Tag: Pennstate Nittany Lions
… Or Yes, We Like to Get Ahead of Ourselves at Pitt
Ok, so the ACC released their schedules for the 2013 and coupled with a scheduled home game against Notre Dame, there is awesomeness all around for Pitt fans:
|New Mexico||at Duke|
|Notre Dame||at Georgia Tech|
|Florida State||at Syracuse|
|Miami||at Virginia Tech|
But since I’m a Pitt fan and we forever live in the land of hope and tomorrow. Here’s a projection of Pitt’s home schedules in the next couple years afterwards:
|Delaware||at Notre Dame|
|Georgia Tech||at UVA|
There is currently a scheduled away game at FIU but I expect that to be bought out. It’s not as exciting as 2013 but home games vs Iowa, GT and Virginia Tech are very solid.
Onward brave denizens!
|Notre Dame||at Akron|
|UVA||at Georgia Tech|
|home vs ACC cross division||at Syracuse|
|Open||at Virginia Tech|
No telling what the cross-division game will be. As it stands, I probably expect the Akron game to be bought out or moved to a home game so we have a home MACrifice. Then the Open date shown would be a BCS level opponent similar to Iowa or Navy. Without having looked at their schedule, the Open Date could be WVU since ND would fulfill Steve Pederson’s wish to have a National opponent.
And the one that’s sure to give me a heart attack:
|Duke||at Notre Dame|
|Georgia Tech||at Miami|
|Virginia Tech||at UVA|
ACC cross division
|Open Date||Open Date|
I listed an Away and Home Open Date just for balance’s sake. It’s entirely likely that Pederson will schedule two home games, both against subpar teams (MACrifice and FCS). With ND away and PSU at home, it’s unlikely that Pederson would try to WVU since PSU already fulfills the regional and BCS level opponent in one. Pederson would probably have tried to get the 2015 BCS-level home-and-away in non-consecutive years so as to avoid three BCS-level non-conference opponents in one year.
Past 2016, there’s three more years of Pennstate games and a home game vs Delaware in 2019. But I’m probably going to get stabbed by a Pennstater (maybe even my own kin, Munia!) in 2016 (if not sooner) so I’ll stop here.
Yesterday when the NCAA announced its sanctions on the Pennstate football program, I watched Facebook, Twitter, ESPN.com article comments and other sources to gauge the reactions of Pennstaters to this apparently devastating hit to their once-proud football program.
I’m not sure I read anything from a Pennstater agreeing with the penalties. Not a one. Many said that the full story hadn’t been written, that the NCAA should have waited until the trials of Spanier, Curley & Schultz had laid out more evidence. A few continued to stress that the NCAA had no jurisdiction to sanction the football program. Some concentrated their wrath on the media for its supposed feeding frenzy. Others lashed out at the current administration for copping out to the NCAA. And so many many others simply screamed into the void, “We are [still] Pennstate!”
I have to ask, what penalties, if any, would they have accepted as fair? 2-year bowl bans, 5 scholarship reductions/year, no monetary fine? Only a monetary fine? More NCAA oversight? Or perhaps, nothing.
Surely, nothing better is going to come to light after the verdicts for Messrs Curley, Spanier and Schultz. Joe Paterno is not going to be magically exonerated. The culture of Pennstate’s all-power, all-encompassing football institution, whose power engendered this cover-up, won’t be seen in a softer light. And make no mistake about it, Pennstate football was and is an institution, not just a program.
I don’t think the public can be expected to believe Pennstate’s own proclamations that it’s reforming its culture and so should be left alone. Oh so, Curley, Spanier and Schultz are gone or placed on leave. Paterno was fired. Maybe the Board of Trustees will be the next to go. Well bully for yinz gahz.
Every measure taken that even tangentially touched the football program or the culture that Paterno fostered has been fought. Fire Paterno – riots. Take down the Paterno statue and people go nuts. Rename Paternoville to Nittanyville and Facebook explodes. The Freeh report itself was commissioned by PSU’s own administration and many Nitters still don’t believe it, whether about Paterno or the football institution.
We (myself included) trusted Pennstate for decades that their “success with honor” motto was real and tangible; that the sanctimony, however annoying, might be earned. No more. Welcome to the club of ordinary universities, Pennstate. You don’t get the benefit of the doubt anymore.
Talent as much as hard work perseveres in college football. Many of the great high school athletes play two positions in high school – RB/LB, WR/LB, QB/DB, etc. They then pick one position for college. It’s up to the college coach to put his players in a place to success but the truly gifted can probably still get by on talent in college. Some let the coach pick, others insist on a particular position.
Sometimes selfishness pays off. Pitt great Larry Fitzgerald recently revealed that he was nearly swayed by the grand experiment, the “success with honor” bullsh*t peddled by Joe Paterno at Pennstate. He nearly became a Nittany Lion linebacker.
More than 10 years ago, this [numbers-first] attitude led to a life-changing decision. He said no to Joe Paterno, who wanted Fitzgerald to play linebacker, to be part of a great Penn State tradition.
“I played linebacker all the way up to my senior year in high school,” Fitzgerald said. “I was heavily recruited as a defensive player. I had about 25 to 30 offers coming out, and probably 70 percent of them were defensive offers. I grew up watching Penn State, and was really enamored by the defense at Linebacker U.”
Except Fitzgerald was chasing something else, and he did something rare. Like Tony Dorsett, he chose the University of Pittsburgh instead, where Fitzgerald would be the team’s star wide receiver, catching 34 touchdown passes in two seasons before jumping all the way to the NFL.
Despite their well-worn reputation as “Linebacker U”, perhaps Pennstate should stop trying to turn every great athlete into a linebacker!
LaVar Arrington was a RB/LB in high school. In fact, he was known as much for his running skills at Mars & North Hills High School so it was a surprise to me when he switched over to LB fulltime at Pennstate. Paterno may have gotten it right on this one but I’ve always wondered how Arrington would have done at running back.
Pro football Hall of Fame Quarterback Jim Kelly grew up in East Brady, PA, in the heart of Pennstate country. He always wanted to play at Pennstate. The only thing he wanted to do more than play at Pennstate was to play quarterback. But Joe Paterno wanted him at LB. So Kelly chose to go to the University of Miami instead. Bam.
Former Pitt QB Rod Rutherford was one of most sought after recruits in the country during his days at Perry Traditional Academy. Almost no one thought he would end up at Pitt, especially after the sainted Paterno paid an in-person visit to the Rutherford house. But Pitt coach Walt Harris did what Paterno wouldn’t do. He promised Rutherford the opportunity to play offense, namely QB, not linebacker or safety. Two years later, Rutherford scampered 60+ yards for the only touchdown in the last game Paterno ever coached against Pitt. For his career, Rod Rutherford finished with 458 completions in 840 attempts, passing for 6,725 yards and 60 touchdowns.
Photo Credit: John Beale, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
[As an aside, I don't really feel like commenting on the whole PSU/Paterno/Sandusky conflagration. So instead, I'll rip on Pennstate in the way they'll best understand, on the gridiron].
With the news coming out that head coach Greg Schiano has bolted Rutgers for the supposedly greener pastures of the NFL, the immediate concern for Scarlet Knights fans focuses on the program’s future relevance. BCS concerns aside, can Rutgers continue to field even a modestly successful football program (defined here as at the very least an average of 6-8 wins/year).
The historical answer, pre-Schiano/post-1978, is a resounding no. Except for Greg Schiano, no other coach has won big at Rutgers. Except for Greg Schiano, no other coach has gotten a firm commitment (read: financial) from Rutgers’ administration to field a winning big-time program.
I didn’t realize this but apparently Rutgers was once an academics-first/only institution. As opposed to fellow northeastern schools Pitt and Pennstate which both boast outstanding academics but also strive to run with the big boys in college football, Rutgers didn’t even put itself in the game. This was the eye-opening passage for me from CFT’s Matt Hinton:
Traditionally, Rutgers belongs to the class of academically oriented schools in the Northeast that disavow the corrupting influence of big-time football: Before Division I was split into “I-A” and “I-AA” classifications in 1978, its schedule consisted overwhelmingly of teams from the Ivy League and the kind of wannabe-Ivy schools that would go on to form the Patriot League — that is, second and third-rate programs that care so little about sports that most of them still don’t offer athletic scholarships.
And Rutgers were mostly successful in that setting. 7, 8, 9-win seasons weren’t uncommon. It was only after trying to join the big boys post-1978 that Rutgers became a laughingstock of a program. In fact, in 1976, Rutgers went 11-0… against a lineup of Navy, Bucknell, Princeton, Cornell, UConn, Lehigh, Columbia, UMass, Louisville, Tulane and Colgate. Four of those schools were non-IA. That team didn’t even go to a bowl game.
By comparison, the 1976 National Champion, who went 12-0, played a schedule consisting of Notre Dame, GA Tech, Temple, Duke, Louisville, Miami-FL, Navy, Syracuse, Army, WVU and Pennstate with a Sugar Bowl win over Georgia. That team was Pitt. (Hail).
Beano Cook once wrote that if you’d asked him in the early 1970′s to name the programs with the most un-tapped potential, he would have named Miami-FL (duh)… and Rutgers. The strength of northeastern teams from Pitt to Pennstate to Syracuse has often been supplanted with the fantastic talent that comes out of the Garden State. Greg Schiano tapped into that base, to a degree, and it helped him build a modestly successful program. Whether another coach can build on that legacy or even sustain it is debatable.
My guess is that Rutgers fades into semi-irrelevance; partly by choice of not paying ridiculous huge sums to keep up with the Ohio States of the world and partly by being excluded from the big boy conferences upon the demise of the Big East.
Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
Joe Paterno broke’d himself the other day. And predictably, many were led to question his ability to continue on in the same capacity as he has for the 45 years at Pennstate.
Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn about his supposed frailty. The man can still coach. Even including last year’s disappointing (yet foreseeable) 7-6 record, the State Penn logged 58 victories over the latter half of the last decade, including two trips to BCS Bowl games.
What fascinates me is the never-ending speculation over who will/should take over for the legend once he’s done. It’s a pretty common sentiment here in W. PA that that man should be current PSU defensive coordinator Tom Bradley, a well-respected coaching mind and an ace recruiter. I think that would be a big mistake.
I’m not trying to rip on Bradley, whom I would have loved for the Pitt job, but he’s too close to the trees to see the forest (or vice versa?). Pennstate will need new blood, new thinking, much like they got when Galen Hall came aboard in 2004. It’s no surprise that his addition sparked the Spread HD offense, which has been so successful for PSU.
Had Bradley left the farm, either for Pitt or UConn or some other school, he would eventually have gained valuable experience and become an excellent candidate to succeed Paterno. Or he would have failed in which case PSU would know he’s not the right guy to man their helm. No less an authority on good coaching hires than the Steelers have eschewed the easy choice by going outside the family. I’d say Mike Tomlin has worked out quite well for Steelers Nation.
When the time comes for PSU to replace JoePa, I hope they don’t stay in-house. I don’t expect Paterno to be around in 2016 when PSU deigns to play Pitt again. But as for the new guy-to-be – no to JayPa (hah, that would be hilarious), no to Galen Hall, no to Tom Bradley. Paterno has worked hard to make PSU into a destination job. New blood should help keep it there.
Pennstate head coach Joe Paterno has named senior Evan Royster as his starting quarter back today. In a fit of memory loss, the octagenarian king of Happy Valley has scrapped Pennstate’s new-fangled Spread HD offense in favor of the tried-and-true single wing, harkening back to the halcyon days of his youth when the forward pass was still illegal.
Moe’s Sports Talk (MST) has learned that offensive coordinator Galen Hall approved the move and has released much balley-hooed quarterbacks Kevin Newsome and Robert Bolden from their scholarships. Bolden has since declared his intent to transfer to Pitt, where head coach Dave Wannstedt will move him to linebacker then safety then to flanker, whereupon it is expected that he will win Pitt’s fourth Biletnikoff award in 2014 during his final year of college eligibility. Newsome expects to transfer to the University of Delaware, where he will engage in a quarterback derby with former Pennstater Pat Devlin, though it is rumored that Devlin has considered transferring to Delaware State University (Go Hornets!).
Somewhere in the deep, dark recesses of the all-concealing shadow, Tom Bradley curls into the fetal position and has nightmares of Alabama RB Trent Richardson running through his defense. Pennstate AD Tim Curley secretly petitions the Big East for membership but the State Penn is once more rejected by the sage Big East leaders in Providence, RI.
In all this expansion-palooza talk, I have to ask myself why PA legislators seem so silent? And why were they silent years ago when PSU was still an independent searching for a home? It’s possible (though I think improbable) that Pitt could get left out in the cold in expansion talks… no Big Ten or ACC or even Big East, if the conference implodes. That would leave the state’s second largest university system without a tangible sports home. That our politicans would remain silent when we all know how much money and recognition sports brings is unfortunate… to put it mildly.
Everywhere I read, other state legislatures are pulling up stakes in expansion-palooza. We all remember how UVA was pressured into supporting Va Tech’s ACC candidacy at the expense of Syracuse back in 2003. It’s widely known that the upwards of four of the Big XII’s Texas schools are joined at the hip via politics. OU probably can’t make a move without Okie State. And KU is also likely tied to K-State.
But not Pitt to PSU or PSU to Pitt? Is there any collective loyalty in PA college sports? We all know that years ago, when both schools were independents, when it was viable for a school to be independent, Joe Paterno wanted to form an all-sports eastern conference. It would likely have consisted of Pitt, PSU, WVU, BC, Rutgers, Syracuse, UVA, VT, UMD and Temple. Paterno’s first domino would have been Pitt, whose partnership would have given enough steam to the idea to lure the rest. Pitt spurned PSU and joined the fledgling Big East conference, which then only had basketball. At one point PSU was considered for inclusion into the Big East, right around the time that the conference was looking into adding football to its docket. To my utter disbelief now years afterward, the conference commissioners rejected PSU because of its weak basketball program. PSU later joined the Big Ten.
Apparently PA legislators didn’t get involved in assuring PSU would join the Big East. It wasn’t a given in the late 1980′s that PSU would be admitted into the Big Ten so assuring that PSU would have a sports home should have been an important issue to them. Perhaps the politicians were working behind the scenes to get PSU into the Big Ten but if that was the case, I’m sure I would have read about it by now.
Fast forward to today and in all the talk of the Big East getting fleeced and possibly disbanding, I’ve heard no rumblings from the folks in Harrisburg that Pitt ‘should’ be included in the Big Ten’s expansion plans. Now I’m not saying that all this political maneuvering in other states is a good thing. But one would think that the fate of the second largest university in the state should at least pique their curiosity.
… or How to Silence Orrin Hatch
The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that the Big Ten will take Mizzou if they fail to land Texas. Mizzou isn’t a slam-dunk addition like Texas but it does meet the Big Ten’s academic requirements and it’s a large flagship school which brings the St. Louis and KC markets into the Big Ten footprint. The other major candidate, Pitt, clinches the rest of the Pittsburgh market and brings a decent added presence in the northeast but PSU already has strong market coverage in the northeast. Forget about Syracuse and Rutgers, which don’t guarantee NYC, which is a Pro town anyway. And Nebraska and OU don’t add enough market presence.
Let’s also think about the musical chairs in a collective sense. If the Big Ten took Pitt (or Syracuse or Rutgers), it could very well wreck the Big East as a football conference. What people fail to take into account when criticizing the Big East’s BCS status (which btw we’ve quite well enough to maintain our standing) is that it is to the BCS’ advantage to have the Big East included. Politically, you can’t shut out that many northeastern FBS schools, especially tradition-rich schools like Pitt, WVU and Syracuse as well as up-and-comers like Rutgers and UConn. You want a slight majority of FBS universities in the BCS; thus, the less likely it is to fall prey to anti-trust action. That’s not an argument for the BCS to expand by adding the MWC – that would be overkill. But just a few more teams will suffice.
Let’s follow the dominoes:
1) Big Ten takes Mizzou from the Big XII.
2) PAC-10 takes Colorado and Utah from the Big XII and MWC, respectively.
3) Big XII takes TCU and BYU from the MWC to fill the gaps left by Colorado’s & Mizzou’s departures.
Bam, there go the three strongest long-term football-playing institutions. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) will shut up about a playoff once his state’s two biggest schools are part of the big dawg’s club. TCU is currently the strongest school in Texas that’s not in a BCS conference. The lone wolf left out in the cold is Boise State, which I’m convinced will fall into disrepair anyway in a few years once Chris Peterson leaves. In fact, I’d posit that Boise State not getting into a BCS conference will hasten his departure and Boise State’s demise. Plus, Idaho doesn’t have enough political clout to bring down the BCS; the Mormon state is the key because they have two strong FBS schools.
The paths of BCS teams leaving one conference or another is irrelevant. Texas to the Big Ten or PAC-10 – Texas A&M following big-brother Texas or not – Colorado leaving for the PAC-10 – Mizzou going to the Big Ten – all that matters is to make just enough room for BYU, Utah and TCU to move up. (Personally, I feel that Houston is a stronger long-term prospect than TCU because of enrollment and potential market size but they’re only just starting their revival under Kevin Sumlin, who may leave soon anyway. But I digress…)
The end result is that the gravy train is expanded just a smidge to include a couple relatively deserving FBS schools (as compared to the likes of Wazzu & Miss St, at least) and the BCS rolls on, still scorned but stronger than ever. A plus-one/four-team playoff may eventually happen but it’ll never get larger than that.
Shellfishly, us old-time northeasterners want the Keystone State rivalry to be renewed, which drives a lot of people around here who want Pitt in the Big Ten. Fair enough, but if FSU/UF and UGA/GT can play OOC every year, the same can happen for Pitt/Pennstate. We just need some time for JoePa to finally retire and then a couple years afterwards for scheduling to get worked out. It will happen by the latter half of the decade. Patience, my friends, patience.
In the meantime, remember that moreso than cultural or historical fit, conference expansion is about market size, market size, market size.
In honor of NLI Day, let us speculate.
In the fall of 2010, sophomore Kevin Newsome and mega-recruit Paul Jones will lose the PSU starting QB competition to true freshman Robert Bolden. Not willing to ride the pine for three years, Jones transfers to Pitt and Newsome follows in the footsteps of Jeff Hostetler by transferring to WVU. Three years later, Paul Jones starts for Pitt at Panther Hollow Field as they welcome Pennstate back to their eastern roots as a member of the re-formed Eastern Elite Conference (along with new/old members BC, ND, UVA, VT & UMD) in Greg Schiano’s first year at the helm of the State Penn. Mr. Schiano leads Pennstate out of the tunnel in true Jersey fashion – doing the fist pump.
Former PSU coach Joe Paterno is given a rousing chorus of “@$$h0le” by the Pitt faithful. Pennstaters at the game respond by throwing their beverages high up in the air but are surprised when said concoctions come straight down and hit them in the head. Former DC Tom Bradley weeps in a corner, alone and forgotten.
Schiano’s personal guests include the newly elected Governor of New Jersey, Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino and first lady Snooki. Inspired by Schiano’s Jersey pride, The Situation subsequently passes a bill requiring all New Jersey/Staten Island/guido athletes to do the Fist Pump during pre-game ceremonies and changes the state song to Kernkfraft 400′s Zombie Nation. Mr. Schiano’s controversial replacement of White with Orange as PSU’s secondary color to more closely mirror the color of all his NJ players’ skin pays huge dividends as Pennstate’s new Orange-Glo Nights (sponsored by Fanta) will come to be devastating to opponents who can’t handle the burst of color from the students’ section. (Incidentally, PSU loses its first Orange-Glo against Mr. Schiano’s old team Rutgers because the PSU players can’t pick out the Rutgers’ players amidst the sea of orange).
Pitt avenges the memories of 48-14 by blasting Bolden into the ground in Dave Wannstedt’s swan song as Pitt coach before turning over the reins to OC Frankie Cignetti. Wannstedt’s first act as new Athletic Director is to bring back the script PITT as a third jersey. On the Pitt sideline that day are former greats Mike DITKA, who commands that all Pitt men must grow mustaches, goatees or beards, POTUS Larry Fitzgerald, Governor of Florida Danny Marino and the man responsible for finally destroying the BCS and instituting a college football playoff, NCAA Commissioner Tony Dorsett (pronounced DOR-sett, not dor-SETT).
Pitt Defensive Coordinator Tony Siragusa, one of the holdovers from Wannstedt’s staff, threatens to eat anyone who goes against DITKA’s commandment or doesn’t believe that Larry would’ve have caught that. Mr. Siragusa does end up eating Bob Nutting on orders from Pirates, Penguins and city of Pittsburgh owner/Wizard of Oz Mario Lemieux. Mr. Lemieux’s Man-Behind-The-Curtains, Ron Burkle slides into the all-concealing shadow as he seeks to find the Jade Monkey, road maps and ice scraper before the next full moon.
From up on high, the Four Horsemen of Pittsburgh Football – Art Rooney Sr, Pop Warner, Jock Sutherland and Myron Cope look down on all that they have wrought and smile. For behold, it is very good.
Photo Credits: Joe Hermitt/The Patriot News, Matt Freed/Post-Gazette
One of my main interests in college football is watching the rise and fall of programs that don’t belong to the normal big dawgs’ club. Occasionally one of the top tier programs will fall on hard times but you can’t keep a Texas or an Oklahoma or a PennState or a Southern Cal down for too long. You can see the downturn today at Notre Dame and Michigan but don’t count those programs out for long. (If you’re short-sighted enough to point out that ND hasn’t been factor since the early 90′s, please keep in mind that college football has been played for over a hundred years. A decade is a blip on the radar).
The pursuit of consistent excellence at schools below the high historical threshold is a fascinatingly excruciating exercise. What combination of coaching, recruiting, facilities and plain old luck would it take to engender year-in, year-out contention. Can these schools really dare to dream of being consistent top-10 programs.
The big dawgs have institutional advantages that continually pull down their lesser cousins. Michigan steals Rich Rodriguez from West Virginia, his own alma mater. Alabama lures Nick Saban from the pro’s after a short trip thru the wilderness of coaching mediocrity. Once upon a time, Johnny Majors left Pitt after winning a National Title in order to go home to Tennessee.
Other times, it is the lure of extended history that lays waste to a school’s attempts to climb up the ladder. On signing day 2003, Pitt lost the jewels of a top-25 class when its top QB recruit de-committed to sign with Pennstate and its top RB recruit de-committed to sign with Miami instead. That neither player lived up to his reputation is not the point. The recruiting losses so gravely affected Walt Harris’ faith in his own program that his agent publicly downplayed Pitt’s absolute ability to ever rise to the top. One year later, Harris was pushed out after leading Pitt to the Fiesta Bowl.
You can almost hear the nervous chattering at Cincinnati, a school with less history than Pitt or Cal or Wisconsin. Here you have a program newly arrived on the big stage with a dynamic young coach, Brian Kelly, who could very well give Ohio recruits a second legitimate in-state destination. But like Mark Dantonio before him, most pundits feel it’s only a matter of time before Kelly jumps to a “big” program, leaving the Bearcats to hope they can strike gold with a third coaching hire. Yeah sure. Tell that to Louisville which weathered the departure of John L. Smith by hiring Bobby Petrino but have so far failed with Petrino’s replacement, Steve Kragthorpe.
Sometimes, geographical disadvantages contribute to a program’s uneven performance. Clemson and South Carolina come to mind. Both have had or presently have fine coaches. Neither have really sniffed extended 1st-tier success. The biggest and best of the Palmetto State probably aren’t numerous enough to construct a powerhouse program given that two large programs exist in the state and many of the top prep stars may long to play at Rocky Top or Between the Hedges instead of Death Valley or Williams-Bryce stadium. Is it too much of a coincidence to note that Cal’s rise and Oregon’s steady success has coincided with Washington’s fall from grace?
The upshot of all these considerations is not to excuse Pitt or Louisville or South Carolina from failing to consistently reach the big time. In the end, these programs have only themselves to blame. If a shizzle hole like Norman, OK can become a destination for the best prep stars, the Steel City or even Corvallis shouldn’t be too far behind.
Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated