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…

167 thoughts on “How Pitt Blew Up the Penn State Rivalry

  1. Great article, James. I remember those days as a period when Joepa was particularly snarky, and undercut Pitt at every turn. An all sport Eastern Athletic Conference made sense but Pedo liked to beat up on small schools like Ohio and Holy Cross. It cost them a national championship. This hatred of Pitt is ingrained in Pedo culture as we have seen with scheduling Pitt in recent years

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting take.
    Certainly, Pitt did no favors to athletics with its handling of entrance requirements during the Gottfried/Hackett era.
    But as for taking a 2-for-1 deal with the Nits, I’d serve drinks and empty ashtrays at Smiley’s house before I ever supported that.
    H2P.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I for one am not upset at all that we do not play Penn State on a yearly basis. Those days are long past.

    The best opportunity for Pitt and Penn State to be in the same conference would have been if the ACC had asked both to join in the 1980s. The ACC commissioner at the time said if he had known Penn State was interested in joining a conference, he would have been at their door step.

    Joe Paterno wanted to join the Big Ten so that is where they went. The more I learn about how Paterno kept quiet about Sandusky all those years, the more angry I become at him and his institution.

    I grew up on the Pitt/Penn State rivalry and when it came time to go to college it came down to those two schools. I am glad I chose Pitt! West Virginia is probably our greatest rival in my eyes. I am glad they are coming back on the schedule. Hopefully Pitt will keep scheduling them in the future and not pull a “PSU” on them.

    Penn State only played us this last four years series due to the blight on their program. Now that they are trying to have history rewritten to lessen the crimes of their “beloved” JoePa and his associates, they no longer need Pitt.

    Good riddance to them I say!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It was Pitt and the farmers too for me. But after filing the Pitt application and finding the the Psucks application to be about 18 pages .. (can you believe that in 1968?) I procrastinated for a couple weeks until Pitt said yes.

      On another note about JoPa I always said he was the kind of guy you wouldn’t let your sister marry. I was not all that fond of my sister!

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  4. What it boils down to is: Pitt made it’s own bed. And is forced to sleep in it.

    They got extremely fortunate that BC blew up Uconn’s entry in the ACC.

    Or we would be Uconn….a football team without a conference and without substantial conference money.

    I hear Uconn even discussed dropping out of FCS football altogether. The Academic bores at Pitt
    would have loved that.

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  5. Of course most old and maybe young PITT people are upset not playing Penn State annually. The game was one of the Country’s great rivalries; such as Alabama/Auburn, Texas/Okla, UCLA/USC, Mich/Ohio State and Florida/Florida State. Unfortunately PITT just can’t complete with Penn State on a regular basis.

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  6. What if penn state did get invited to the big east?

    Well, I think the big ten or ACC would have entually called them. An eastern conference was a good idea but Joe wanted it on his terms. It would have just been a short lived league since other established and well run conferences would put the squeeze on and poach schools.

    Penn state is a good fit for the big ten. I think Pitt also would fit nicely. Whose to say you can’t have two teams from the same state. Look at Indiana and Purdue. Illinois and northwestern. I do wonder if those nasty Nitters would block pitt if it ever came to be.

    But Pitts fortunes are tied to a southern conference until the conference landscape changes again.

    I really don’t miss playing penn state. They have no rivals now. At least pitt still has cuse and Notre Dame. And the Hoopies are back on the schedule.

    I probably would have taken a 2-1. But that third game would be at a neutral site in philly. It would be 80/20 niwits to panther fans anyway. Penn state would get 80 percent of the revenues then.

    That’s what Barnes and heather should have proposed.

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  7. No way Pitt should ever take a 2-1 deal. Neutral field for a third game, sure. That is a 1-1-1 deal, lol.
    I am over the lost rivalry games. The conferences and schools don’t care about it. They are focussed on money and self preservation, not the fan. Sort of like a politician only concerned about reelection, not doing what is right for the voters.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Thanks, James. Good article. The article made me think back to my undergraduate days in Ohio. At that time I rooted for Pitt, PSU and WVU, because I couldn’t stand “The” OSU, beloved of my fraternity brothers. Only when I got to Pitt for a graduate degree did I learn to loathe WVU for thinking it was equal to Pitt and detest PSU for thinking it better than Pitt. Today, each would be a good FB and BB rival for Pitt to have and I want to beat them any time we can play them. However, PSU has moved Pitt off its radar as James says and I fear WVU would beat Pitt both in FB and BB. Somehow WVU maintains their FB and BB programs, while Pitt seems incapable, sorry to be so negative. So, in the future, I think I will have some bitter pills to swallow as WVU comes back on the schedule. Yuck!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I am not sure how Bob Huggins does it at such a destination school like the West Vrgina. I mean, 14 years and 10 March Madness qualifiers and the year he didn’t make it, they finished ranked # 24 (first covid year – no ncaa dance), so really 11 of 14. Multiple sweet 16’s and elite 8’s. This is where everyone starts saying they cheat, and bagmen, and scandal, etc. Funny thing is that their academic reputation is also improving. Not like Alabama’s where you need a 4.0 to get in now, but improving.

    Same deal with football. You have such a beautiful morganhole campus, 20 times the things to do than at Pitt (ha), and this little school outperforms us, why? Because they want to be great, they built a brand, they do have an awesome president, and they treat every fan as if they are the most important, and of course, because they are a pistol and rifle school. LOL.

    Pitt Sports, excusing mediocrity and convincing what’s left of their fanbase that we do it right, for 35 years. Enough with this high faloootin “we would never compromise our academic standing crap”. UNC seems to be doing just fine with their academic reputation despite “No classes, classes”. Miami, same. Florida St, same. Syracuse scandal, no problem. Same result at least in basketball. Pitt is afraid of its own shadow and have convinced its alumni to think the same way. Sorry, but that’s how I see it from down on the farm.

    I would not play them in either sport. Too much downside. Their new football coach will do more with less and will get more 4’s than ours by yer 4. Good job James. Thanks for the effort!

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  10. I would never play PSU in anything again.
    I would add WVU in all sports and don’t give me it adds no benefit to Pitt. Who Cares!
    What have we achieved not playing them? zero
    If you cant win a game or a recruiting battle with WVU then improve!
    The hoopies hate and I mean hate Pitt.
    I like that about them .
    It makes the whole thing a lot more fun.
    BTW
    The small Catholic schools in the BE blocked PSU. It would have been better if both schools went, but my money was even if PSU got in the would have split to B10 and f cked PITT in the end.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Kman – you should have stopped at …..what have we achieved. We have achieved zero in football and basketball. None of it is because we don’t play WVU. We are awful without them and we are awful with them on the schedule. Which part of awful did you miss in the last 35 years? Pitt won’t get better because they don’t know how to get better.

      My opinion is leave them out. Why rub our awfulness in our own face? Self-inflicted. Pitt needs to rebuild athletics, period. WVU is not afraid of Pitt at all, hence the reason they try to schedule us in anything. Why open up the gates? Heck, Capel is afraid to play Duquesne!! Who would have ever thought we would read that, ever!

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  11. You alums saying you’d never go for the 2 for one Penn State deal miss the point! If Pitt had agreed to that……the next day Joepa would be asking 3 for one! Et.cet. He just wasn’t going to play Pitt. He actually said “some of my best friends are Pitt grads!”

    Maybe he didn’t want to play Pitt because we were so close geographically that we might have exposed the Sandusky pedophilia. I remember when he was ushered out in the late nineties many of s questioning it.

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  12. I would gladly give up 2 out of 10 wins vs PSU for all the great BBall games in the Big East, not even close.

    Fact is after the early 80’s Pitt no longer could compete with the money generated by PSU Football and everyone knew it. That was the start of where we are today with the haves and have nots.

    This years dance shows that anyone can have a good year in basketball, while only the fortunate (derived from fortune) few have any chance in football.

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  13. I met Huggy Bear when he was at Cincy. My dad played there (pre-oscar) and they brought back old-timers and recognized them and thanked them for building a brand. Great weekend. Fans went crazy for the oldtimers. A great thing for a recruiting weekend if your college loves and supports its teams. Paints a picture for a future recruit.

    Huggy was gracious with his time and always taught his players by his actions to respect the game by respecting the players that came before them. Genuine good dude. Saw him on the tube yesterday and he just doesn’t look healthy. He should have read the POV before playing Syracuse like our coach seemed to, right Dan? I think we diagrammed that out pretty good.

    Must admit, this is the first time I didn’t fill out a bracket since that started in late 70’s. I watched so few games this year that I just didn’t want to do it. So great to see the little religious schools play fundamental basketball and beat the big programs. We saw the preview of the ncaa tourney when st. francis blew out our team.

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  14. Good article James. At one time I yearned for the return of the PITT-PSU game but no longer. Would love to see the ACC expand to include schools like Cincinnati, WVU, Coastal Carolina or East Carolina. Would make for some fun football to watch.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Good article. Never cared for the ACC especially after MD constantly complained about north prejudice. But ACC will catch up to B10 and B12 in revenue. We are not a big state school so ACC better fit and we do have a better chance to win sometimes in FB. Hope ACC tells ND in or out.

    PSU stuck in B10 with having to play bigger schools and very tough road to FB championships. WVU has a huge frequent flyer account. We beat Cuse twice this year and WVU fans know it.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. ACC at least gives PITT fans some nice road trips…Pittsburgh is also a great city for our opponents to visit,,,PITT and its fans needs to market the “Burgh experience” in an effort to get buts in seats.

    QUeSTION for James and TEX: Do you think an Eastern FB conference could be viable if you could freely re-shuffle the deck ?

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    1. Yes

      And it might come to that in 2027

      All tv eyes will be on the 30-40 school semi pro football league

      So that contract might net schools $100 million per year. And I’m assuming pitt won’t be extended an invite or they will decline anyway.

      But schools like Pitt could probably still generate at least $20 million per year with their own network including streaming. Maybe even ESPN is interested.

      Now that may force pitt to cut some secondary sports but then again pitt won’t be paying $4 million to a coach. And pitt could always do a better job marketing the team and soliciting donations.

      The eastern conference would include schools like BC, Syracuse, Rutgers, Maryland, pitt, Cincinnati, Virginia, West Virginia, Navy, and one other. Maybe temple.

      You’ve got some huge tv markets and some sizable fanbases.

      Pitt and other schools would be hard pressed to recruit any 4 or 5 stars but they don’t get many as is.

      The new league would have strict transfer rules, compensation for players ‘on loan’ and the concept of relegation after a certain time period of evaluation.

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        1. Good points and well made. Better to be proactive than reactive. The big east never thought of themselves as a football conference. But the ACC did and it’s got national champions now with clemson and Florida state. And a nice tv contract.

          But Pitt would rather make a 20 year plan for facilities as opposed to a more realistic and attainable 5 year plan on what to do once conference realignment occurs again or scenario plan options on what to do when the Heinz lease expires if the Steelers decide to do x, y and z.

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  17. It’s Pitt’s fault when they de-emphasized athletics in the early 80’s. Everything else is collateral damage.

    I wrote a comment on the Blather years ago about this …

    When Pitt goes all in on football, they’re a powerhouse (Option-era/70’s-early 80’s) . When we go all out (40’s-50’s-60’s and the 90’s) we’re bottom feeders and when we go half-in (late 80’s, 00’s-10’s) we’re middle of the pack.

    If Pitt invested fully, our entire athletic department would be elite and fairly quickly. That is not Pitt’s mission, however, and I don’t see it becoming Pitt’s mission anytime soon. Especially, with the changing dynamic of college athletics. In the next decade a lot will be changing and don’t be surprised if Pitt doesn’t feel the investment is going to be worth it to compete at the level necessary to be included.

    The Power 5 will split soon and it won’t take everyone with them. It will probably become a league of 30-40 schools, much like professional leagues, and then everyone else playing a lower tier of football. To be in those 30-40 schools, the membership schools are going to have to show a commitment to athletics with lots and lots of money.

    I doubt Pitt pays to play … we joke about being a soccer school or volleyball school … but we’re really a Medical School.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. TRUE

      either way, PLAY WVU or continue to pretend or hide shortcomings
      anyone suggesting otherwise shouldn’t even hope for better

      tell me, does anyone thing WVU isn’t not just equal to Pitt but far better in basketball for several years and equal in many years in football?

      the rest of the sports DO NOT MATTER!

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        1. not far better imo and yes, we will see this year
          and I’m glad for that

          all the bs about not playing them and essentially elevating their status and helping their recruiting,,,,
          f’n compete with them, beat them, OR THEY ARE SUPERIOR to Pitt!
          for many years now THEY HAVE BEEN AND ARE, who’s kidding who?

          any AD worth anything should FORCE this in football and of course force BB into playing Duquesne and RM if necessary

          above ^^^”….does anyone thinK WVU isn’t…”

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  18. If you were Pitt and looking at the athletic landscape, would you do anything now, or wait for the next ACC TV deal? Also, the NCAA is in a state of transition, so why make a mistake now when the playing rules may change? These are all good reasons for staying with the status quo until this all shakes out. both FB and BB coaches are on long term contracts, so Pitt will ride it out until some clarity emerges.

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    1. And the Narduzzi. Pitt extends coaches for this word called stability. But all that gets us fans are mediocre results and a albatross of a buyout which no sane booster is going to pay. Why? Because they aren’t interested in bailing out incompetent leaders and they’ll have little to no say in the next coach pick anyway.

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  19. Another BigJoke team bites the dust. This time #2 seed Iowa gets trashed by unranked Oregon.

    With all these BigJoke teams going down, and 4 of them being ranked by the media clowns in the Top 10 all year and as many as 8 or 9 of the in the Top 25. Goes to show along with other things….how they can manipulate reality.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Tex, your 3 years and out plan for coaches doesn’t work. First of all, no one good would take the job since 5 years is needed to show a new coach sufficient commitment. Second, it takes longer to develop a recruiting class, and even a top class would have some gaps and errors with minimal depth. So don’t permit any injuries or transfers to occur. Third, any college that could provide everything needed to win big in three years, including lots of bag money, still couldn’t guarantee any coach, even a virtual coach, could succeed. This is not realistic.

    Your 30-40 school semi-pro football league would take the place of an NFL minor league system. Why? So that Michigan won’t lose to Appalachian State? Why not just let the NFL use some of that $1.7 billion they are soon getting for TV rights to pay for a minor league and leave college ball to the college kids? Instead of paying some WR $25 million a year, that cash should go into funding a minor league system to develop players who think they are NFL material.

    The point is you can’t even BUY a championship in 3 years. You must be living in some cocoon in Texas, where even your Horns with all their money don’t occasionally suck. Your coaching change ideas make no sense. None of the coaches on your list could pull it off.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You know within the first two or three years whether you have a good coach or not. You see progress each year.

      I see regression with Capel. I see regression with Narduzzi or flat line at best. And he’s had six years. And we are to give him another four years to prove what?

      Give a coach a 4 year contract. Option for year 5. I’d also Front load heavily the buyout.

      I would not rely on search firms. I’d hire a PI to vett. I’d consult with experts. Like those who have coached the game. And those who have played for Pitt.

      Again, I don’t understand these ill advised extensions. These are just bad contracts that Pitt can’t get out of. Pitt must have invented the time share.

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      1. The energy level of a program is never higher than when a new coach comes in. The chance to turn things around is never higher than at that time as well.

        And if the culture isn’t changed when that energy level is way up… to a winning culture…it most likely
        never will be changed.

        And that goes for businesses as well When the new guy comes in as Regional Mgr or whatever,
        the energy level is high and the team is willing to listen to make things better. After a few years
        if nothing materializes in a substantial matter, as to increased revenues or production, another change is usually needed.

        High Energy level which amounted to a sea change at Pitt is seen with the Major’s hire in 1972 and Howland hire in 1999. And to a lesser extent with the Harris hire.

        And accordingly those were the biggest turnarounds in Pitt football and Pitt basketball.

        Both Narduzzi’s time and Capel’s time appear to have come and gone. Nobody is really excited anymore, the energy level of both programs has leveled off. Mediocrity or worse has set in like gangrene.

        Is it time to amputate ?

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        1. There’s no energy or excitement with either program right now.

          Football has a boring offense with no big time marketable players. To go with the standard season blowout and at least two wearings of Appalachian coal uniforms. Locking the gates doesn’t help.

          Basketball at least has champ as a possible ACC player of the year assuming he comes back. Otherwise basketball has nothing but dumpster fire memes.

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          1. Yes that’s what my last paragraph implied.

            Champ if he’s smart, he will be gone. He’s already had a sampling of the knee injury,
            If he injures it again and it’s more serious, that could kill any NBA hopes. Plus
            with what’s coming back, what’s not recruited and Pitt being Pitt and Capel being Capel, chances
            are he won’t duplicate the current season.

            Duke & N. Carolina aren’t going to be trash every or most many seasons. And the ACC won’t be down
            like it was to this level, most likely again.

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  21. Oregon Fighting Ducks hang 95 on #2 seed Iowa. Quite proud of my Ducks (my graduate school)!

    Dana Altman can flat out coach. And talk about stability — he’s been at Oregon 10 years, a final four of few years ago. What you get when you hire a head coach to be your head coach.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. During the course of the year 10 of the 14 BigJoke teams were ranked in the Top 25.

    Even scubs like Minnesota(6-14) (who fired their coach) was ranked for 5 weeks and even Northwestern(6-13 & 9-15)

    The media clowns had a field day with this, since most of the season was conf games only. So you just
    keep them all ranked or on the cusp and when they beat each other, nobody drops much in their
    phony weekly rankings. They do this for B1G football as well.

    How many hours did these TV media phonys spend telling us how great the B1G was this year, because
    look how many ranked teams they have.

    Now 3 of the 4 who were in the Top 10 are gone before even the 2nd weekend of the Dance.
    7 of the 9 B1G teams who got invites didn’t even make it the 2nd weekend. With 2 teams
    of the 9 yet to play today.

    Disgusting !

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  23. Love the post, James. Thanks and well thought out.

    As I recall it, the sequence of events was something like this:

    1) Paterno, while negotiating 2 and 1 deal with everyone in the east, applied for membership in the Big East.
    2) Penn State was turned down and then Pitt was added. Some speculate that JoePa was pissed at Pitt for not supporting the BE application, but I believe he disliked Pitt for sundry other reasons.
    3) Rejected, Penn State approached Syracuse, BC and Pitt a final time. All three said no – none cold see that football was the LT key to financial soundness.
    4) Penn State called on the Big Ten for membership and while the membership schools were a bit meh on them joining, Jim Delaney could see the TV advantage of having an eastern shool.

    Had Penn State joined the BE, I still think there might have been a fracture between BB and FB schools. But with VT, Miami, WVU, Rutgers, Pitt, Penn State, Louisville, BC (who mght have been most uneasy), That could haveturned into quite a strong TV package and Pitt may not be in the ACC today had that happened.

    If it had played out that way I would have been quite happy.

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    1. I think you have it about right, JoeL. I also think that there was bad blood between Pedo and some other schools like BC and WVU, who did not like the higher than mighty attitude of JoePa. This didn’t get as much press. So there may have been other schools that opposed having Penn State in the Big East.

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      1. WVU wasn’t in the BigEast then, they were only invited long after Pitt in 1991 and then ONLY for football when BIgEast football launched in 1991. WVu didn’t get into the BIgEast for Basketball until 1995.

        BC was a charter member of the BigEast since 1979. Of the original 7 BigEast members only 2 played
        D1 football. BC & Cuse. BigEast was a Basketball ONLY conf until 1991.

        So when that vote to accept Pedo State was taken in the early 1980’s. The Basketball only schools
        held sway and control. Those being Providence, G-Town, Seton Hall, St. John’s & Uconn.

        So the vote went, BC, Cuse & Uconn wanted to invite Pedo’s. The 4 above didn’t and Dave Gavitt
        of Providence was the BigEast commissioner at the time.

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  24. Sorry to change the subject matter here guys, But it is March Madness,

    Pitt’s foibles are always with us and can be and are discussed thruout the year.

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  25. Discussing what happened to Pitt and Pedo State and the events from 40 years ago, is like addressing the
    events leading up to WW1 107 years ago.

    Both are ancient history. Hey I love history btw, before anyone calls me a history hater. lol

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Back to basketball, it is really not surprising that there are so many upsets in the tournament this year. With COVID and all of the disruptions, teams that could concentrate, prepare and play through it may have an advantage.

    I also don’t think that some of these teams respected the lower conference participants. Teams like Oral Roberts beating both OSU and Florida will remember this tournament for a lifetime. Also, as we saw with the MSU coach/player scrum, some of these privileged, spoiled players are hard to coach. And even a buttoned down program like UVA can lose to a weaker team if they are not prepared to play.

    Liked by 2 people

  27. NCAA update….fundamental teams beating street ball teams game in game out. Any of you that stayed up late saw an Oklahoma State team filled with X-men! Every player just got the ball and drove the basket 1 on 2…1 on 3 etc. Oregon St. Just stood back with tall inside players and swatted the ball away. Not a lot of upsets if you know the Big Ten utterly sucks every year in NCAAs and ACC not much better. Michigan going down hard to LSU tonight!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. That same thing happens in ice hockey. Teams with players committed to their system do better than those that don’t. Geting superstars to suborindate their individual desires to the overall team….a tough challenge for coaches.

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  28. As an aside, after the Ohio upset, Charles Barkley said that college basketball is filled with tons of good guards everywhere. Maybe someone should let Capel know..

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    1. Well what was funny, watching the Pitt games, the broadcasters mainly praised X-man. I don’t remember
      them EVER or not much saying that he was playing Out of Control, etc.

      Especially that one broadcast team we had a lot with the horrid color announcer that just rambled on and on about nothing that was going on in the game.

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  29. NCAA proved that all you need for success is two great guards that can shoot and handle the ball, a 6’10 – 7’2 dominant center that can score and play D, and good fundamental coaching. The rest can be walk ons!

    I better see some A Plus recruiting from Capel and his Band of Head Coaches! So far…..O

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Other than Hughley….Capel recruits are what I call ‘tweeners’. They are all between 6’4 and 6’6″.

      None of them can shoot that effectively, dribble drive that effectively and they all play the same 2 positions. The 2 and the 3.

      Here is a list:
      Toney 6’5″
      Champagnie 6’6″ (probably the only exception to the above stmt)
      Drumghoul 6’4″
      Horton 6’4″
      Sibande 6’4″
      McGowens 6’4″
      Murphy 6’3″ (close enough)
      Odukale 6’5″
      Jeffress 6’7″ (close enough)

      So 9 of the 12 he’s brought in are these types. Tweeners.

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      1. Yes he did bring in some others (Amadasun & Collier) taller like Hughley. Although they are either
        long term ‘projects’ or long term 12th men never will be’s. So at this point not even worth mentioning.

        X-man fit no category. Except his own. Wasn’t a PG(although he played there), wasn’t a 2 (couldn’t shoot well enough from the outside with that push shot).

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  30. I think that Capel was sicker than most people thought when he had COVID, and it occurred at the worst possible time recruiting wise. He may have lost some recruits during that period. Just wondering…

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    1. The head coach closes the deal in recruiting. The assistant coaches establish the relationships with recruits, so Covid or not, something is very wrong Here!

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      1. Right….plus these HC’s and asst coaches are all staying in contact with prospects thru twitter and video conferencing platforms that are available. Almost on a daily basis.

        Like

  31. OT – (#15 baseball) Pitt’s brief stint alone atop the ACC Coastal Division has been interrupted. After dropping Monday’s contest to UVA, the Panthers are now tied with Georgia Tech and North Carolina for first place in the division. – per PSN

    Like

  32. Those of you just finishing watching LSU Michigan saw another Xman exhibition put on late by LSU. LSU played very well and played team basketball until 9 minutes to go in the game. Then LSUs star guards started playing street ball driving 1-2. And 1 on 3. And Michigan just sat back and swatted balls away. When guards drive out of control, there is never a big man around to help rebound because they are clearing out of the paint for driving room. Lsu had no rebounds the last 9 minutes. dLSU just gave the game away!

    Juan Howard has done a hell of a job teaching Michigan, missing their leading scorer, fundamentals.

    Hail to the Victors!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Jalen rose was right. And jalen knows ball. You could tell right away he had the right stuff. With the good coaches you just do.

      I’m placing 5-1 odds that knight becomes next Pitt head coach.

      Liked by 1 person

  33. I watched FSU play earlier in the season (missed the Pitt game) and they were no way as good as they are tonight. This team has gotten better over the season. Wish I could say the same of Pitt.

    Like

  34. Another Jokester got thumped this evening. Maryland got thoroughly trashed by Alabama.

    So of the 9 BigJokersters,……only 1 remains.

    Like

  35. Big10-15 know how to play the PR game. They are all instructed to vote their teams into the coaches poll in football and basketball. Each sport schedules easy up front in order to get the most teams recognition early and the so-called pundits begin to talk about how great the league is. Meanwhile, it is a yearly scam.

    Like

    1. Exactly Arnold.

      Big 12 isn’t far behind the BigJoke. 6 of their 7 invited teams are GONE. After the absolute
      thumping of 3 seed Kansas tonite by USC. 85-51

      Meanwhile the PAC 12 who was poo poo’d in the Rankings all year have 4 teams in the Sweet 16.

      Like

  36. you guys are conveniently ignoring the predominant recent history of the B1G in March

    obviously this year has been terrible but tell me what the PAC and the SEC have done in recent past? virtually nothing, especially PAC

    B12 has also been fairly strong

    March Madness this year is proceeding somewhat abnormally and while I am enjoying the B1G failures and individually missed on my brackets(think I’m in last place in the POV pool) if you look at interconference play from early in the year, the B1g beat the ACC

    there wasn’t enough other OOC play to judge and compare teams
    outside of the Zags whose closest game this year was a 5 point win over WVU where they were down at the half, and they also beat Iowa, UVA and a couple other good wins but also had a few cancellations like many teams

    Like

    1. The Big 10 has stunk in the NCAA’s going back 30 years where they have one championship in 2,000 and 2 more in ’89 & ’87.

      The ACC has won 6 of the last 11 titles, 7 of the last 15 and 9 of the last 19. The PAC 10 has really been bad and hasn’t won since Lute Olson’s Arizona team won in 1997. The B1G barely beat a very young ACC conference 6-5 when they were at full power.

      Fact is the B1G is always way overrated in the NCAA’s. If you want to have a winning NCAA bracket, bet against the B1G teams.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. true with champions

        ACC/B1G challenge has been close or won by B1G more often

        and if we are to judge best conferences and not just MM winners
        PAC has up to this year been generally weak
        B1G less weak
        B12
        SEC(Kentucky, Florida)
        ACC
        then separation to
        Big East strongest

        Like

  37. So is Pitt in the right conference? Should some other school be in Pitts place?

    I personally don’t think pitt is in the right conference. I don’t think they are a good fit in the ACC. Too much southern bias. Geography. No historic southern rivals except for Miami. Weather. No hockey.

    They are a better fit in the big ten. They are similar to Purdue and northwestern.

    I actually wouldn’t mind those two schools in a new ‘big east’.

    Imagine in six years, the ACC is left with three northern teams and only five southern teams. The ACC decides to add the likes of east Carolina, central Florida, south Florida, West Virginia, Kentucky, UConn, Rutgers and vandy.

    Riddick then leads the formation of a new northeast and Midwest conference comprising of northwestern, Purdue, Cincinnati, West Virginia, pitt, virginia, Maryland, Rutgers, temple, Syracuse, Navy and BC.

    This new conference becomes a power in the new football landscape. And basketball isn’t too shabby.

    Like

    1. Its all about TV markets. Need to capture the Northeast markets, followed by RustBelt out to Chicago.

      ND would probably be persuaded to join your Riddick-led conference (for all but FB) due to where their alumni base lives. Huge NYC area alumni base.

      Like

      1. Boston, New York, philly, dc and Chicago. Any conference with teams from those metro areas would kill it. Fill in the middle with Indy, Cincy, and Pittsburgh. And maybe Minneapolis and St. Louis.

        But I think what works best is a conference with schools playing both football and basketball. Unlike what the former big east tried to do.

        You can make a very strong case for an all catholic basketball conference. It would be far better than either the big ten or ACC.

        Like

        1. The current BigEast is pretty much there now. Only Uconn (who just jumped back in) and Butler are not Catholic universities.

          Like

            1. Loyola probably should stay put since they’ve found a formula that works in the Mo Valley.

              La Salle is another Catholic uni in Philly, who has a rich basketball history.
              2 Final Fours and 1 NC.

              Like

  38. There are so many 3 star athletes making significant contributions to their teams in the tournament. Is this basically a good job of recruiting and finding talent by these teams? Is Capel too focused on getting top 100 4 star athletes at the expense of good, hard scouting of players who aren’t as well known? The recruiting silence is deafening right now. It would help the program for some positive news on recruiting

    Liked by 1 person

  39. March 23, 2021​

    Pitt Spring Football Drills Paused

    PITTSBURGH—The University of Pittsburgh football program has paused spring practice activities due to COVID-related protocols.

    While in-person activities are postponed, the team will continue to meet virtually during this pause.

    The Panthers, who opened spring practice on March 14, have held four of their 15 scheduled workouts to date.

    Like

  40. I wonder if Capel cheats but is just real bad at it

    Like

    1. Look at all the schools involved from the FBI probe that were in the tournament. USC is America’s Team at the moment and was a huge part of the story. LSU’s coach had the gall to tell Dickie V not to mention the probe while broadcasting the SEC final.

      If Pitt doesn’t start getting some bag men this team won’t be making any postseason tourney. Hoops has been awful under the current chancellor and my guess is he doesn’t care so long as Pitt is collecting those checks.

      Another losing season next year and I’d respect Capel if he resigned and then bashed the university for its strict recruiting guidelines. Of course those who don’t want Pitt to cheat to ruin the university’s name can sit back and root for other cheating programs in the tourney.

      Like

      1. If Capel does what he usually does in January and begins a skid of losing games I hope Pitt cares enough to fire him before the season is over. He was in over his head at Oklahoma and he’s in over his head. VCU, at the time he was there, was a much better fit and let’s be honest – he really didn’t win big there. He’s probably a nice guy, but not a winner.

        Like

    2. Zeise is just trying to cover up the fact that he dissed Cuse’s selection to get into the Tournament.

      Like

  41. Cheating isn’t cheating when everyone does it and the NCAA doesn’t enforce the rules. They tacitly give permission to cheat. It takes the FBI to open up a case to do anything about it. Fans don’t care if your school cheats as long as you win. Preferably not get caught but most definitely win. Except Pitt fans of course. They’ve been brainwashed to think we’re better than that.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Unfortunately America has been turned into a nation of cheats. From top to bottom. Of course the cheat rules don’t apply to each and everyone. Do they ?

      And sports mimics societal rules or lack thereof. Or the other way around. It’s like the chicken & the egg,

      Like

    2. So when everybody’s cheating and Pitt believes its living on the high moral ground…what do you call Pitt?

      Like

    1. Reed that is a good article. In the 90’s I had a great opportunity to work out with several of the Pittsburgh Pirates and was fortunate to accompany them to spring training on two occasions. Golfed 3-4 times a week and just basically hung out on the course or worked out (bp/fielding, etc.) at 3 rivers (yes i am old). The Boeheim responses are funny, yet predictable. Every professional athlete, every coach, and every AD that I have run into and talk with, reads or hears about every article that mentions them. My first experiences with this was even before the internet. Their bag phones would light up if someone would mention them negatively in an article…..and they often called each other. Each and every one of them would have the same response that Boeheim did, which was I don’t read newspapers or watch the news”. Each of them lied.

      With respect to scandals and such, Boeheim was absolutely spot on. If your boss or Chancellor isn’t concerned, all is good. Every program cheats. Every program self-reports. The NCAA has figureheads that are employed……by the schools themselves. It is very similar to Goodell in football where he reports to 32 bosses. Nothing he does, happens without approval. Sure, it might draw some ire on behalf of an owner or two, but it is really just an expensive smokescreen wherein one guy tries to manage 30 some owners. In college sports, it is the same thing, except with more owners.

      That is why schools like UNC, Syracuse, Louisville, Miami and other non-ACC members do not get serious sanctions. They all don’t want to judge their colleagues harshly, in fear that they will be judged harshly when their school hits the radar. Quid pro quo. Every once in awhile, there is a sacrificial lamb (see SMU). With Arizona, (and unfortunately for arizona), the investigation went outside of the NCAA tower and into the laps of the FBI so they may be more harsh. All to say that Pitt doesn’t get it. Never have in 35 years. Never will with this group of maroooons. Anyone professing we don’t break rules, wears blinders. Unfortunately, our on the field product is just a reminder that we are afraid of our shadows.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Pitt self reports minor violations in both basketball and football yet Pitt still doesn’t win. All under the watchful eye of an AD whose supposed to be good at compliance. Again just shows me how much Rockports and meatballs respect her.

        Like

      2. A good summation of reality and how bigtime college athletics works and has for quite some time.

        Money and greed being the 2 main factor contributors.

        University of No Classes didn’t get even a slap on the wrist. If one truly knew what went on on these
        college campuses…it would blow your mind on the order of Pedo State & Mich State.

        And not much really happened to either of them either. So there you go.

        Like

        1. Another great UNC story …. one of their most storied players never went to a single class, never did a paper and never took a teddy but they CYAd him so well, he made the honor roll ….twice

          Like

    2. When you post a link, the “?” and everything after it is just a tracker and not needed for the link. Just a heads up…

      Like

    1. The Pittsburgh Coalfield (Pittsburgh Coal Region) is the largest of the Western Pennsylvania coalfields. It includes all or part of Allegheny, Fayette, Greene, Washington, and Westmoreland Counties in Pennsylvania. Coal has been mined in Pittsburgh since the 18th century.

      Like

  42. Pitt doesn’t want to win bad enough. That’s why it fails.

    Do you think Dorsett came to Pitt because he wanted to support the hometown? No. It’s because Pitt paid him off. And paterno was pissed that his offer wasn’t good enough. Without TD, pitt is nothing. And I’m pretty sure Marino got something.

    But now lawyers and compliance people run the show. And people who know nothing about running a business.

    Pitt needs to start playing the game or just give up and go D2. The mission statement doesn’t apply to football and basketball.

    Like

  43. Anthracite is the harder coal found in eastern pa, bituminous is the softer coal found in western pa, a name change is in order perhaps.

    Like

  44. This Troy Nunes Magican guy took some liberties here:

    “What to make of all this, when in the past Syracuse had dominated the Big East and routinely earned a top five seed in the NCAA Tournament, usually only suffering single-digit losses? ”

    From 2000 to 2013 (when they left to ACC) Syracuse won the BigEast regular season 3 times.
    In the same time frame Pitt won the BigEast regular season 4 times.

    In addition in the same time frame, Syracuse had Double Digit losses in 6 of those years. Which is
    like 50% of the years in question. Pitt btw in the same time frame only had double digit losses in
    3 of those year.

    Liberties ? Attempting to re-write history ?

    Like

      1. Syracuse had some pedo asst coach too in which nothing happened, other than he resigned.

        They’ve been ‘tied in’ for a long long time.

        Like

    1. But Syracuse fans know the truth. We are their biggest pain in the butt in football and basketball. So when we beat the Orange twice this year were the players happy and playing together? Did Capel do a good job of in-game coaching? Just wondering.

      Like

    1. Maybe. But we need to focus on the upcoming 4-game series in football and next year’s basketball game. Otherwise, we’re just getting back-doored.

      Like

      1. Pitt should be competitive in football. Pitt will get blown out in basketball. And a coin will be thrown by a Hoopie that hits Capel in the eye blinding him. He had a tough enough time spotting talent with two good eyes.

        Like

  45. Pennsylvania has been home to coal mining for more than 200 years and is the fourth largest coal-producing state in the nation and the only state that produces anthracite coal in addition to bituminous coal.

    Like

    1. Black and gold to support the city’s colors would have been a better color choice. And Pittsburgh produces steel. It uses coal. And sulphur and iron and slag.

      And anthracite is found in northeast pa and not southwest. Pitt can’t even get the name right.

      Like

  46. I don’t bet but I like Cuse getting 6 and Oregon St. getting 6.5 and Oregon getting a point.

    Like

  47. A couple of thoughts……….

    Good article James but I disagree with your premise.

    Pitt did not break the PSU series Joepa did! No matter what Pitt did Joepa was going to do anything possible to say goodbye to Pitt. The rest was all window dressing. I have some inside knowledge on Penn State as my dad, his brother, his father and 6 brothers all went to Penn State.
    I had a money set aside for me to go to Penn State. I went to Pitt and paid my own way!

    As for Boeheim, I have a good friend who played for him first year at Cuse. His ego makes Duz look like a choir boy. He immediately started an affair with his secretary,
    his wife caught him and divorced him… then he married his tryst partner which begat his son. He has no honor at all but is a great recruiter and a decent coach. The supposed 2-3 zone he is famous for morphs into 6 different defenses during a game.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Sounds like his stole the morphing Amoeba defense then from Buzz Ridl and Fran Webster who created that at Pitt in 1974-ish and Boeheim started as HC of Cuse in 1976,

      Like

      1. whoops……Sounds like he stole the morphing Amoeba defense.

        He always looks kinda sneaky, so not beyond the realm of possibility.

        Like

  48. I crawled out of the gutter to 3rd place (out of 5) in the POV NCAA basketball pool.
    I little digging revealed my overall rank within the ESPN national poll.
    8,540,384…not bad since I didn’t cheat. 😎

    Liked by 3 people

    1. None of the many websites that do mock NBA drafts have him even listed thru 2 rounds.
      At least the ones that appear on the first page of a google search.

      He is listed on one for 2022….2nd Round.

      So if those sites have vaguely accurate info….he’s not going anywhere. His brother is not listed either.

      Like

  49. Champs future in the NBA would have to be at Shooting Guard. He’s only 6’6″ tall with fro and a scrawny 200 lbs. Way too small to play on the frontline with an NBA team.

    He’s going to have to substantially improve his outside shooting to play in the NBA. And improve his ball
    handling skills and defense. Of course the NBA doesn’t play much defense….but still.

    Like

  50. Thanks James! As far as state penn goes it is what it is. PITT screwed the pedo enablers and joe never could get over it. Big changes are coming with TV revenue and how we watch college football games. Maybe it evens it out for PITT maybe not but the internet and this virtual crap is here to stay and changes what we all will remember as Saturday college football. viva Oklahoma vs Nebraska with Bud Wilkerson

    Like

  51. I appreciate all the kind words regarding my take on a once fabled rivalry. Remember Joe was the AD when we beat them in the first round of the NITs at Penn State in the 90s. Hubris on both sides. We thought we were their equals. Academically, yes, athletically, well the football records speak for themselves. I think we all forget that Paterno was the biggest proponent of Eastern Independent football. Sure back in the day there was the unofficial Big Five of Army, Navy Pitt, Penn State, and West Virginia (someone who went to games at Pitt Stadium in the late 60s please correct me,) but that unofficial grouping was always listed in the football programs. My opinion here and I could be dead wrong: it took more than money to get Joe to break his ties to Eastern football with his Brown education and decades associated with competition for the Lambert Trophy to join what was then still a midwestern conference.

    Karma is a witch, isn’t it? If PSU had remained an independent in 1994 most likely Paterno would have won his third national championship. The Big Ten was too full of itself to send Penn State anywhere but the Rose Bowl. And that 1994 team was one of the best ever, right up there with LSU last season and Alabama this year.

    Like

  52. Still radio silence from Pitt basketball. Something must be going on in the athletics dept. or maybe I’m crazy and all coaches are totally focused on recruiting…

    Like

    1. I didn’t want to say anything but I continue to hear Capel is trying to part with Pitt. Maybe waiting until NCAA’s are over. His leaving now would be an utter disaster for recruiting. We’d be fielding fraternity players this Fall.,

      Like

      1. Where would he go? Is somebody going to hire him as a HC somewhere else at his current or better pay level?

        Bad time for him to leave with what happened this spring and the slow progress rebuilding the program.

        Unless the AD has told him she won’t be extending him again and he should look for a job.

        Skeptical either way.

        Like

        1. Capels under contract for several more years. Unless he’s willing to walk away from millions, he’s Pitts HC for the foreseeable future.

          Next year could be real bad if champ doesn’t return. Could be an empty Pete for a few years.

          And as we all know, pitt doesn’t have the booster money for buyouts and pitt minimizes any booster influence.

          Like

  53. Grrrrrrrrrrr Grrrrrrrrrrr Itch

    Great memories Dan. I heard the amoeba mentioned during one of the tournaments and I immediately thought of the above coach. Wasn’t he the mad scientist behind the amoeba?

    Like

  54. I think Fran Webster was the amoeba genius and Tim Grgurich learned from Fran.
    Tims family lived in Lawrenceville and was a local hero.

    Like

  55. Big life changing decision for a 19 year old…I hope he chooses wisely.
    When I was 16 I had to give up playing baseball to accept employment in a supermarket to afford paying for private high school and eventually Pitt.
    I thought THAT was a tough choice…haha.
    But I followed the 💰

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Helpful feedback would certainly be a good situation, Nate. But I could also envision teams not wanting to tip their hand to other teams on who they might draft and leave a guy dangling in the process. For example, a team might tell Champ that if he is still available, they would take him with their 2nd Round pick. 2nd Round comes and they take someone else. And their rationale to him is, “we didn’t expect so-and-so to still be available, sorry”. Whether he would have already given up his ability to return to PItt at that point, I don’t know. I don’t know this “process” he is pursuing. But I can imagine all kinds of gamesmanship between teams.

      Like

    2. Champ’s best bet would be to pray that he grows to 6’8″ over the next year like his twin brother. The NBA is not very interested in tweeners. It may be a good thing now for him and Pitt that he didn’t win POY in the ACC.

      Like

  56. Brennan Marion is making so many offers to potential recruits that he will need his own assistant to keep up
    with the follow-up. How does he have the knowledge base to find talent? The obvious question is where are the other coaches in the recruiting sweepstakes? For example, what is Coach Salem doing to improve
    Pitt’s offense?
    It is no secret that our basketball recruiting absolutely SUCKS!! The BB assistants must be out on sabbatical leave to avoid having to put in quality recruiting time.

    BOTTOM LINE: Pitt $$ sports have a MAJOR recruiting problem that must be addressed by our know nothing AD.

    Like

  57. Zeise’s column today correctly pointed out that can’t miss coaches are non-existent. And some of the more well known coaches such as the Miller brothers, Calipari, and even Coach K, are not having stellar seasons or are under a cloud of suspicion. Look at the overall coaching landscape: UNC has cheated even with a big named coach, and Louisville is headed for sanctions. Cuse is a cesspool of rule breaking, even with a hall of fame coach.

    The NCAA is partly responsible for this with its burdensome rules and now with its caving in to a public who think that college players getting a free ride with everything paid for are some how being exploited and should be able to walk out on the programs that recruited, developed and protected them. This despite the fact that only 2% of all college players will receive a professional paycheck.

    Could any upcoming new coach run a clean program and win under these conditions? I think not. If UVA cannot sustain winning with all its financial and programmatic resources, then no one can. Winning should be a hoped for outcome, but not the driving force in college athletics today, or else the entire university brand will be tarnished by the dirty antics of its athletic departments.

    Like

    1. Texas was sure that Smart was the next big thing….

      I can’t blame Capel yet for not recruiting….after all he is trying to sell Pitt. There is little if any recruiting base here. He’s trying to open a market out of NY and is doing quite well with Champ and Femi so far.

      Like

  58. How good are your sources Dan that say Capel is looking for a way out?

    I don’t think the man can recruit without bags. He’s too used to recruiting five stars and has those connections.

    To be successful at Pitt you need players ranked in the top 200. Pitt doesn’t need to recruit top 75 guys. Pitt needs guys that will stay four years and develop.

    I might have to update my list of five. Thoughts about Brandon knight as HC. That would be taking a big risk but could payoff like Juan Howard.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Duke which is know for Academics, moreso than Pitt. Doesn’t seem to have a problem with ‘playing the game’ of big time college hoops. Bag men and everything else that goes along.

      So then, why does Pitt ?

      Like

  59. Pitt’s 1976 Dorsett, Cavanaugh led team, was better than Pedo State’s 1994 team. As was Pitt’s 1980 team with Hugh Green, Ricky Jackson, Bill Neill, Jerry Boyarsky, Tim Lewis, Carlton Williamson, Mark May, Russ Grimm, Jimbo Covert, Randy McMillan, and Marino & Company.

    I will put those 2 teams up against any other NC.

    Like

  60. And I omitted another great player on that 1980 team, Greg Meisner of Valley HS in New Ken who played for 11 years in the NFL. mostly with LA Rams. And Tom Flynn of Penn Hills who played 5 years in the NFL.

    Like

  61. One explanation is that the players already know something about the program or coaches. Heather needs to make a public statement to clear the air. If Capel is going to stay she needs to come out and give a public vote of confidence.

    Like

  62. Yep it went up on Verbal Commits 40 minutes ago. AKC

    Guy would have been a starter getting mega minutes next year too. Since everyone bailed
    or might be incarcerated (hugley).

    Like

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