to shoot 3s, the freedom to play at a fast tempo and have scored 80 points or more seven times.

I have to jump in here, because once more, scoring points has nothing to do with tempo. Pitt is an offensively efficient team. They score on their possessions, and don’t commit as many turnovers

They may be playing at a faster tempo than last year, but they are in the 200s out of 351 teams nationally in terms of tempo. College basketball itself has attempted to up the overall tempo with a shorter shot clock and allowing more freedom of movement. There is no doubt that Pitt basketball is playing at a faster tempo, but the pace is hardly a tremendous jump.

Last year the average adjusted tempo of Pitt was 66.1 (309th nationally with the average adjT of 69.0 for D-1 teams).  This year, Pitt is up to 68.0 (229th nationally with the average adjT being 69.1).

Sorry, finish this.

Stallings hoped Pitt would have a “mature, motivated response” when Virginia visits Wednesday.

“I don’t think that you have any time to wallow in your boo boos,” Stallings said. “You have to get up and be a man and say, ‘What can I do better?’ And get ready for the next one, because there’s 17 more just like that one that are going to come flying at us — and none of them are going to be easy.”

As Stallings learned in his ACC debut, nothing is going to come easy for Pitt. But the Panthers showed promise that, with progress, they could be fun to follow.

There’s the word. “Fun.”

And Pitt had a great response to the loss by beating Virginia in the next game. Prompting a gem from Paul Zeise. Time for the deep dive.

For years, one of the chief complaints about Pitt under Jamie Dixon was that its style of basketball was not fun, not exciting and far too micromanaged. Fans wanted more offense and a faster tempo, which would give the Panthers a better chance to advance deep into the NCAA tournament and attract the top players in the country.

I find this amusing, because, yes there were complaints about Dixon and style of play. But most of that came after the team was not winning the way it was in the first half of his time at Pitt. The exception being the writer of this column. I like Zeise, but he has long been one of the biggest critics of Dixon’s style of play more than anything else. Specifically, the very things he cites in his opening graf. It’s a bit disingenuous to make it seem like the complaints were coming from others — and not him.

If all of that is true, this should be the greatest era of Pitt basketball because Kevin Stallings already has delivered on that front.

Oh, boy….

If you want to tell me Stallings wasn’t an inspired hire, isn’t a better coach than Dixon or you didn’t like the way Dixon was pushed out the door, I don’t know that I agree, but I might listen to some of that. But nobody can deny that Pitt is now really fun to watch, and that, given the personalities of this senior class, Stallings is a much better fit than Dixon was.

A much easier graf to try and push when Pitt was 12-3 and 1-1 in the ACC. Now, with a 4-game losing streak that included a blowout home loss to Miami. A team that practically refused to take a game that NC State wanted to give away — because Pitt no longer does the one thing Dixon pushed: rebounds… Feels like a tougher sell. Stallings may “fit” this team’s personalities more, but is that going to get more wins and/or accomplish more?

Dixon spent the past two years struggling with these players, trying to make them value defense more than they do and trying to get them to buy into his structured offense. That plan worked well with many of his previous teams, but not this group. These players are a bit free-spirited and offensive-minded, and it was a constant butting of heads between players and coach. By the end of each of the past two seasons, it didn’t seem like anyone was really having any fun. Stallings came in and recognized the players’ personality immediately and has given them a green light — and they have, in turn, responded with a 12-3 record, in good position for an NCAA tournament bid.

And followed that up with 4 straight losses. Life comes at you fast.

Stallings told his team at the start he’d give them the freedom to play offense the way they liked as long as they work with him and buy in on some other areas, and it appears as if that’s exactly what happened. This group will never be great defensively, but it at least now has some periods where it looks lucid on that side of the court. Stallings mixes his defenses up enough to keep other teams off-balance at times.

I will give Stallings plenty of credit for getting creative and inventive with the shifting defenses. And when the team actually tries at that end, it doesn’t look bad. But to even think that this team has bought into or worked on the defensive side is ridiculous.

And as, I have been drafting this one for a couple days, Kevin Stallings obliged me with his media session today.

“Right now, my assessment is the only thing it feels like they’ve bought into 100 percent is freedom on offense,” Stallings said Monday. “Well, anybody could buy into that. That’s not a hard thing to buy into. That’s just human nature. Of course I would like to have freedom on offense. I haven’t gotten them to buy into the way we have to play defensively. I haven’t gotten them to buy into the way we need to communicate, the way we need to support each other, the way we have to fight when adversity hits. I haven’t been able to get them to do a number of other things yet the way they have to be done with what we have, with the makeup of our team in this league. That part has been a little frustrating.”

Different “f-” word from Coach Stallings.

By the way, this is why the local media, especially guys doing a lot more radio, are happy to have Kevin Stallings as the coach. He’s very candid. Very open about things.

If you are in the media, Jamie Dixon was as vanilla as they came. Even in recent years when he had relaxed more with the media, he still hewed to certain talking points. Rarely ever being negative about the players or what was happening. At times, getting defensive.

Stallings hasn’t done any more or less media than Dixon did. He has just been a much more *ahem* fun interview subject.

Pitt has two players — Mike Young and Jamel Artis — who can combine for 45 to 50 points on any given night, meaning the Panthers have a chance to win on pretty much any given night. Both occasionally take shots that give even Stallings indigestion, but he understands he has to live with some bad shots because Young and Artis are capable of hitting them. Those two are surrounded by four others — Ryan Luther, Sheldon Jeter, Cam Johnson and Chris Jones — who can hit shots and, more importantly, also have a green light to shoot when they’re open. That makes them really tough to guard.

And once more, Pitt can score with anyone. But they have yet to show they can defend anyone.

I understand why there have been some awful crowds this year. I understand why there is a backlash among a certain segment of fans who are still loyal to Dixon and why some people have taken a wait and see approach. Now that people have seen this team play, I suspect we will start to see bigger crowds again and a better atmosphere at Petersen Events Center. If we don’t, I’m not sure what people want because Stallings has delivered a fun brand of offensive basketball and has the right players to pull it off.

Wins. Wins help a lot more than a “fun” style.

I don’t think there is any backlash by fans loyal to Jamie Dixon with regards to attendance. It has a lot more to do with diminished expectations. Pitt is like just about any other program. People show up when the team wins. When they are struggling, it is much easier to skip the game.

Pitt has struggled in the last couple years compared to what the program had been doing. No surprise, that that was when the attendance started dropping and grumbling about style of play,

Wednesday night was the first time this season that Petersen Events Center felt like the good old days, with a large and rowdy crowd watching Pitt score 88 points against the best defensive team in the country, Virginia. But the arena still wasn’t full and the box office was still trying to sell tickets to it right up until tip-off.

“The good old days?” Like last year?

Make no mistake, Virginia had no answer for Pitt’s offense. The Panthers spread the Cavaliers out and scored in so many ways that their vaunted pack-line defense was rendered useless. Dixon never beat Virginia, and one reason was he tried to beat the Cavaliers at their own game, grinding out possessions. That approach is a recipe for disaster.

But Dixon sure could beat Syracuse.

And those Virginia teams were arguably better teams. I don’t really know where to begin. If all it took to beat Virginia was to space the court better, I think more teams would have better success. Pitt had an ungodly good shooting night from outside against Virginia. 13-21 on 3s. That had a lot more to do with scoring and being able to open up the court than the actual strategy. Hitting the damn shots makes any strategy look smart.

Pitt will do what it did last night to a lot of teams, not just because they have a lot of guys who can shoot but because they are all allowed to shoot. That freedom breeds confidence. Stallings said as much after the game last night when he was asked about Jeter taking two 3s to open the overtime: “He could miss 18 in a row and I’d tell him to keep shooting them because I know he can make them.”

Or, that could have been the high point. I have and still maintain that Pitt can beat anyone and lose to anyone in the ACC this year. Not because of the “freedom” and “fun” of the offense. But because their effort for 40 minutes on both ends of the ball has been inconsistent as hell.

I don’t know where this team is headed, how good they can become or where they will finish in the ACC. Only time will tell us the answers to those questions.

Way to hedge after declaring “Pitt will do what it did to [Virginia] to a lot of teams.”

What I do know is that the Panthers play an exciting brand of basketball and are a really fun team to watch right now. That’s something I’m not sure I’d ever say given the style they had played for almost two decades.

Yes, that dark and dismal time period for Pitt men’s basketball — that was previously referred to as “the good old days.” Why, oh, why did people show up to the Pete at all?

Oh, yeah. The winning.

I have heard and read local media when talking about Pitt basketball, speak glowingly — at least up until the last 2 weeks — about the style of play. About “fun.” As if that will be the panacea for all that ails.

*Pitt’s recruiting has been weak: fun style of play and freedom to shoot will bring the kids.

*Attendance dropping: fun and free flowing offense.

*Players unhappy: fun and open system.

Bull. It’s about the wins. Everything else is window dressing. 10 of the top 40 teams in KenPom have adjT in the top 100. 13 teams have adjT in bottom 100. Aesthetics only matter when you aren’t winning.

I guess that’s why this emphasis on “fun” bugs me. It just seems like a cover being offered for a team that isn’t that good. And honestly, it probably hurts Stallings in the long-run more than it helps him with the fans when that is the focus.

Instead of trying to talk about the issues with recruiting. The real deficiencies on the team, you get a sideshow talk about the way the team plays. Even if it is the media talking about it, it gets imputed to Stallings.

Stallings has very shallow support from the general fanbase. Perceiving him as just a guy who plays “fun” but not to win will get him no where.

I wasn’t wild about Stallings hire. I accept it, and want him to do well, simply because I root for Pitt. Being constantly negative and seemingly hoping for his failure because it wasn’t the ideal choice is a miserable way to be.

I’ve said from before Stallings was even hired, that things (especially next year) will get worse before they have a chance to get better. We’ve seen how poorly abruptly shifting coaches every year or two can be for football.

As much as things can change quickly for a program with the right hire and a couple good recruits, it can get just as even worse much faster when there is constant churn with the coach and recruiting.

Forget the fun, just find the wins.

December 7, 2016

(For Immediate Release)

CLARIFICATION ON TV CREW FOR NEW ERA PINSTRIPE BOWL

(Bristol, CT) Due to the number of questions, ESPN, the Worldwide Leader in Sports, wishes to address the surprising number of questions that were directed to the ESPN Media Zone with regards to the announcing crew of the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. Following the press release of the announcing crews for all of the 2016-17 college football bowl season, there was much reaction to Mike Golic and Mike Golic, Jr. serving as co-analysts in the booth with game caller Ryan Ruocco and sideline reporter Paul Caracaterra.

The combination of the co-host of ESPN’s morning radio show Mike & Mike in the Morning with his son is in no way a stunt or nepotism. Mike Golic is a well-respected voice in sports and we feel that Mike Golic, Jr. is a rising star in the broadcast of college football.

This decision was made with the full support of the New Era Pinstripe Bowl organizers and sponsors.

“When ESPN approached us with the idea of Mike Golic and his son working the game from the broadcast booth, we were very excited,” said Pinstripe Bowl Executive Director Mark Hozman. “The idea of two Notre Dame alum and partisans talking about Northwestern and Pitt seemed ideal.”

“Northwestern is located in a suburb of Chicago,” Hozman continued, “The epicenter of Notre Dame subway fans. The idea of not being able to escape Notre Dame references and discussions of Notre Dame Head Coach Brian Kelly for even one game has to be a tremendous incentive to attend the actual event to avoid hearing such sparkling conversations.”

“For Pitt fans, Mike Golic only reads quick summaries of teams in the AP top-10 to effect a knowledge of college football. This year, that includes Penn State, who we fully expect him to confuse with Pitt during the game.”

“You don’t want to hear these morons? Buy a damn ticket,” added New York Yankees Chairman Hal Steinbrenner.

November 1, 2016

Nagging Narduzzi

Filed under: Football,Media — Chas @ 7:40 am

Pitt Head Coach Pat Narduzzi got a bit animated on the sidelines during the VT-Pitt game last Thursday. Seemed that the frustration with the secondary and that as a defensive-minded coach, calls for pass interference were going against only the defense, were really starting to bother him.

I didn’t really care about that part. Jim Harbaugh stalks the sideline like a maniac and goes bug-eyed on an official at the drop of a hat. You can see maniacal moments from coaches from the pros down to Pop Warner. When you are winning — Harbaugh — it’s the passion that is part of the key to your success. When you aren’t — Pelini — it’s being unable to control your emotions.

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October 6, 2016

In a few years when Florida State fans, boosters and probably their board of trustees complain that the TV money from the ACC Network isn’t enough/keeping up with the SEC (because we all, damn well know they will be first in line to complain), we can all remind them that they were the ones leading the charge to leave the money on the table to keep their extra non-con game.

Not that they will care or even accept any blame.

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September 5, 2016

Reminder, this is a noon game because the Pirates are assholes who somehow think not even considering moving their game time will generate more fans to support them.

“We have not asked MLB to consider rescheduling our [Sept.] 10 game,” Pirates vice president of communications and broadcasting Brian Warecki said in a statement. “We are instead very excited about what should be a full and fun weekend on the North Shore. In addition to the baseball and football games on Saturday, we will have dueling Pitt and Penn State University Days on Friday night [Sept.] 9 in order to give the great Pitt and Penn State Pirates fans the opportunity to show their school pride on Friday night as well.

“Working together with Pitt, the SEA and ALCO Parking, we will ensure that Pirates fans have access to the North Shore and reserved parking well in advance of our 7:05 start.”

Be sure not to give the Pirates any money this weekend.

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August 31, 2016

Stupidity and Non-Apologies

Filed under: Media — Chas @ 6:16 am

There was a little twitter kerfuffle yesterday. I’ll do a little recap and then get to my point.

It started with an article on Clairton High School Senior, 5-star recruit, possibly the top national recruit and the holy grail of the recruiting battles in PA for 2017: Lamont Wade.

Wade is a defensive back and is being recruited as such. He also plays running back on the other side of the ball. Not surprising when you are the best athlete on a team. You will get maximum exposure.

Wade is moving to outside linebacker for the season. Not because he wants to play that position later, but because that is where the need is for his team.

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August 25, 2016

ACC Network and Scheduling

Filed under: ACC,Conference,Media,Money,Schedule — Chas @ 11:07 am

Have to start somewhere…

Most of the offseason around the ACC has been about the speculation that the ACC Network was never going to happen. That the losses in the last year at ESPN over cord-cutters and a shrinking subscriber base meant that the Mouse Monopoly was not going to add another channel devoted solely to a conference. ACC schools would have to just accept the extra $3 million/year each on the present deal.

Never should we count out Ninja Swofford. Last month came the surprise announcement by ESPN and the ACC of the long-discussed, but seemingly doomed to never happen ACC Network.

ESPN and the Atlantic Coast Conference will launch the ACC Network – a comprehensive linear and digital network, it was announced today by ACC Commissioner John Swofford and ESPN President John Skipper at the conference’s annual Football Kickoff media event in Charlotte, N.C. The 20-year partnership will provide ACC fans unprecedented access to live events via a comprehensive, multi-platform network. It also provides for the extension of the conference’s existing rights agreement with ESPN to 2036. ESPN is the ACC’s exclusive worldwide rights holder.

Beginning in August 2016, fans can access more than 600 exclusive live events from across the conference via a digital live-events channel ‘ACC Network Extra’, immediately available to users who have access to ESPN3 via WatchESPN and the ESPN app, with that number growing each year.  More than 1,300 ACC events will be distributed across the platforms in 2019 when the linear network launches.

Sure the cable channel won’t roll out in 2017… or 2018. But, it is coming.

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June 15, 2016

Here is a detailed and in-depth look at the Panther football program under Pat Narduzzi.  It was written yesterday by Bill Connelly of SB Nation  and is a wealth of historical and present (and future) info about where we have been and the direction he thinks we are going into the 2016 season.

Here is an opening salvo to get your attention:

As fans, we have plenty of funny tendencies. If you raise the stature of our program just enough to break our heart with high-stakes losses, we will resent you for it.

It’s funny (if you’re not a Pitt fan, at least) to look back to the end of the last decade.

Under Dave Wannstedt, Pitt pulled off one of its most significant upsets, in 2007 (taking down WVU in Morgantown to prevent the Mountaineers from advancing to the BCS title game), then went 9-4 and 10-3 over the next two seasons. The Panthers went 8-5 in 2010, giving them 27 wins over a three-year period for the first time since 1981-83.

And Wannstedt resigned under pressure, hated by a large portion of Pitt fans.

But I’ll disagree – unless he thinks I am the only Pitt fan whose opinion matters I don’t think Pitt fans hated Wannstedt at all.  It was more like they were so disappointed with all the crap that went on back in 2010 and his inability to outright win a BCS bowl bid in his six years as head coach that any sort of a change was a relief.

But let’s not put binders on as this writer has – there were a hell of a lot of Pitt fans that didn’t want to see DW go at all.

Aside from that this is a fantastic read.  It is a breath of fresh air to read someone state the true comparisons between Chryst’s time at Pitt and Pat Narduzzi’s first year.  We fans are infused with a lot of Narduzzi’s energy and exuberance so we look at last season with an overly positive view.

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May 21, 2016

Here is the Peak’s PantherLair podcast on the Trib’s website – he talks about the uniform roll-out and other things.  But specifically about what a ringing success the whole day was for Pitt athletics – from social media to returning players to the event itself in the evening.  He also talks about how the Pirates don’t give a crap about Pitt at all… as we read in Chas’ piece earlier.

He also addresses the current facilities improvements and what was done by previous FB HCs.  I like the fact that this administration is dedicated to long range upgrades and it’s starting to come to fruition.

(By the way – remember what Peak says here about Narduzzi’s using comparisons to other football programs when asking fans and boosters for $$$ to renovate the facility’s meeting rooms, weight rooms, etc… Pitt football does not exist in a vacuum and we have to play catch up to keep up with programs that have forged ahead of where we are now when you read the last part of this article.)

Chris Logue of Pitt Nation Sports always has interesting articles and is a damn good wordsmith. Here he writes about the QBs, or not, of the future for Pitt.

“Despite the success from a Pittsburgh standout and the myriad of congratulations the star (Phil Jurkovec) received after his commitment, it seemed like a dumpster-fire moment on Twitter from “Pitt-faithful.” Oddly enough, mostly aimed at Pat Narduzzi’s immediate “inability to recruit” after an incredible wrap to his 2016 class and the praises that sealed that envelope. Phil Jurkovec

The story that remains in the middle of the announcement, for myself at least, is everyone seems to have forgotten about Thomas MacVittie, a prized steal for Narduzzi last season.

To state that MacVittie did not produce the same attention through his senior season as Jurkovec had through just his sophomore season is excruciatingly obvious. But, the two may be more similar on the field than you may think.

Its a good read and should bring some of us back from the brink.

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May 20, 2016

Pitt announced yesterday the start times for the first two games of the season (and the Thursday night game hosting VT, but we all knew that was going to be a 7pm game).

The season opener against Villanova will be at 1:30 and shown on ESPN3.

The September 10 game against Penn State will be at noon and shown on ESPN or ABC. Disappointing, but not too surprising.

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May 17, 2016

Recapping ACC Meetings

Filed under: ACC,Conference,Media,Mouse Monopoly — Chas @ 7:21 am

Reminder Pitt on the Prowl alumni events kick off this Thursday in Cleveland (hope to see some people there) and then to Chicago on May 23 and NYC on May 25. Coaches Pat Narduzzi, Kevin Stallings and Suzie McConnell-Serio will be at all the events.

Script unveiling is tomorrow. At least May has been somewhat active.

ACC meetings from last week didn’t reveal anything earth-shattering.

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May 15, 2016

We did an article about this last year but here is a follow-up piece by Sam Werner of the Post-Gazette addressing Pitt’s new athletic logo that is to be unveiled on Wednesday (no big surprise that it is the Script PITT from the 1980s) and how it does NOT represent the University as a whole…  a visual reminder here:

Pitt TE coach tweets photoshopped Swimsuit Issue cover

From Werner’s article:

“If the athletic department is the front porch, then the Pitt script logo, set to be re-introduced as the school’s primary athletic mark at a Petersen Events Center unveiling Wednesday, is a sign on the front of the house.

Often times, though, that sign may not represent every room in the house.

Like Pitt, many universities across the country have developed distinct university logos separate from their athletic marks, as they try to strike a balance between the visibility athletics can provide and the academic pursuits of the greater institution.

“Most of the time, the rationale is that, look, we have two different products here,” said Antonio Williams, a sport and fitness brand researcher and assistant professor at Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind. “We don’t necessarily want to take away the academic rigor and prestige from the university side by associating with athletics. There may be certain liabilities by associating yourself with athletics.”

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May 11, 2016

Not to make a shabby pun but the issue of concussions in football has reared its ugly head again.

There was an initial and prompt backlash toward Pat Narduzzi for what seemed to be a cavalier attitude towards the enormous problem of the effects of concussions on football players.

However, there was also the correct rollback by the media once the actual quotes, and Narduzzi’s intent, became clear.  There are a lot of media pieces about this but I think Craig Meyer (Werner’s sub) in his P-G Red Shirt Diaries lays it out the best.  Maybe that is because he was the reporter who asked Narduzzi the actual questions about the meeting’s discussions about the subject:

From Meyer: “I followed up by asking what the concussion discussion centered around and what kind of things they talked about. Were they talking about how to handle concussed players? Or how to possibly spot and diagnose whether a player has one?

Narduzzi’s response at that question was at first worrisome – mostly because readers and the pundits didn’t take the time to really cipher what he actual said.  Here is the quote:

“Hopefully coaches aren’t doing that. We’ve got a major problem in college football if coaches are diagnosing. There was a neurosurgeon who came in and explained some of the data and how they need to get more data so they can make decisions. I think when you look at all the results and all the talk, I think it’s media hyped. They’re talking about how they need to get more data and feedback on really what it is that’s causing these injuries.”

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May 10, 2016

ACC meetings started yesterday and the big topic that the media (and fans) wanted addressed: ACC Network. Still as clear as ever, which is not even a little.

But to the surprise of no one tracking this saga, ACC commissioner John Swofford plans no public enlightenment during this week’s league gathering at Amelia Island, Fla.

Swofford told the ACC Digital Network’s Jeff Fischel that he remains “very focused” on a sustainable television path for the conference. This he did without mentioning over-the-top (OTT) outlets such as Netflix and Hulu, and partner ESPN’s bleeding of traditional cable subscribers and subsequent personnel cuts.

“We think we’re in a really good position for the long-term,” Swofford told Fischel. “We’ve just got to make the right decisions and time things appropriately.”

“I don’t know that there will be public clarity,” Swofford said of this week. “I think we will move further down the trail of where we’re headed, without question. … We’re really just not going to have a whole lot more to say until we reach a point of saying something definitive. It takes some patience with that, but we’ll get to a good place, I’m confident.”

That was some well phrased nothing.

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