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Written by PSB Bryan | 18 December 2010

Come spring 2011, FSN Pittsburgh will be no more.  Long live... Root Sports?

DirecTV Sports Networks said late Friday it intends to rebrand its three regional sports networks, including FSN Rocky Mountain, as Root Sports in the spring.

The other regional networks to share the brand are FSN Northwest and FSN Pittsburgh.

Apparently, the three regional channels haven't been owned by Fox in years.  I don't quite understand why they were allowed to be carry the FSN label for so long, but whatever.

Now the important part, per the press release:

When the networks officially transition to ROOT Sports, all of the existing team partnerships and programming will remain intact as will the distribution agreements with cable and satellite operators.

Good news.  In English that means: A.) Non-ESPN/CBS Pitt basketball games will remain on FSN/Root; and B.) it will remain on Comcast & Adelphia even though it's owned by DirecTV.

So breathe easy Pitt fans, you'll still get to see your November beatdowns of the Riders of the world.

(h/t The Pens Blog)

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Written by PSB Bryan | 18 December 2010

 

#8 Pittsburgh

10-1

RealTime RPI: 15

vs.

MarylandEasternShore

Maryland Eastern Shore

2-7

RealTime RPI: 314


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
7:00 p.m. EST
TV: FSN PIttsburgh, ESPN3.com
Radio: 93.7 The Fan

Game Day Stories:

FYI, Michael Haywood will be in the Pete lobby for a meet-and-greet starting at around 6:00.

Hail to Pitt.

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Written by PSB Bryan | 17 December 2010

Perhaps the biggest recruiting loss of the offseason:

Screen_shot_2010-12-17_at_9.56.23_PM

A big loss indeed.

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Written by PSB Bryan | 17 December 2010

Screen_shot_2010-12-17_at_7.32.28_AMAfter what seemed like much, much longer than nine days, Pitt introduced Michael Haywood as the head coach of the Panthers:

Haywood, who turns 47 in February, revived the Miami (Ohio) program after he took over in 2009, his first head coaching job after 21 years as an assistant. The RedHawks were 1-11 during his first season, then pulled the biggest turnaround in Division I, going 9-4 and earning a berth in the GoDaddy.com Bowl this season.

That earned Haywood the Mid-American Conference coach of the year honor. It also made him the leading contender at Pitt, where he becomes the first black head football coach. Haywood replaces Dave Wannstedt, who resigned under pressure after six seasons, a 41-32 record and no Big East titles.

If anyone was wondering if he was going to be a "player's coach," wonder no more.  The theme of the news conference was that there was a new sheriff in town.  As Gorman notes, the assumption that it was the losing that did Wannstedt in may have been mistaken:

If there is a word to best describe Haywood, it's the one that was missing from the Panthers this season: Discipline.

That apparently was the top priority for Pitt chancellor Mark Nordenberg and athletic director Steve Pederson in their search for a successor to Dave Wannstedt, whose teams were defined not by what they accomplished but rather where they fell short, on and off the field.

Funny how Wannstedt arrived six years ago talking about winning championships, only to focus on building character in players when he couldn't deliver a Big East title. Haywood arrives talking about building character in players in hopes it will lead to a Big East title.

It worked for Haywood at Miami (Ohio). He inherited a program that went 10-27 in the three seasons before his arrival. Then his first team finished 1-11. Haywood set out to "change the culture" with radical concepts such as morning practices; making players sit in the front row of class, wear coats and ties to games, and form a leadership council with representatives from every class and position group for accountability.

Miami went 9-4 and won the Mid-American Conference title this season.

"I believe you've got to have those things before you can win a championship," Pederson said. "This was a rough year, on and off the field, and that's not indicative of this university. We want to win championships, but we're not a win-at-all-costs program, and it's not a program that's going to tolerate poor player behavior."

Perhaps Wannstedt's fate was sealed before Utah with the arrests of Sheard, Douglas, Knox and Coleman.  If so, I find that to be uncategorically unfair.  The university is correct in expecting better, but to pin that all on Wannstedt - a guy who has run a very clean program - is unfair.  He's the coach, not the babysitter.  There will be arrests in any program.  That's one of the downfalls of running a business that involves 84 young men between the ages of 18-22.  It happened to Wannstedt and it will happen to Haywood.

/end rant

Seeing how the current players respond to this radical departure from Wannstedt is likely going to be the story of the summer.  The fan reaction has been almost universally negative.  Ron Cook asks us to step back and give the guy a chance:

Really, is it so wrong to give Haywood a chance?

I once made the bad mistake of lambasting a Pitt hire before the man coached a game. When unproven Jamie Dixon was promoted from Ben Howland's staff to take over the basketball team after Howland left for UCLA after the 2002-03 season -- Pitt's first choice had been Atlantic Coast Conference Coach of the Year Skip Prosser, a Carnegie native who was at Wake Forest -- I wrote: "There are very few ways to screw up a top 10 men's basketball program. ... Pitt found one yesterday. ... This is insanity."

No, it isn't one of my prouder moments in journalism.

He's right.  At the end of the day, no one knows how he'll do.  Pitt may have found the next Jim Tressel, a hire that raised a few eyebrows coming from Youngstown State to the Buckeyes.  I probably would have preferred someone with a bit more "splash," but if Haywood is the real deal, then he should have been the hire.  If he proves to be terrible, then we can all call for Pederson's firing and be completely justified.  But let's see how he does before we decide.

One area that demands immediate attention is recruiting.  Pitt is losing recruits left and right.  That's to be expected as players rarely come to a school for any other reason other than the coaches,  That's not the way it's supposed to be, but that's the reality.  And with Wannstedt gone, some of Pitt's biggest fish are swimming away:

"I was a big Wannstedt guy. I love coach Wannstedt," Poteat said. "For them to let him go was shocking. Us McDevitt guys and Wannstedt were close. I bonded with him. So I opened things back up with the recruiting."

"Pitt was my first love, but they let my man go," Poteat said. "My big thing was Pitt's playing style. They run straight at you and not too many coaches do that. Plus, Wannstedt did so many things for guys I know."

Poteat also said he hasn't totally ruled out Pitt.

Whatever Coach Haywood is doing today, I hope it involves calling out to the 717 area code.

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Written by PSB Bryan | 15 December 2010

It appears that Michael Haywood, head coach of the Miami (Ohio) Redhawks is ready to become Michael Haywood, head coach of the Pittsburgh Panthers:

Haywood was one of the first known candidates to be contacted and interviewed by Pitt last week and he was brought to campus for a second interview which continued late into the afternoon today. He also was to meet Chancellor Mark Nordenberg and other key Pitt administrators.

Haywood could be introduced as the next coach as early as tomorrow and then would immediately start assembling a staff and trying to retain most of Pitt's nationally ranked recruiting class.

Haywood was 10-15 at Miami, rebounded nicely to 9-4 last season after a 1-11 record his first year.  In his defense, he inherited an awful squad that went 2-10 the year before he got there.

No way to really judge the hire right now.  I'd have been excited for Dana Holgorsen and I still think it would have been a good hire, but for whatever reason it didn't work out.  I can't say that I'm "excited" about Haywood, but if he's the right guy, then he's the right guy.  We have no idea how he'll do at Pitt and Pitt can't make a hire based on who will sell the most tickets going into the next season.

He has a nice pedegree though.  As ESPN's Mark Schlaback tweeted, he was an assistant under Nick Saban when LSU won the national championship.  Also on that staff: Jimbo Fisher (FSU), Dooley (Tenn) and Muschamp (Florida).

Pitt's recruiting class this season will almost certainly suffer.  Four-star athlete Bill Belton decommitted today in what I am sure is not a coincidence.  But Wannstedt has put Haywood in a position to succeed with talent up and down the roster (skipping linebacker).

The next question is who will be retained and who will be let go.

But that's a question for tomorrow.  Tonight, we welcome Coach Haywood.  HTP.

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Written by PSB Bryan | 14 December 2010

Screen_shot_2010-12-14_at_5.43.53_PMAfter losing in fairly humbling fashion Saturday afternoon, Pitt fell five spots in the both major polls to eigth place.  While being eighth should be - and is - a great thing, in the rough and tumble Big East, that's good for third place.  UConn and Syracuse are ahead of the Panthers, while Villanova lurks close behind at 10th.

It's early, but it seems certain that the survivor winner of the conference should be awarded a top seed come March.

Tennessee is now ranked seventh.

It's a long season ahead.

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Written by PSB Bryan | 13 December 2010

After everything seemed set for Dana Holgorsen and his sweet, sweet offense to come to Pitt, Paul Zeise reports that the Oklahoma State offensive coordinator is no longer in the running for the Pitt job.  It really seemed like it was going to happen, but shit happens.  Either the circumstances changed or the information was wrong.  Zeise is a good reporter, so I'm going to assume some circumstance changed.

One changed circumstance - although not likely the circumstance that caused the Pitt-Holgorsen split - is West Virginia's interest, despite not having an opening:

Sources confirmed today that a high-ranking official from West Virginia's athletic department has been in contact with Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen about the head coaching position at West Virginia, even as there is no vacancy.

A source confirmed it is probable Stewart will be fired if West Virginia does not win that bowl game, and could happen regardless of the outcome. A win in the bowl game would give the Mountaineers a 10-win season.

The source also confirmed that West Virginia offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen's situation plays into the mix, as Mullen is a finalist for the head coach job at Kent State. If Mullen were to get the Kent State job, the source said the succession plan would be for Holgorsen to work under Stewart for one season as the offensive coordinator with the understanding that Stewart would retire after the 2011 season, making way for Holgorsen to become head coach.

The source indicated Stewart, whose contract runs through the 2013 season, is vehemently against such a plan and would resign before having Holgorsen work as a "coach in waiting" beneath him.

So where does this leave Pitt?  Your guess is as good as mine, especially with Temple's Al Golden off to Miami.  Zeise suggests San Diego State's Brady Hoke and Miami-Ohio's Michael Haywood, and then goes on to doubt their viability.  The internet suggestions go from the obvious (Frank Cignetti) to the intriguing (Virginia Tech's Bud Foster) to the ludicris (ex-Syracuse HC Paul Pasqualoni).

Put me down as someone who wouldn't be disappointed to see Tom Bradley get a shot - or at least an interview.

The search goes on....

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Written by PSB Bryan | 12 December 2010

Screen_shot_2010-12-12_at_8.45.36_AMI just had to remind myself that it was only December.  That no one could go undefeated.  That it was a bad match-up.  That this team could use a wake-up call.

But in the end - even though it's all true - it really didn't make me feel much better as I watched Tennessee absolutely crush the Panthers.  The score ended a respectable 83-76, but anyone who saw the game knew the final score is deceiving.

Pitt got wailed on a superior Tennessee team for the better part of 35 minutes.  A slight come back made it respectable, but it was a pounding few teams have ever put on the Dixon-era Panthers:

Tennessee shredded Pitt's defense like few others have in recent years. The previous time Pitt gave up as many points in a regulation game was Feb. 18, 2006 in an 84-82 loss at Marquette.

The Volunteers shot 56.3 percent from the field. They drove to the basket for easy baskets and were able to knock down their 3-point attempts with just as much ease. The Volunteers were 7 for 11 from 3-point range and scored 34 points in the lane, where the Panthers pride themselves on their tough interior defense.

The final seven-point margin does not accurately portray how thorough the Panthers were beaten. With less than 12 minutes remaining, Tennessee was 22 for 36 from the field for a whopping .611 shooting percentage. Had the Volunteers maintained that pace, it would have set a record for shooting percentage against a Dixon-coached team. Only a few Tennessee misses in the final stages of the game prevented that from happening.

So far, this team's biggest weakness has been wing defense.  Jordan Hamilton toasted them for 28.  Last night, Scotty Hopson put up 27.  Both players hit their career highs against a supposed tough defensively Pitt team.

Pitt hasn't played enough quality teams yet this season to make a determination yet, but there is the possibility that this team is living on reputation only as a solid defensive team.*

It's way too early to panic, although I'm sure those who have it out for Jamie Dixon as not a big-game-coach will flood talk radio this week.  That assumes, of course, that they can hear the radio through their tin-foil hats.

It is not time to panic.  It is not time to over-react.  It was what it was: a loss to a very good team who has the number one RPI in the country after wins against Pitt and Villanova.  Tennessee will likely enter conference play as the heavy favorite to win the SEC and they deserve it.  Let's just not forget that one loss does not mean that Pitt's goals can't or won't be accomplished.

Time to step up and move forward... and start making free throws.

 

*There is also the possibility that there is some sort of curse on this team involving people named "Scotty."  An equally possible scenario.

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Written by PSB Bryan | 11 December 2010

So remember when I wrote that Kentucky QB Mike Hartline's arrest was no big deal?  Yeah, about that:

University of Kentucky quarterback Mike Hartline has been suspended for the BBVA Compass Bowl, a move that will end his playing career, following his arrest Friday morning.

"Mike Hartline has had a good record here, conduct-wise, and I regret this," Phillips said. "I regret that this happened, but it did. I really hate that it happened because of what he's done for us this year in leading this program to our fifth-straight bowl. He's done a great job at that, but we have clear expectations our players, how we want them to act, how we want them to behave."

I'd like to think that it was the Failure to Notify of Address Change charge that did him in.

In all seriousness, a terrible situation for a guy that - at least by his coach's account - has been a good guy who got drunk and stupid.

As of right now it appears that sophomore Morgan Newton will get the start.  Newton has thrown seven passes this season, all in blow-out wins.

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Written by PSB Bryan | 11 December 2010

 

#3 Pittsburgh

10-0

RealTime RPI: 7

vs.

Tennessee

#13 Tennessee

6-0

RealTime RPI: 1


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
3:15 p.m. EST
TV: ESPN, ESPN3.com
Radio: 93.7 The Fan

Game Day Stories:

Hail to Pitt.

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