Good SI Article on FB Portal

Here is the full Feb 2, 2021 Sports Illustrated article copied below…

Mannie Netherly is quite happy these days, even without football.

He is a father to a five-month-old boy, has a solid job as a FedEx delivery driver and is studying to be an electrician at a Houston-area junior college. But that doesn’t mean he has no regrets about a football career that went south in a hurry.

A four-star signee with LSU in 2016, Netherly transitioned from receiver to cornerback and worked his way into the secondary rotation by the end of his second year in Baton Rouge, even recording a tackle in the Tigers’ rousing Fiesta Bowl win over UCF.

In March 2019, two months after that game, Netherly entered the NCAA transfer portal.

He never played a down of football again.

“You’re taking a big risk by putting your name in the portal,” says Netherly. “The grass is not always greener on the other side.”

Netherly is a cautionary tale of what awaits some players in the transfer portal: nothing. Because of the NCAA’s strict scholarship limitations and the latest portal surge, there are more teamless players than there are teams for them.

Hundreds of college football players find themselves stuck in portal purgatory without desirable landing spots. And there seems to be no end in sight for the latest stream of portal hoppers given sweeping new NCAA rule modernizations. The one-time transfer exception, which eliminates the one-year sit-out penalty for FBS transfers, is scheduled to pass later this spring, and athlete endorsement opportunities, often referred to as name, image and likeness, are expected to arrive by August.

While available players are on the rise, available spots are plummeting. The NCAA’s annual 25-man signing limit is reducing opportunities, and the organization’s decision to grant an extra year to athletes in light of COVID-19, while sensible, is creating a “super freshman” class that will further minimize roster spots.

In fact, as the 2021 National Signing Day approaches on Wednesday, college football recruiting stands, like the sport itself, at a seminal moment. This may be the last class of signees before a cascade of legislative changes forever alters recruiting.

Fewer high school players are expected to sign as coaches leave spots for a booming transfer market. Evaluations could grow increasingly difficult with coaches traveling far less as part of a COVID-19-inspired overhaul to the recruiting calendar. And more and more football players could see their careers die in the portal, like Netherly’s.

Change is inevitable in college football. That’s what makes things better,” says Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck. “But we have to ask ourselves what we’re doing to make things better. We’re heading down a path where there are a lot of rules in place for reasons and you start lifting them and we’re opening a whole new can.”

Since Aug. 1, about 1,500 players have entered the transfer portal, according to a 247Sports database that tracks portal movement. That’s just 200 players shy of the total number who entered the portal all of last cycle, from Aug. 1, 2019 to July 31, 2020.

However, portal numbers can be skewed. As many as one-third of those players are walk-ons, according to an SI examination of the portal. As of last week, only 964 of the 1,500 FBS players in the portal garnered a recruiting ranking from 247Sports (a vast majority of the other 500 are walk-ons).

Of the 964, nearly 60% (558) are uncommitted and still searching for a landing spot. The 964 players are split between those transferring from the Power 5 (557 players) and those transferring from the Group of Five (407 players). In a striking statistic, of the 299 Power 5 players who have committed to a new school, 60% took a step down in level, their next destination a Group of Five or FCS school. Just one-third of Group of Five transfers stepped up to the Power 5.

There’s also a collection of portal entrants, the number of which is unknown, who have had to swallow a very difficult medicine: They’ve become walk-ons. Some, like Netherly, may soon be out of football completely.

“Right now, there are a lot of kids in the portal that are not going to find scholarships,” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby says. “There may be twice as many people in the portal as there are places to transfer. There will be some who won’t be able to go to college if they don’t get a scholarship.”

The recent portal influx can be traced to the impending one-time transfer exception. Expecting the transfer legislation to pass in January, leagues of players rushed into the transfer portal to get a head start on a market expected to boom in the spring and summer.

Though the NCAA delayed its vote on the transfer legislation, the proposal is expected to be re-examined and adopted “no later than April,” says Shane Lyons, the West Virginia athletic director who sits on two powerful NCAA rule-making committees, the Division I Council and Football Oversight.

Officials from every walk of college sports believe players are entering the transfer portal under the impression that the one-time exception is an easy way to find immediate playing time or to elevate their situation in some way. Oftentimes, that’s not happening.

They’re receiving “bad advice,” says one Group of Five assistant coach.

They think they enter the portal and are automatically going to have a scholarship,” Fleck says. “The portal isn’t something where you teleport magically somewhere else.”

The transfer surge is expected to continue well into next year’s cycle, not only because of the one-time transfer exception but as a result of a COVID-19-inspired rule granting each athlete an extra year of eligibility. While the seniors who return for next season do not count against a team’s 85 scholarship limit, players from all future classes do.

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For instance, players who were juniors in the fall of 2020 and would normally have graduated by the 2022 season will now have the option to return as fifth- or even sixth-year seniors. They’d count against the 85. Meanwhile, some freshman classes in 2021 will be giant: 25 incoming freshmen will be coupled with roughly 25 “COVID-shirted” freshmen (true sophomores who were freshmen during 2020) for a 50-person rookie class. That leaves 35 scholarship spots for three classes.

While teams can have 85 players on scholarship each year, they can sign only 25 new players a year. The 100 signees over four years leaves a 15-player wiggle room for natural attrition. New transfer legislation and the impending COVID-shirter wave is causing unnatural attrition.

In the 2022 and 2023 recruiting cycles, coaches have one of two choices: retain their scholarship players and add fewer signees, or push out scholarship players and sign a normal class.

“The biggest challenge are these juniors who are going to be seniors [in 2022],” says Coastal Carolina coach Jamey Chadwell. “Those are going to be hard discussions.”

Players who are pushed out have one option: the transfer portal. One Sun Belt assistant coach expects as many as 500 to 1,000 more players to enter the portal by June, a ghastly large number that will almost certainly end some careers.

In light of the one-time transfer exception and COVID-shirters, high-ranking leaders in the sport believe the NCAA must loosen the annual 25-player limit on new signees, referred to in legislative terms as “initial counters.” Several conference commissioners have publicly supported the move, including Bowlsby and SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, who told SI last month “It has to change.”

“Next year, in theory, we have 50 freshmen on the roster and 85 spots,” says Troy Dannen, Tulane’s athletic director and a member of the Football Oversight Committee. “There is going to be a huge issue in 2022–23 and beyond if the 25 cap doesn’t change.”

Three proposals exist to adjust the 25-signee limit, says Lyons, but it’s unlikely that one will be adopted for this cycle. One proposal allows coaches to replace each player lost to the NFL, the transfer portal or for medical reasons, granting an unlimited number of signee spots in a one-for-one approach. Another similar proposal caps the number of replaceable signees at 10. A third proposal turns the one-year signee limit into a two-year limit, granting coaches 50 signees to be used over a two-year stretch.

Lyons and others are concerned that replacing departures with additional signee spots will “repeat history.” The 25-man limit was implemented to disincentivize the trend of coaches cutting or pushing out scholarship players in an effort to oversign high school players or transfers.

Jon Steinbrecher, commissioner of the MAC, says the 25-man limit needs a “hard look” because of the concern, from a host of college athletic administrators and coaches, that teams will not consistently fill all 85 of their scholarship spots given the transfer movement. A transfer is leaving a scholarship spot empty at his former school and is using one of the precious 25 signee spots at his new school.

“It’s going to be hard for teams to have 85 when the season starts,” says Pat Chun, Washington State’s athletic director, who sits on the D-I Council.

As it pertains to the 25-signee limit, Bowlsby has a somewhat revolutionary idea that is probably a longshot. To inject more parity in college football, the Big 12 commissioner believes the annual signee limit could vary from school to school based on that program’s past success and failures.

“If you win the Super Bowl, you have a low draft choice. So maybe in the college environment you have fewer than 25 to distribute the talent, so the rich aren’t rich all the time and the poor have a chance to build their programs up,” he says. “It’s time to think differently about how the enterprise is managed.”

There are other longshot ideas for scholarship relief. For example, the SEC has proposed that all athletes who are COVID-shirted should not be counted toward the 85. That could result in more than 100 players on scholarship on a given team for multiple years.

Bowlsby calls the move “not likely,” and most other college administrators feel like the proposal has little momentum because of the finances alone. Sure, SEC teams and others in the Power 5 can afford to fund such a large number of scholarships, but what about the little guys?

“Let’s not reduce future opportunities for people coming into the system because we had to manage through a pandemic,” Sankey says. “It’s going to cost a little money but we ought to be spending that money on student-athlete scholarships.”

ACC athletic directors have recently discussed the SEC’s proposal, examining a way to find relief for what could be a real mess in 2022, says Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich.

When players move up through that COVID-19 pipeline, how are they going to be counted?” he asks. “There is more to be discussed on that.”


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Nearly 600 players sit in portal purgatory, hoping that coaches hold open enough signee slots to add them over the spring and summer. For that to happen, the 130 FBS programs would have to each leave open roughly five of their 25 spots after this week’s signing period. That is unlikely given the number already signed in December’s early signing period.

For example, 18 of the top 26 programs in 247Sports’s team recruiting rankings have signed at least 21 players entering this week.

But coaches do plan to adjust their recruiting approach given the transfer surge. Todd Berry, the executive director of the American Football Coaches Association, says he’s heard from coaches who are planning in the future to dedicate half of their 25-player signee spots for transfers.

That could adversely impact high school and junior college recruiting.

“I think JUCO kids are really going to get impacted,” Chadwell says. “Those are the guys you try to get immediate help from. If you need an immediate impact, now you’re portal hunting.”

Portal hunting comes at a cost. Not only does a transfer punish his own school by leaving an empty scholarship spot, but he’s using a signee spot at his new school despite, many times, not having a full four years of eligibility remaining.

For coaches, the decision is quite simple: Take an unproven player to develop over four or five years or grab an older player who may need less development but might only have one or two years of eligibility.

When you start looking at where we’re headed with the transfer portal, there are two ways of looking at it,” Fleck says. “The first signing day is like the draft. The second part is free agency and that’s the transfer portal. You’ll see less and less people signing 25 high school kids. I can see us being 80% high school kids, because that’s what makes our program our program. We do want players who can play multiple years.”

And then there are the coaches against transfers all together, fearing character, work ethic or talent concerns.

I hate the portal,” says one Group of Five assistant. “Some people say one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. I think it’s B.S. Those guys are leaving for a reason.”

Not everyone feels that way. In fact, Berry is concerned that college football will evolve into a tizzy of free-agent movement—the time-honored history of developing high school players eschewed for the easy route of landing transfers.

“Why would you take a high school player rather than a proven college player?” Berry asks.

Chadwell believes more college coaches have left for the NFL this offseason as a way to escape the coming tidal wave of change (one-time transfer, NIL, etc.) about to crash upon the college game. Coaches are not necessarily building programs anymore, Chadwell says, as much as they’re building year-to-year teams like the NFL.

Barry says Group of Five coaches are worried about Power 5 teams poaching their best players, and Power 5 teams are fearing that their depth will suffer as talented backups leave for starting roles elsewhere. Recruiting a player from a college team before he enters the portal is against NCAA rules, but it’s still rampant now. With transfers eligible immediately and NIL upon the sport, officials expect even more illegal recruitment.

Say it like it is,” says one SEC assistant. “You’re going to be recruiting but recruiting your own team to stay.”

Recruiting change isn’t relegated to the transfer aspect.

The recruiting calendar itself is receiving somewhat of an overhaul, as officials take what they are calling a “holistic” view. They’ve learned lessons from the yearlong dead period during COVID-19. Maybe coaches don’t need to visit prospects so much and spend weeks at a time on the road. Virtual recruiting through Zoom was successful enough at some places that a few coaches claim they know their current signing class better than any they’ve ever signed.

In short, expect more dead periods in future recruiting calendars.

We just can’t turn the calendar back and say, ‘We’re going back to what we were doing in the past,’ ” Radakovich says.

For now, there is the task of lifting a dead period that has stretched from mid-March 2020 and is scheduled to end in mid-April. Officials are deciding on three options, Lyons says: (1) keeping the dead period through July, (2) instituting a Quiet Period, where players can visit campus and coaches can hold on-campus camps, or (3) completely opening recruiting with a Contact Period.

This is all dependent on the virus,” Lyons says.

In the meantime, teams continue portal hunting and players continue portal waiting. As of last week, Arizona, Western Kentucky and Utah State led the nation having each added commitments from 11 players in the portal. WKU dove into the portal to replace players who have left for, yes, the portal. The Hilltoppers currently have a nation-leading 21 players in it.

The average Power 5 program has 8.5 scholarship players in the portal while the average Group of Five squad has 6.3. Those numbers will only rise, not only because of COVID-shirters or the transfer exception rule change. There’s another reason to expect more transfers, experts say. Some members of the latest signing class, because of the pandemic, never took a visit to the campuses of the school with which they signed.

“Some of these kids are going to show up and realize they don’t like it,” says one SEC assistant coach.

And where do they go? Into the portal, of course.

Netherly knows all about that. He spent months in the portal, and while he fielded a small handful of offers, most of them were for him to play defensive back. He wanted to play receiver. Five months after he officially withdrew from LSU, the Tigers won the national championship. Netherly spent that 2019 fall at a Texas junior college while his former teammates got title rings.

He’s back in Houston now, raising his child, working toward that degree and possessing a lingering regret that he’s using to advise young portal hoppers today.

“Looking back, I probably wish I would have stayed at LSU, not just for football but to get my degree,” he says. “A lot of kids, I know they know where they are going before they put their name in the portal, but if not, you’re taking a big risk. You’re gambling on yourself. I know there aren’t 1,500 scholarships out there.”

Editor’s Note: What I haven’t read anything about yet is the ‘recruitment’ of transfer portal players. We know that CFB Head Coaches and staff (and Public Affairs in that school) cannot discuss before LOI Day who they are targeting and who they have commitments from of the HS seniors. What most fans don’t know is that because of this NCAA rule all the recruiting sites on the internet are publishing lists of recruits and commits for each school that they are, in essence, taking a guess on.

Now are HC’s going to be able to convince and recruit players on other teams to enter the portal based on promises made that the school recruiting them will automatically give them a scholarship if the do enter the portal? Who is going to hold the recruiting school’s feet to the fire if they renege after the kid leaves his old team?

This NCAA explanatory article states this “If student-athletes withdraw from the portal, the original school can return them to the roster and restore athletics aid if it chooses. The key words are “if it chooses” meaning the school will forgive the kid for wanting to leave and they will kiss and make up. Good luck with that…

I really don’t think many schools are going to welcome anyone back unless the transferring player was a star in the first place.

I believe this might change CFB in ways we have no idea can happen and it isn’t going to be good for anyone but the biggest of the Power Five schools in the long run.

See These POV articles on recruiting by our Pitt-Cocks Fan Richard:

Recruiting; Part 1

Recruiting; Part 2

How Did He Get Here?

To follow on to the last conversation – here is a questioning look at Pitt basketball today.

Athletic Director Heather Lyke put Pitt in the Capel Trap; Capel gets the boot first, maybe mid-2021-22 season

Einstein once said insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. All though Einstein didn’t know it at the time, he was describing Pitt’s approach to achieving championship sports programs, and, In particular, Pitt’s head basketball coach, Jeff Capel

Capel’s hire demonstrated Pitt’s commitment to diversity. As a fan, I was glad to see Pitt entrusting its men’s hoops program to a black coach.  But I do have to wonder if Lyke made the best possible hire in 2018. There are a number of talented, young black coaches who are producing winning records and making the NCAA Tournament who don’t have the self-inflicted traps Capel seems to put himself in, especially is she is looking around for a replacement..

Capel at VCU

2002-0318-10.643
2003-04    *NCAA23-8.742
2004-05   *NIT19-13.594
2005-0619-10.655

In 2018 Capel already had established a record as a head basketball coach at VCU and Oklahoma. Pitt is his third head coaching gig. Capel’s winning percentage has decreased from a high of .833 at Oklahoma followed by five losing seasons..

Capel at Oklahoma

2006-0716-15.516
2007-08    *NCAA23-12.657
2008-09    *NCAA30-6.833
2009-1013-18.419
20010-1114 18.437         
NCAA appearances2007-082008-09

Capel was 23-12 in 2007-08 and made it to the NCAA 2nd round.  Capel peaked at Oklahoma in 2008-09 with a 30-6 record and an Elite Eight appearance with superstar Blake Griffin dong the heavy lifting.

In 2008-09 Capel slipped to 13-18 despite having Scout and Rivals’ recruiting rankings of #7. Losing at Oklahoma cost Capel, but the way he lost hurt more. In 2009-10 his record beginning in January was 5-13. In 2010-11 his record January through the end of the season was 7-13. He signed high rated recruits but three McDonald’s All-American departed after the 2010-11 season. Capel ended that season facing a deep hole with no highly rated recruits  A total of five players left his program.

By going to Duke as head assistant coach and interim head coach, Capel threw some shade on his  record. He was reborn, at least in the eyes of Lyke, as the highly competent, well-respected Duke assistant head coach, a cache that persuaded her to hire Capel and do a victory lap..

Here are some questions any AD worth their pay would ask before signing off on his hire:

Did Lyke talk to anyone associated with Capel at Oklahoma? Was Heather Lyke aware of Capel’s Oklahoma experience that ended with long losing streaks and players leaving the program?  Which factors at VCU contributed to his success and what was the possibility of creating those at Pitt?

Why can’t Capel build camaraderie and buy-in from players? What is it about playing for Capel that results in teams just giving up with long January – March losing streaks?

So  why do Pitt fans believe everything will be better next season? 

“How I Became a Pitt Fan” Redux

Do you remember a couple of years ago when the regulars on here submitted articles regarding “How I became a Pitt fan”? Here is a follow-up on that by our good friend Gordon…

Pick-Up Games

A couple things today made me want to bring out my soap box, add a little to my bio and express a few more opinions that don’t exactly fit with the current thread. Anyway it is a very slow period for football and basketball so my mind drifted in other directions.

While Pitt football and basketball are minor blips on the overall sporting world, even in Pittsburgh, I want to focus on the importance of athletics in general and my hope that Pitt has finally recognized the value of sports that you probably won’t make a living at. All I can say is what has taken so freakin’ long, and is it really going to happen?

As you may know, I grew up in Penn Hills in the 60’s during the height of the baby boom.  Most of us had one car, one bathroom, one TV with channels you could count on one hand, poor programming and even poorer reception. For you young guys, there were no remote controls and a lot of the time one of the kids had to stand and hold the antennae to get any reception.

So from dusk to dawn we would go to the ball field and play, baseball, basketball, football, wrestling without rules, a little hockey and a lot of other hide and seek kind of games. Soccer hadn’t been heard of unfortunately or we would have played it. Jogging hadn’t been invented yet. We ran for pure joy! Everyone knew everyone’s relative value at each individual sport. All were pick- up games, except for Little League.

Sports were a major part of your identity, playing that is, didn’t do much watching or listening as today since there really only was the Pirates who weren’t any good until 1960.

It was hard to stand out because of the numbers, the age differences and cliques. So entering junior high (seventh grade at the time) it really was a tough time, fitting in, puberty and all that stuff. The fear of being made fun of or getting beat up was real.

I was too skinny for football and not quite talented enough or tall enough for basketball.  In gym class one day the teacher was instructing us on high jumping in the gym. When it was my turn, he moved the mats for the left handers, I jumped, cleared the bar and landed on the hard wood floor.  He laughed as did the whole class, but then told me to go out for the track team. Back then, there were so many kids they had light, middle and heavyweight classes in the field events.

I had found my identity. The next week in my first meet, I placed and my name was announced to the whole school, pretty heady indeed to make the varsity as a freshman. During the next two years I rarely lost. At my fiftieth reunion one guy was telling me what a great high jumper I was so I guess the identity stuck.

Two things triggered me writing this today. The WPIAL medal on the trophy on the article I submitted and the anniversary of the Assassination of Medgar Evers. Let me explain. I have a gold and silver WPIAL medals from the West Penn Relays. They were won with my team mates and good friends John Wilborn and Larry Johnson. Sports gave me the opportunity to work out, hang out and have friendships with black kids. Something I will always be grateful for.   

John went on to high jump for Pitt, I didn’t because a guy named Bryant Salter was jumping and was near world class before Fosbury invented his flip. Salter also went on to play for the Redskins and was one of the few Pitt guys to distinguish himself in that era.

I did set the intramural high jump record at Pitt and have been told I still hold it after almost 50 years. As long as they don’t reinstate the games it is mine.

I was told Larry Johnson passed a while back, he was one of the finest guys I’ve ever met.  I mentioned Medgar Evers, because I and most of my white peers had no idea of how blacks were treated in our society. Pittsburgh wasn’t Alabama or Mississippi, so until Martin Luther King was killed we had no idea.

In any case, the points I wanted to make were that sports give kids a chance to find themselves; they also give us a chance to get to know people that we might not get to know. They teach us how to work as a team and how to compete, as well as the importance of hard work.  It also feels good to be good at something.

I also found gymnastics in High School and worked my way into being pretty good. I lettered at Pitt and it hurt when they shut down the Men’s Gymnastics program. Gymnastics is one of the purest forms of athletics that exists.

It is a shame that Pitt has never valued Athletics for Athletics sake. My roommate freshman year was on the Golf team, another sport that is no more.

I have always believed that strong, varied, athletic departments are what lead to great football and basketball teams and not the reverse.  A culture that doesn’t value all sports creates an apathetic fan base.

Since kids no longer grow up playing sports unless their parents take them to organized activities, it will be harder to grow a fan base that identify with athletes. 

It is easy to bash our coaches, but they are just the symptoms and not the root of the long standing malaise that is Pitt Sports.

One other quick aside, sports were important to me for fitness. Playing games kept us fit. Work outs were to make us better at the games we played.  While I see the value in weight lifting, Marathon running, Pilates and Yoga, I am bored silly on the elliptical and long for the days when I could play tennis, softball or volleyball. At least I still have golf, for how long is anyone’s guess.

If anyone else wants to write a follow up, maybe to update how you view, or feel about, Pitt athletics or maybe additional stuff about growing up – whatever, please do so.

Submit them to me at rkohberger@gmail.com and good things will happen…maybe.

Pitt Coaching Crystal Ball

Submitted by Mark Kerestan (PittPT)

In the last thread (or a recent thread depending on when it might be published), NotRocketScience posed the question “who will be fired first, Pat Narduzzi or Jeff Capel”? That question was very similar to  a question I had planned to submit as a topic for a discussion thread. It would appear that the coming year will be a crucial year for both Pitt Football and Men’s Basketball, and their respective Head Coaches, Pat Narduzzi and Jeff Capel.

Given what we know right now before any additional recruits are signed or games are played, will both coaches still be with Pitt by this time in March 2022? If not, who stays and who goes? In answering , you may answer in terms of either what you expect to happen or what you would like to see or both.

Since I posed the question I will kick things off with my responses. 

What I expect to happen…With Kenny Pickett coming back and the entire offense having an additional year to gel, as well as an easier OOC schedule, I fully expect Pitt football to get to eight wins which should secure Pat Narduzzi’s job for the immediate future.

Conversely unless he can bring in some  impactful transfers to improve the team for next year, as well as retain Justin Champagnie for another season, it would appear to be another rough year for Pitt Basketball and Jeff Capel. As such my prediction would be Narduzzi continues on with football, Jeff Capel will be replaced. 

What do I want to happen…? If Pitt’s football season is as I expect it to be, I am fine with Narduzzi continuing to run the football program. In fact for every win over eight I will accept a down year in the four to five win range. I do hope that this season is an opportunity for Kenny Pickett and OC Mark Whipple to go out together, with a new OC with new offensive ideas to come in 2022, but that is a topic for another discussion.

In basketball, I really like Jeff Capel personally and love to hear his interviews. As such, I am rooting for him, against all odds, to find the magic formula (or bagman) to lead Pitt to a significantly improved conference record next year and a post season tourney appearance, which should result in him also retaining his coaching position moving forward. 

   What do you all think? Cue The Clash Ike, who should stay or should go?

(Editors note)  Here is the link to a Post-Gazette North Shore Drive podcast that talks about Pitt football, most notably QB Kenny Pickett. It was done yesterday on 3/23/21.

https://newsinteractive.post-gazette.com/the-north-shore-drive-sports-podcast/

How Pitt Blew Up the Penn State Rivalry

An interesting take on the death of Pitt’s biggest game from our reader James DeLeon

I can hear the gnashing to teeth and catcalls that I’m a cloistered Nitter fan using whatever sneaky opportunity I can to bash Pitt. Not true. If it were true, I wouldn’t be suffering from a state of sports depression since the end of the 2016 football season. No, I bleed blue and gold just like my father, a 1942 Pitt Medical School graduate who immediately set off for the Western front to aid injured allied troops battling evil Germany.

Most of you know the story: Pitt opted to join the Big East Conference for basketball in 1982. Pitt was riding high in 1982.  Despite the beating administered by Penn State in 1981 that deprived Pitt of its second national championship in five years, Pitt beat Georgia in the Sugar Bowl, finished #4 in the AP poll, and began ’82 season ranked #1.

Penn State was not included in the Big East invite. In retrospect, this detail should have been a huge red flag for Pitt. But it wasn’t. Penn State’s application failed by one vote. Did Pitt push hard for its brother to join the Big East? And what was it about then Penn State Head Coach Joe Paterno’s all independent East Coast Conference that turned Pitt off? Did Pitt engage Paterno in negotiations to make the terms, described as lopsided in the Nitters favor, more equal?

From 1982 – 1992 Pitt enjoyed its Big East basketball status while Penn State played in the Eastern 8 Conference. A decade’s worth of time Pitt could have used to promote its in-state foe to an upgraded hoops conference. If you’re  in the camp believing Pitt had no obligation/shouldn’t even have tried, then you are rooting for the dissolution of the relationship.

Before the Sun Bowl (was the John Hancock Bowl) in ’89 Pitt fired Mike Gottfried and hired Paul Hackett, beginning a backward slide until Walt Harris resurrected Pitt’s fortunes with his miracle 1997 season with victories over Miami and West Virginia.

In 1990 Penn State announced its partnership with the Big Ten and announced Pitt would not longer be on the schedule after the 1992 season.  The 1991 game at Pitt Stadium was going to be the Lions last visit in the series. It wasn’t a sellout.  Penn State was ranked #6 and Pitt needed a win to snag a bowl invite. Penn State won, 32-20.

Big Ten revenues gave Penn State a huge advantage over Pitt. Here the distance between the two programs grew wider. Paterno believed by playing at Pitt he was forcing Penn State fans to buy Pitt season tickets or a combination of tickets for Pitt home games. This trick was pulled by Pitt AD Steve Pederson in 2000 and after Paterno died then AD Scott Barnes in 2016. It made no financial sense to maintain a home-away rivalry. Panther fans only filled stadiums when Penn State, West Virginia, and Notre Dame came to town. 

There are many reasons to criticize Steve Pederson but he was able to secure eight more Penn State contest, along with engaging Mike Tranghese  to convince Notre Dame to continue the rivalry through the Harris, Dave Wannstedt, and Paul Chryst tenures. Scott Barnes tried t do the same and failed. Barnes did not beg. Current AD Heather Lyke tried, begged, issued a fake press release that the rivalry was going to extended, and failed miserably. Lyke brought shame to Pitt in her efforts, as if we were beggars wanting our fair share outside the palace gates.

I don’t blame Penn State for ending a lopsided rivalry against us. Recent records tell the story: Harris was 1 for 3, as was Current Head Coach Pat Narduzzi (1 for 3).  When Pitt had the opportunity to sign up Penn State in a 2-for-1 set up, we should have taken the deal. Pitt’s finances from football revenue would certainly be better with rotating home games against West Virginia, Notre Dame, and Penn State. 

I believe our resident expert Tex would agree with me on this one. What better antidote to Penn State’s arrogance than to beat them regularly in front of their home crowd??   

P/S: The links are Reed’s because he was bored and doing that is fun…

Football Points to Ponder

This was sent to me by a long (I mean long) time Pitt fan who is very knowledgeable of the inner-working of the university… my comments under his are in italics.

A few personal thoughts on Pitt football:

1.  While I appreciate Pickett, his return delays development of the other QBs.  Some will transfer if they genuinely regret not getting any playing time.  Pitt must always think ahead not just live in a desperate present.  

2. Yes, Pickett and Whipple understand each other but how is that helping team development? 

3. Who has been thrilled with Pitt’s offense the past two years? Did anyone really think or feel confident that Pitt’s offense could strike quickly or prevent a loss? I don’t believe so!  Pitt has hoped for the defense to save games. 

4. How creative has the offense been? Game planning or innovative play calling has been subpar.  I am not saying it is due to talent or players willingness.  Perhaps the OC hasn’t been that good .

5. Pitt’s OL has had some issues with recruitment and development but it seems improvements are happening. It has been recognized that more depth is needed plus Borbs seems to be improving the technique as comfort sets.  

6. Pitt seemingly has decent talent at WR plus some speed. Yes, too many balls have been dropped but the question gets to be were the QB and receivers on the same page. It really looked as though the receivers frequently ran bad routes.  

7. RB’s are plentiful at Pitt. This used to be a position of good quality and performance. Not so lately, why?  Bad OL blocking? Too much hesitation? Play calling? If the opposition can stack the box, there isn’t much running room!  

8. Pitt has had the benefit of better than average place kicking for all of PN’s years. I can’t blame kids for missing a kick now and then having had a son who played WR and PK, P at a top level team.  There’s a lot more moving parts that need to mesh together for success.  It has been nice that Pitt has had that viable capability.   Credit to the long snappers too!

9. Slower than many hoped, it seems as though PN has been improving in hiring better coaches.  He came from decades of defensive thinking and slowly has been learning his needs on offense.  The key is having younger coaches who relate well, open to innovation, and recruit well. The exception would be a coach who has such credentials that respect by players and families enable success. 

10. Pitt has moved away slowly from recruiting kids who largely were at best MAC level targets.  

In summation, Narduzzi is improving yearly by slowly absorbing what needs to be done offensively.  His hirings, recruiting, and planning are improving.  Yes, some coaches do not appear to be the best at their responsibilities but that is something PN needs to address.  I suspect he will. 

Above all, PN does not lie or mislead his players and their families.  There is a culture of trust among the players and staff at Pitt.  Key to all of this is a strong likemindedness between the program and administration.  Academics are important recruiting tools as is the wonderful program under Penny Semania that helps players learn life skills.  

Many may want a perennial top ten program.  Who wouldn’t? But, at what cost to the reputation of a fine university? No, I would not support a program that cheats, lies, and has poor development of young people assigned to its care.  

H2P.  

Again – I agree with a lot of this but it was written by a long-time reader.



Dan72’s Take on the Final Four

March Madness 2021 – Dan 72 selections and comments

This might be a NCAA Tourney better bracket to look at.

Since Pitt is again not in the NCAA’s I thought it appropriate to submit my bracket (I only do one each year) and open discussion on the POV. I don’t have nearly the passion this year as I have in years past but since I’ve been in the top 2% several recent years, I thought I’d share. I’m usually very good or very bad…not much in the middle. So, I’m open for laughter (at my picks), discussion and comments. It is all about matchups.

My Final Four

* I have the University of ‘No Classes’ UNC #8 going a long way – even to the Final Two.

* I have Bama #2 and Illinois #1 in the next two with Illinois losing to UNC in the Final Four

* I have Gonzaga winning it all beating UNC 89-85; not sexy but the best team

My upsets and Comments:

* Not an upset but everyone has Gauchos UCSB #12 beating #5 Creighton. Stay with Creighton. They are the better team and conference.

* I have the Shockers of Wichita State #11 beating Drake and taking out USC #6…Pitt has felt their NCAA wrath several times.

* I have lighting quick VCU #10 beating athletic Oregon #7

* I do have Georgetown #12 over Colorado #5

* I have Michigan State #11 – beating BYU and playing well again at years end.

* I have #10 Maryland crushing #7 UConn

* I have UNC #8 over a bad Wisconsin #9 team, then beating a struggling Baylor team and then beating Nova #5 and squeaking by Ohio State to get to the Final Four and yes, I could get crushed any of these four rounds

* I have VA Tech #10 beating a tough Florida #7 team.

* I have Loyola Chicago always tough opening round #8 beating G Tech #9

* I have the ‘Cuse beating a high scoring San Diego team with late momentum and their magic 2-3 zone.

* I have Rutgers beating Clemson in a #7- #10 matchup

* Last but not least I have WVA going to the Final Eight and making a big run

So, discuss and laugh at my folly but please don’t bet any of these games based on my opinion.