Tag: Texas Longhorns
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.
So we’re all reading tons and tons about the Big Ten candidacies of Pitt, RU, Syracuse, Mizzou, Nebraska, Texas and its little lonestar sisters. And then there’s the PAC-10 possibly poaching from a list that includes Texas, Colorado or Utah. And then the Big XII turning around and choosing from a list that includes Utah, BYU, TCU and Houston. And the Big East fighting for survival with a list that includes UCF, Memphis & Temple or dream-gets like UMD or BC.
That’s five of the six BcS conferences looking to shake up the college sports landscape with resultant repercussions for Conference USA, the WAC and MWC.
In all this discussion, why do we not mention the reigning behemoth – the SEC? What’s to prevent the SEC from going after … TEXAS? And why not? 12 is only the minimum for a conf title game. Adding Texas and either OU, Texas A&M or Texas Tech would be beyond blockbuster. It would shatter everything in college sports.
I recognize that the Big Ten makes more money than even the SEC and the SEC is probably pretty content at 12 teams, which makes the Big Ten and PAC-10 far more likely moves for the Longhorns. Still, it’s worth pondering though in the final analysis, I can’t see Texas moving; the Texas legislature just wouldn’t allow a move that could harm its Lonestar little sisters.
Photo Credit: burntorangenation.com
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
In honor of the masses’ perceived wishes for a college football playoff (a sentiment not entirely shared by your humble narrator), I won’t be doing Top 25 lists. Here we present a super deluxe early post-signing day/NFL declaration Elite Eight, a projection of which teams would make an 8-team playoff. I’m taking the existing BCS structure of picking each of the BCS conferences winners plus 2 at-large teams. So even though a conference could have three teams in a Top Eight list, 3 teams likely wouldn’t make it to the playoff. I’m also ignoring the Rose Bowl’s outdated preference for a Big Ten/Pac-10 match-up. There will be no undeserving participants like last year’s Illinois in this list. Also, this super deluxe early list may need to change if/when Terrelle Pryor signs a Letter of Intent.
OU returns QB Sam Bradford and RB DeMarco Murray so the offense will likely stay explosive. Navigating the Big XII won’t be easy with KU, Texas Tech and the traditional Red River Shootout against Texas but the Sooners don’t have Missouri on the schedule this year.
They’d get smoked again if they made the National Championship game. However, the Big Ten is even weaker this year. Michigan will be transitioning to Rich Rodriguez’s offensive style and Penn State needs to replace LB Dan Connor, CB Justin King and QB Anthony Morelli. An away game in Pasadena is likely to be the Buckeyes’ toughest obstacle on the way to another undefeated season.
3. USC Trojans
Like OSU, Southern Cal will benefit from a weaker Pac-10 this year. Oregon loses Dennis Dixon, UCLA is breaking in a new coach and Arizona State is still at least a year away from truly contending. Don’t think that Cal will provide adequate competition as the Golden Bears have beaten the Trojans only once since 2001. Running backs Stafon Johnson and Joe McKnight will be counted upon while either Mark Sanchez or Arkansas transfer Mitch Mustain transition into the starting QB role.
Tim Tebow returns as does the electric WR/RB/Do-Everything Percy Harvin. The defense is still suspect but unlike Georgia, the Gators have proven the past few years that they know how to pull out the big wins. I’m projecting at least 1-2 losses for any team that wins the SEC, which would result in a lower seed than might actually deserve.
It’s tempting to put Missouri in this at-large spot given Texas QB Colt McCoy’s struggles last year and the defection of RB Jamaal Charles to the NFL. But the Tigers won’t be sneaking up on anyone this year. Texas is not a program that rebuilds. It reloads.
They won’t make any early season Top 10 lists but WVU will still be playing with a chip on its shoulder after Rich Rodriguez departure from Morgantown. The Mountaineers return standout QB Pat White and though I loved RB Steve Slaton on my fantasy team, they may not miss him much. Noel Devine provided plenty of reason to think he can step in for Slaton. The defense has never been fantastic but after demolishing Big XII champs Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, don’t underestimate Bill Stewart’s squad.
This could finally be the year that Tommy Bowden breaks through and wins the ACC though whether that will satisfy the crazed fans of the Tigers is yet to be decided. With a stellar in-coming class and the return of RB James Davis and QB Cullen Harper, Clemson returns the best offense in the ACC.
I really don’t think UGA will be able to navigate the SEC like UF or LSU have in past years. However, it’s hard to ignore a program that returns so much talent with RB Knowshon Moreno and QB Matthew Stafford set for another season Between the Hedges.
Knocking on the door: LSU, Missouri, BYU, Texas Tech, Wisconsin, Virginia Tech, South Florida
Don’t let all the Super Tuesday primary headlines fool you. February 6th – National Signing Day is one of the most anticipated days on the collegiate calendar. The masses quiver as they read the write-ups on some 17-18yr old who faxed a Letter of Intent to their favorite team. There are no Red or Blue states for us. There is only Maize & Blue, Scarlet & Grey, Burnt Orange or whatever ridiculous color scheme Oregon chooses this year.
While recruiting rankings are not but so much detritus, they’re still fun. So let’s dive in.
The big surprise this year has to be Clemson. The Tigers made huge waves in recruiting, ranking #2 overall according to ESPN and #12 according to SI/Rivals. Despite being wooed by the likes of Georgia, Florida State and Virginia Tech, Clemson managed to keep homegrown superstar DaQuan Bowers (DE; #1 ESPN150, #12 SI/Takkle) from leaving the Palmetto State.
Alabama came on strong with a class of 32 commits are ranked #3 by ESPN and #1 by SI/Rivals. Landing Julio Jones (WR; #2 ESPN150, #1 SI/Takkle) was huge. Miami (#1 ESPN, #4 SI/Rivals), also pulled in a stellar class for Randy Shannon. Nick Saban is a proven big-time recruiter and Randy Shannon will not let south Florida fall to the Gators without a fight. Expect fortunes in Tuscaloosa and Coral Gables to rise in the next couple years.
The usual suspects also appear near the top of the rankings as well. Florida, Georgia, Texas, USC, Oklahoma and Notre Dame all locked down top-10 classes. Wait, Notre Dame? The same Notre Dame team that lost to Navy and finished 3-9? It’s a simple truth that the University of College Football in America (self-named) will always be a major player. The Genius Charlie Weis pulled in the #9 class according to ESPN and #2 according to SI/Rivals, addressing much needed team speed.
Every year some player is viewed as the next coming of Vince Young or Dan Marino or Fred Biletnikoff. He generates loads of accolades, awards drama and HYPE. This year, the soap opera comes to us from tiny Jeannette, PA where all-everything recruit Terrelle Pryor (QB/ATH; #4 ESPN150, #16 SI/Takkle) is holding hostage such coaching lumninaries as Joe Paterno, Mike Bellotti, Jim Tressel and Rich Rodriguez. This kid (yes folks, they’re still KIDS) has been tearing up southwestern PA defenses for 4 years and has generated serious discussion whether he might be the best ever high school player to come out of the southwestern PA. That’s no small feat for a region that has produced the likes of LeVar Arrington, Joe Montana, Danny Marino, Major Harris and Tony Dorsett. I remember Arrington’s days as a RB/LB for North Hills high school. Pryor deserves to be part of the conversation.
All in all though recruiting isn’t an exact science. Antonio Bryant was rated a 1-star player coming out of high school. Leon Washington was once viewed as a can’t-miss prospect for Florida State. Not only do some players never develop but some coaches may ruin potential star careers through position switches. Jim Kelly grew up dreaming of playing QB for Penn State. Joe Paterno wanted to switch him to linebacker. Kelly went to Miami to play QB and the rest is history.
Photo Credit: Pittsburgh Post-Gazzette
(Originally written for Deepslant.com)
There is a constantly raging debate in college football about haves/have nots. Central to this discussion is the plight of previous national powers fallen trying to rejoin the elite and programs with maybe one or two brief past glory periods trying to do the same.
As to the former, you have programs such as Nebraska, Notre Dame, Florida State and Miami-FL. It has been claimed that Nebraska stands little of being mentioned in the same breath as USC again because players have greater choice and why should any one now need to go to Lincoln, NE. Such a position neglects the resurgence of a program that fell on hard times in the 1990s – the Oklahoma Sooners. Why on earth would anyone want to go to Norman, OK?!
In Notre Dame’s case, academics and recruits’ ignorance of ND’s past cachet has been their undoing. However, ND’s academics have always been stringent. For FSU & Miami-FL, the ever-increasing attention placed on recruiting Florida has certainly hurt these programs’ talent bases. Recruits no longer need to sit as the 3rd string WR at UM when you can be a star (and get TV exposure) at Rutgers or South Florida. However, the rise of South Florida itself and continued excellence at the University of Florida is testament to the depth of the Sunshine State.
In the second case, you have lesser programs such as Clemson, Ole Miss and unfortunately, my alma mater, Pitt. These are programs that experienced meteoric success in short periods in the past. They have never been consistent national title contenders decade after decade like UMich, Ohio State & USC. Yet fans of these schools still look on their teams as still being one snap short, one player short of returning to the glory years. They go from coach to coach, AD to AD, in search of that elusive peak.
In order to divine whether these two types of programs indeed have a lessened or non-existence shot at resurging, we must look more closely at the Have’s in college football. Actually, we should say the Current-Have’s. OU is once again a national power while Nebraska flounders. USC is a contender while Notre Dame languishes. Virginia Tech wins while Pitt languishes. Rutgers rise from (beyond) the ashes while Syracuse bottoms out.
My contention is that coaching is the biggest factor. Programs such as Clemson, Ole Miss, Pitt, Michigan State, Nebraska, Notre Dame all have the support of their Administrations. They have great or improving facilities. They all have some sort of tradition and a past of winning and producing great pro players. But they don’t or may not have the right coaching anymore.
Look at USC post-John Robinson/pre-Pete Carroll, OU after Switzer but before Stoops, Notre Dame since Lou Holtz’s departure. Consider Nebraska after Tom Osbourne, Florida State without Bowden’s great offensive coordinators. Now look at USC with Pete Carroll, OU with Stoops, LSU since Nick Saban and now with Les Miles.
It is not a chicken or egg issue. Great coaches can turn around a badly-constructed institution. A bad coach cannot turn win at a well-built administration. Certainly a bad coach can humble a great program. If that was not the case, Paul Hackett would still be at USC, Bob Davie would be winning titles at Notre Dame and Bill Callahan would not have one foot in the grave at Nebraska.
Because they exert greater control over their players and programs, college coaches have much more of an impact than professional coaches. Nick Saban awakened LSU; Greg Schiano is doing the near-impossible at Rutgers; Frank Beamer has built a colossus at his alma mater, Virginia Tech. Soon – Butch Davis at UNC, Dennis Erickson at Arizona State. H*ll, Steve Spurrier won at Duke two decades ago. South Carolina is/will be a picnic compared to Durham. And for my sake, let us hope – Dave Wannstedt at Pitt… or maybe the next guy.