Jan 022014
college football map

I consider myself as a lucky sports fan. At least I’m not a Cleveland sports fan. I can find hope without looking too hard. BUT! C’mon, everyone wants some of their teams to do better. So here’s my wishlist for college sports in 2014.

college football map

Pitt football

  • Better recruiting on Defense. I expect that Paul Chryst and his staff will continue to build the offensive lines and reel in quality offensive recruits. That’s evidenced by getting 4-star RB Chris James as well as offensive linemen Mike Grimm and Alex Bookser. But I just don’t see those studs coming in on defense. Matt House took some pretty harsh criticism for the defense this year. Some of it was deserved, some not. But Pitt’s whiffed on some local kids who would have helped out a lot on defense. And that comes down to House’s and the defensive staff’s ability to recruit. He has to get better there. No amount of coaching ’em up will help if there aren’t capable players behind the schemes and instruction.
  • Pitt Logo - block letteringPaul Chryst’s growth as a coach. Chryst needs to become a better game day coach. Some of that is getting his guys in and up to speed. Some of it is just better in-game adjustments. There are times where you see what his offense is capable of. Games vs Duke and ND. The near comeback against UNC. The bowl game vs Bowling Green. I like Chryst and believe he can become a great long-term coach but he has continue to grow as a coach.
  • Tyler Boyd contending for the Biletnikoff Award. He had a monster season and with the emergence of Manasseh Garner and return of JP Holtz, I expect that Boyd will continue to put up big numbers. (Especially if he’s left in to return punts or kickoffs).
  • 8-4 regular season record. Simple and easy. Winning more will improve recruiting, improve the morale of fans and draw more people to Heinz Field. It will show tangible proof of the growth/regeneration of the program. Avoid pulling a Pitt more than once next season and 8 wins is doable. Navy should have been a win. Same with Georgia Tech. That there would have given Pitt an 8-4 regular season record.

Pitt basketball

  • A strong ACC season. The ACC is not as strong as the Big East once was. It isn’t. Not this year at least. It ain’t no picnic either but Pitt’s been down this road before. I expect that Pitt, warts and all, should be in the top half of the conference. Outside of Duke, UNC and Syracuse, whom should Pitt fear? NC State, UVA, ND, UMD – good teams, yes. But not other-worldly programs. Fourth place is there for the taking. Continue reading »

Race & Soccer – Racial Composition of Liverpool FC’s players

 Futbol/Soccer, The Bigger Picture  Comments Off on Race & Soccer – Racial Composition of Liverpool FC’s players
Nov 252013

Early last Saturday morning, I made my way down to Piper’s Pub on the Southside to watch Liverpool vs Everton, the famed Merseyside Derby.

Out of the 13 players who played for Liverpool (11 + 2 substitutes), 3 were black – Glen Johnson, Daniel Sturridge and Victor Moses. That’s 23%.


Glen Johnson, LFC Defender

All told, Liverpool’s matchday lineup included 18 players, 6 of whom are black. That’s 33%.

Breaking it down even further, 6 of Liverpool’s full matchday lineup are British including the Welshman Joe Allen. 3 of those 6 are British black players. That’s 50%.

Going to the full squad, Liverpool carry 25 players. 8 are black. That’s 32%. There are 9 British players. 4 are black. That’s 44%. Here are the full squad breakdowns:

Race Count Percentage
White 9 36%
Black 8 32%
Latin 8 32%
British 9 36%
British White 5 56%
British Black 4 44%

I’ve read that roughly 25% of the players in the British Premier League are black. Certainly not all of them, nor probably even a majority, are British blacks.

Blacks make up about 3% of the UK’s 55 million residents. If you factor in people of mixed race, that number goes up to 5%.

Make of these percentages what you will. I leave them to stand on their own.

Condoleeza Rice on the College Football Playoff Committee

 College Football, Football, The Bigger Picture  Comments Off on Condoleeza Rice on the College Football Playoff Committee
Oct 092013

Secretary_Rice_With_Afghan_President_Hamid_KarzaiThere’s been some mild controversy regarding former NSA Advisor Condoleeza Rice’s appointment to the college football playoff selection committee. Some of that is sexist. Some legitimately calls into question her experience and therefore standing to be on the committee. Here’s one I hadn’t considered from SBNation’s weekly Alphabetical column:

Zubaydah. As in Abu Zubaydah, waterboarded 83 times in the month of August 2002 with the consent of the Secretary of State National Security Advisor at the time, Condoleezza Rice.

Here is a non-sexist case to be made against the selection of Condoleezza Rice as a member of the new College Football Playoff committee: she endorsed the use of torture. Note: not “enhanced interrogation techniques,” or “extreme cuddling,” but torture, a practice whose ultimate end is simply more torture.

This is a sport of unpaid labor working under sketchy contracts beneath the auspices of coaches and athletic directors taking an insane chunk of available wages. This is a sport in the throes of denial over a number of health and safety issues, including the idea that your brain might not work properly after even a limited amount of time spent playing it.

But even this filthy marketplace of confidence men and shell non-profits running profitable black market businesses has lines it won’t cross. There are some who will even laugh at you for mentioning the committee candidacy of a rogue’s choice like Barry Switzer, someone who giddily trampled the rules of amateurism during his tenure at Oklahoma. (That feels weak. Switzer ran a monster truck over them, then hit reverse, and then ran them over one more time before pouring gasoline on them while yelling “WORLDSTAAAAARRRRR” and pointing at the camera.)

Those same people will smile and applaud the bold choice of Rice without an ounce of irony, because this sport has so warped their brains that one minute they will side with the rules of the NCAA and the next minute against those of human decency, the Geneva Convention, and every tenet of even the loosest definition of human rights. I hate it when the stink of politics wafts over into college football, but some stenches should follow you wherever you go for the rest of your life, if only to warn others.

In closing: I’d rather have Jackie Sherrill on this committee than Condoleeza Rice. At least Sherrill limited his torture to livestock, and apologized afterwards.

I wasn’t particularly excised about Rice’s inclusion in the CFB playoff committee when I heard about it. I don’t know about her level of knowledge about college football but I’ve always read that she’s bright and I figure she’ll do a diligent job. But if someone objects to her appointment based on the above reasoning, well, I can’t say that I find fault with that.

Sep 172013

500px-Hazard_E_no_borderRegarding the NCAA’s punishment of PSU, I recently wrote:

In PSU’s case, the NCAA jumped the gun on handing down sanctions and probably should have waited till after the trials are done. The individuals involved get punished. And then so too does the institution for creating an atmosphere that led to those actions.

Others have argued that the PSU scandal is primarily a legal matter and so the NCAA has/had no jurisdiction in the case. They should have stayed clear but they didn’t. Given the severity of the scandal, I don’t think the NCAA, corrupt or not, would have been able to withstand the public pressure to do something, anything.

Let me be clear, I think the PSU administration was corrupt. Criminally so. They covered up for a child molester. But let us separate our revulsion from the act for a minute. It was a criminal matter into which the NCAA stepped. If the NCAA sticks its nose into that criminal matter, however abhorrent, what’s to stop them from doing so in other criminal matters. I’ve made the argument that PSU’s administration did so out of self-preservation and that indicates a lack of institutional control. But I’m starting to see a very slippery slope.

Continue reading »

Sep 132013
Johnny Manziel in Kyle Field

When I was writing about the principle of punishing NCAA-member institutions for gross violations, I felt like I was just writing copy. The subject feels tired and although I got a few hits for the article, I kept thinking to myself that folks would just shrug their shoulders over Okie State and if/how much it gets punished for transgressions committed against the NCAA system.

The fact is that the NCAA reeks so much that the public doesn’t necessarily get outraged over these recruiting violations and pay-for-play scandals anymore. From Tarheel Blog:

Beyond the reporting aspect, there is a clear and palatable fatigue with the NCAA over the pursuit of these types of violations. When UNC’s scandal cropped up three years ago it, along with Ohio State shortly thereafter and USC just prior constituted the first major programs to really get serious NCAA looks in quite some time. Maybe there was some thirst for blood and despite everyone knowing the NCAA system was broken, seeing major programs run through the ringer was worth good sport and nice material. Then the Miami investigation began to play out. Initially there was public disapproval of Miami’s behavior but that opinion eventually turned when it was discovered the NCAA had engaged in below the belt tactics. Suddenly no one cared what Miami did since NCAA corruption, long simmering just beneath the surface, finally boiled over.  Overnight the NCAA truly became the villain losing whatever meager credibility it had left on the enforcement front.

I think the recent Miami scandal was really the turning point. We all knew the NCAA was corrupt beforehand but the ridiculous and underhanded tactics employed really brought it home. The NCAA succeeded in making Miami look sympathetic. The Miami Hurricanes, a program that was once so corrupt that SI ran an article calling for them to drop football. So corrupt at various times that even SEC teams looked clean in comparison. How unbelievable is that. I doubt that Miami didn’t commit those violations but if the investigating body can’t do its job cleanly, how are we trust its findings. Even the appearance of misconduct is enough to derail investigations.

Can you imagine SI running this cover article nowadays?

Can you imagine SI running this cover article nowadays?

Continue reading »

Sep 122013
Texas vs. Oklahoma State at Boone Pickens Stadium, Stillwater, Oklahoma.

A friend of mine recently emailed me about the Oklahoma State scandals that are breaking. With his permission, I’m publishing his missive and then my response.

So what are your thoughts on this whole Ok State issue? So far I haven’t read anywhere that the NCAA is even looking into it, which is laughable in my opinion (if these allegations are true). That being said the NCAA’s outdated and draconian practices for meting out punishments is absurd at best. I’m sorry but punishing the current athletes and students for things that people that aren’t even with the university anymore did is just wrong on so many levels. There has to be a better system in place or at the very least, a way to punish those responsible. I just see what has happened at PSU as a wakeup call because the people who were responsible for the horrific actions that took place are either in jail or about to have their day in court, so why then, are the current players and coaches being penalized for things that happened when they weren’t even at the university. I guess what I’m getting at is the currently players/ coaches at Ok State should not have to deal with the possibility of the death penalty when they weren’t even there for when the alleged pay for play was happening. Just curious to hear your thoughts on this.

Here’s my response:

To your question, it may not seem fair that current players at PSU or Okie State would seem to be punished for things they didn’t do. If Okie State is punished in any tangible way, its players should be allowed to transfer immediately without sitting out just as PSU’s players were allowed to do.

However, justice cannot be tempered because of collateral effects. It does matter at the institutional level. We don’t fail to prosecute rule-breaking institutions in the ‘real world’ because of downstream effects. Enron shouldn’t have escaped punishment because its lower level employees and/or its employees’ families, who had no knowledge of its illegal activities, would’ve been adversely affected. Okie State football, as an institution, fostered an environment that led to these transgressions.

Texas vs. Oklahoma State at Boone Pickens Stadium, Stillwater, Oklahoma.

Texas vs. Oklahoma State at Boone Pickens Stadium, Stillwater, Oklahoma.

Yes, they can try to punish the individuals responsible (primarily Les Miles, I guess). But the idea here is also to punish the institution so that it doesn’t get lax about controls in the future. If Okie State (or SMU back in the 1980’s) isn’t punished because it would negatively affect current players and administration, it sends the message that they can do almost anything they want. If Miles was still at Okie State, they could just fire him and disassociate from some boosters and keep on making payments to players. The lesson would be just don’t get caught! I would be ok with punishing Les Miles (via suspension or a show-cause penalty), but that hurts LSU football, which as an institution hasn’t done anything wrong that we know of, and its current players who are even further removed from the Okie State scandal. The Okie State football institution still has to learn a lesson.

Continue reading »

Sep 012013

I’ve sat through 2-9 records. I’ve been disappointed by 9-4 records.

… watched 13-9, jumping up and down, hooting and hollering throughout that agonizing and ultimately triumphant fourth quarter against West Virginia.


… was present when Rod Rutherford scampered 62 yards to score the lone touchdown as Pitt beat Pennstate, 12-0, at Three Rivers Stadium in 2000.

Pitt 12, PSU 0

Pitt 12, PSU 0

… started the “asshole” chant at Joe Paterno in 2000 at Three Rivers Stadium.

… bore witness when Larry caught that touchdown pass. And that one. And that one. And that one. And that one.

… will never forgive Oklahoma’s Jason White for denying Larry Fitzgerald the Heisman Trophy.

… saw Tyler Palko lay the wood on that BC player and Darrelle Revis’ ESPY-winning kickoff return for a touchdown.

… was so fucking proud when Pitt beat Notre Dame in five overtimes at ND Stadium.

… think Walt Harris made the right decision to start Palko over Joe Flacco.

… watched helplessly as Cincinnati came back in the fourth quarter to deny Pitt a BCS bowl berth.

… stood in the home student section at Beaver Stadium, too afraid for my life to say a word, watching Pitt fight and scratch and claw against Pennstate, only to lose 20-17 when LeVar blocked a last gasp field goal attempt.

… remember the “slide” against UConn.

… shook Dave Wannstedt’s hand after watching him give a talk to alumni after he was hired at Pitt.

… tried putting on a brave face when Mike Haywood was hired. (I couldn’t even convince myself though).

… was subjected to the Swinging Gate.

… wish Walt’s experiment with the Spread Offense, years before it became en vogue, had succeeded.

… refreshed ESPN Gamecast over and over and over again sitting on a connection in Bangladesh, ‘watching’ Pitt win the Tangerine Bowl vs NC State.

… sat through that entire bullshit meltdown in the rain against Youngstown State last season.

… saw Chryst rally the program to thump Virginia Tech after starting out 0-2.

Pitt 35, VT 17. Sept 5, 2012.

… have said a couple nice words about Tino Sunseri and even Bill Stull before him.

DITKADorsett, Marino, Curtis Martin, Russ Grimm, Chris Doleman, Rickey Jackson, Joe Schmidt. Beat that. Only three other schools can. Ruben Brown, Larry Fitzgerald, Darrelle Revis. We’re coming for the last three.

… have been a Pitt football season ticket holder in all but one year since 1998.

… refuse to give up hope.


Aug 282013
PItt vs Virginia Tech, 2003

As the host of College Gameday (both football and basketball), ESPN’s Rece Davis has a front seat view for the major events in college sports. He has to control and manage the sizable egos of his co-hosts. But he has some really great insights as shown in this interview with Cardiac Hill.

On overhauling the NCAA system:

I’m like most college fans. I love the nostalgia associated with the game. I wish that simply donning the blue and gold and hearing Hail to Pitt made every player tear up and that was reward enough. For some, it is. What I can’t come to terms with is restricting athletes in ways that no one else associated with college sports or no other student on campus is restricted.

I fully realize there would be issues, probably major ones, but I think it would be more a transparent enterprise. In the long run, it would be healthier for the game.

Davis is absolutely right. Holding to the status quo does nothing to save the games from Athletic Directors and Presidents who have lost their minds and morals chasing greater and greater TV revenues. If these so-called academics cared about the principles of amateurism, they wouldn’t have expanded the calendar to 12 and sometimes 13 and 14 games. They wouldn’t relax their academic standards to such a degree that “passing the SAT” (read: 800) is an actual thing.

There has to be a middle ground between providing some compensation to players for their efforts on the field, ensuring that they truly receive an education and, well, winning.

PItt vs Virginia Tech, 2003

Pitt vs Virginia Tech, 2003

Continue reading »

Aug 212013
Pitt is it (pic)

… Or On Pitt Sports Capital Priorities

There are two stories related to Pitt sports that just will never die. The first is the Pitt script logo.

The second issue that never dies is the fact that Pitt no longer has an on-campus stadium. The Pitt News reported on a group of alumni trying to drum up support for a new stadium to be located in Panther Hollow. The plan appears to reasonably well thought-out, if not a bit earnest. A couple tidbits:

Mack and Andra’s plan is far from short-term. Both men consider the plan a long-term solution to Heinz Field’s inevitable deterioration within 20 to 25 years. They say that Pitt needs to consider where the football team will play if the Pittsburgh Steelers decide to build their next stadium in a location outside the Pittsburgh city limits.

… In addition to a stadium that could hold from 44,000 to 50,000 people, his plan includes a dormitory built into the stadium, a track surrounding the field for the men’s and women’s track and field team and an area for office space.

… In order to make room for the large new complex, a number of properties in Panther Hollow between Joncaire and Boundary streets and Yarrow Way would need to be purchased. In addition, Mack said the Frick Fine Arts Building would need to be moved onto Schenley Plaza, and Mazeroski Field would be demolished, though he said the new stadium would also include a Pittsburgh Pirates museum.

… Mack said the plan includes the building of a multi-level parking garage that could hold between 1,200 and 1,500 vehicles. He also said that the Allegheny Valley Railroad could expand its commuter service operations and extend into Panther Hollow using the pre-existing railway.

Click here to read the whole Pitt news article or visit the group’s site.

Pitt vs Pennstate at Pitt stadium, 1958

Pitt vs Pennstate at Pitt stadium, 1958

Continue reading »

Aug 132013

Johnny Manziel and athletes like him are ruining amateur athletics.

Research conducted by Joyce Julius & Associates shows that the redshirt freshman winning the prestigious trophy produced more than 1.8 million media impressions, which translates into $37 million in media exposure for Texas A&M. [Source: TAMU Times]


Johnny Manziel is a disgrace

Manziel should be ashamed of himself. The media (over)exposure and scramble for money resulting from Manziel’s historic Heisman Trophy win is corrupting the pure and righteous ideals of amateur sportsmanship that Texas A&M has already espoused. How dare Manziel play so well that he generates all that money to which Texas A&M can’t say no.

It’s pretty evident that the sports performance of unpaid student-athletes is corrupting the pristine halls of academia. Texas A&M’s move to the SEC as well as all the conference realignment chaos happened precisely because its athletes’ revenue generation abilities have caused scrupulous University Presidents to lose their minds.

Not the converse. Never the converse. It’s all the athletes’ faults.