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Wakeup Call: All is ‘Fine’ in Syracuse?

Some sporting thoughts before sunrise …

>> Unless I missed something while away from the TV set, I didn’t catch ESPN mentioning anything having to do with Syracuse’s own child-abuse charges against former assistant coach Bernie Fine.

This was a fine Jason Whitlock column I read yesterday about Fine.

Is he right that the mess was wholly overblown?

If so, is it that clear-cut that ESPN would make zero mention of it, compared to the dominating — and justified — presence the Jerry Sandusky scandal was given during Penn State football games?

>> The Panthers are 0-6 in the Big East for the first time after predictably falling to No. 1 Syracuse at the Dome, 71-63 but I liked almost as much in this game as I did in the loss at Marquette. Maybe even more, given the uptick in competition.

Ashton Gibbs continued to make his shots, Lamar Patterson penetrated a little, John Johnson made some shots, and even Cam Wright stepped up. Not many of us expected the Panthers to be within four points with eight minutes left. There were still way too many turnovers and WAY TOO MUCH Dante Taylor on the floor in any capacity, but they’re getting better.

Bear in mind, Pitt’s trying to make the leap from disastrous to decent. Doesn’t happen overnight.

>> Please, please tell me that nothing having to do with Taylor had anything to do with Khem Birch’s departure. Taylor is one of those guys that costs a coach sleep.

>> Todd Graham is a real piece of … work.

>> Maurkice Pouncey was named to the All-NFL team selected by the Pro Football Writers, yet another feather in the helmet of someone who really didn’t play a whole lot.

Shouldn’t that at least make it into the fine print for qualifications?

Pouncey missed four regular-season games to injury — a quarter of the season — then the playoff game in Denver. On top of that, he and the entire offensive line were absolutely awful in the opening game in Baltimore. That’s essentially six games the Steelers played in which he contributed nothing.

I don’t care if you’re Mike Webster and Dermontti Dawson all rolled into one for the remainder of those games, it”s tough to explain how he was the NFL’s best center in 2011.

Remember, part of what made Webster and Dawson great was durability.

>> Here’s a terrific interview between Ray Shero and Mark Madden yesterday. All I’ll add: I cannot say enough about the professionalism of the Penguins’ general manager.

>> I’ll be over at Consol most of the day, covering for Josh Yohe with news in the morning and working on a column later in the evening.

Comments

  1. Crash says:

    He’s not the best media man in PIttsburgh for nothing folks!

  2. Dan1283 says:

    Thanks for the link on the Graham piece. Coupla gripes:

    “FS Arizona: Does it bother you that your job hopping is a persistent topic even though people in this business leave their jobs for better opportunities all the time?”

    Wow. Softball “journalism” at it’s worst.

    Graham’s reponse: “Nobody has ever asked me what kind of deal I got here versus what I had (at Pitt). Nobody’s asked me what kind of commitment I had there — half the commitment I have here. Who would not take that opportunity? Everything about this made sense if you sat down and looked at it for your family, for your future, for your finances. Everything. There was no comparison.”

    Again, wow. You’re meaning to tell me that after the Haywood fiasco Graham didn’t have every red carpet perk rolled out for him?? He had half the support he has at ASU? Give me a cuss word break.

    Graham: “I’m proud that they asked me to take over a program that had been on the front page of Sports Illustrated with the most criminalities in the country and we did some good things there, but they just didn’t like it there.”

    What in tarnation does that even mean??? Is that another underhanded jab at Pitt? Good grief.

    I haven’t had this much disdain for a guy since…well, as far as local sports goes, ever.

  3. Crash says:

    Graham will leave there by the end of 2013. Guaranteed. He’s PenniWhipped.

  4. Reading says:

    Speaking victory. If you remember that he didn’t have a job because he had to resign at Pitt to even look at the ASU job, and the fact that he only talked to the search firm, then how did he know that ASU’s commitment was twice that of Pitt, or that his deal at ASU would be better? How could he know that there was no comparison or that everything made sense? I hope they enjoy the speed and explosive power.

  5. S Hutch says:

    I think it’s time to just let Todd Graham go. Don’t give him any more thought or publicity. He’s made his bed, and whatever happens from here has nothing to do with Pitt any more. Move along folks, there’s nothing more to see here…

  6. Dave says:

    So, Todd Graham believes in 100% accountability and I’m sorry doesn’t cut it. He’s also a look you in the eye type because that’s where you see the soul of a person, huh? Must be why he didn’t look anyone in Pittsburgh in the eye on the way out. God forbid we think of him as soulless. And he’s right. I’m sorry doesn’t cut it.

  7. Curt says:

    I thought the Panthers looked their best during some stretches in the second half. However Syracuse is just loaded with talent. Coach Dixon gets a pass on this year’s team and its pretty incredible that he has made the tournament 10 straight seasons!

    The whole ESPN machine bothers me more often than not. Seems like they do alot more speculating and reporting things before its proven. They used to be straight highlights, they have definitely changed with the way they do things.

  8. JAL says:

    JAL’s COMING IN ON A WING AND A PRAYER Morning Links

    GENERAL DAILY UPDATED BASEBALL SITES

    1- MLB Transactions

    http://www.cbssports.com/mlb/transactions

    2-MLB Trade Rumors-Pirates

    http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/pittsburgh_pirates/

    3- 2011-12 Pirates Prospects Off-Season Calendar

    http://www.piratesprospects.com/2011/10/2011-12-pirates-prospects-off-season-calendar.html

    4 Pirate Offseason Stats

    http://www.mlb.com/milb/stats/org.jsp?id=pit

    5 Yahoo Free Agent Tracker

    http://ca.sports.yahoo.com/mlb/news;_ylt=AvN8KLXkNW0TcRjzSCagLIMBbgM6?slug=jp-passan_ultimate_free_agent_tracker_baseball_110211

    6 Pirates Prospects Offseason Tracker

    http://www.piratesprospects.com/offseason

  9. JAL says:

    7 Pittsburgh Pirates 2012 Spring Training Tracker

    http://www.piratesprospects.com/st2012

    PIRATE BLOGS

    8—Pirates Prospects

    Winter League Playoffs 1/16 — Two Hits For Navarro

    http://www.piratesprospects.com/2012/01/winter-league-playoffs-116-two-hits-for-navarro.html

    9 The Green Weenie

    Morton Signs, Taillon, Cole Honored

    http://oldbucs.blogspot.com/2012/01/morton-signs-taillon-cole-honored.html

  10. JAL says:

    NEWSPAPERS and MAGAZINES

    12 Houston Press

    Some Modest Suggestions for Bud Selig, MLB Commissioner For Life

    http://blogs.houstonpress.com/hairballs/2012/01/bud_selig_contract_extension.php

    13 USA Today

    Tough times in the Keystone state

    http://www.usatoday.com/sports/columnist/lopresti/story/2012-01-15/lopresti/52601688/1

    14 Topeka Capital Journal

    Don’t Stop Believing in One-Team Stars

    http://cjonline.com/blog-post/jeremy-deckard/2012-01-16/don’t-stop-believing-one-team-stars#.TxTlNpdjXgc

  11. dillonerd says:

    Dejan,
    Unless I am missing your sarcasm, ESPN completely over-reported the Syracuse case. They made it into their own Sandusky investigation so they could have a news story that they were in charge of. They broke the story itself on Outside the Lines and had exclusive video recordings, etc. I am not saying there is not a case there, but ESPN definately went out on a witch hunt so they could be in control of the story.

    DK: Referring only to the broadcast last night.

  12. diehard says:

    I’m with dillonerd on ESPN’s reporting of the Fine case. Whitlock actually wrote an article when ESPN “broke” the story. They’d been sitting on it for years, knowing themselves that the evidence was weak, then they moved on it because the timing was opportunistic.
    http://msn.foxsports.com/collegebasketball/story/syracuse-bernie-fine-tape-exposes-media-true-motives-120111

  13. bdubb says:

    I liked the way Pitt played last night, esp Wright. He played aggressive and tough and it was the first time I have seen a Pitt player play that way since last year. Maybe they are learning the Pitt way.

    I have to disagree about Taylor playing last night. He was dominating the boards and Zanna was adding nothing. Both were being weak underneath but Taylor was grabbing every miss. Then…someone got to Zanna and told him to try to dunk instead of a layup and it lit a fire and he too played strong the final 10 minutes. My only hope is these kids learned something in that second half and can continue it on. It will be tough to win with the human turnover machine playing next to him. Pitt has to be stronger and smarter with the ball before they will win

    I don’t understand your Taylor and Birch comment. Can you clarify? I just don’t think I am reading it the way it is supposed to be written. Living in NC I don’t get to hear a lot of chatter up there. I just can’t imagine Taylor had anything to do with Birch leaving. Birch was about to take over the starting role 100%. I would actually have really liked to have seen Birch and Zanna together on the front line.

    DK: Right around the time Birch left, Taylor was taking up what could have been some of his playing time. I understand they’re not entirely similar players, but that’s the reference.

  14. NMR says:

    I’m disgusted by the Whitlock article.

    Yes, two low-lifes apparently falsely accused him. Yes his wife may be bitter. But Whitlock flat out attacks the credibility of a two men who claim to have been sexually abused as children.

    So what if Fine is homosexual. I have no problem with that. I DO have a problem with him practicing with a kid in his early teens.

    Fine took in an underpriveledged kid, gave him security, comfort, and money. Do you actually beleive that he started doing these acts right on the kids 18th birthday?

    This is grossly irresponsible and it makes me sick. If Whitlock wants to crusade for sexual equality in sports, I’m all for it. But how in the h*ll do you choose a suspected child molestor to lead the charge?

  15. @suckmeter says:

    >>I was thinking the same thing last night about Syracuse. ESPN was talking about how perfect their season had been to this point, it really would suck if a scandal broke and put a stain on their success.

    >>Best thing that happened to Pouncey was NOT playing in the Super Bowl last year. He got so much press about how important he was to the team and how great a rookie center he was that I think it got into all of the sports writers heads. Sucks no one watches him play (or not play) and see that he has not separated himself from the field of NFL centers.

    >>Khem Birch said on The Fan Morning Show yesterday that one of his reasons for leaving Pitt was because players were more worried about their individual stats and not the team. Sucks he also said that they didn’t give HIM preferential treatment for being an All-American and that Dixon’s system didn’t fit HIS skills. So he abandons the TEAM. This kid needs some better advisors.

    >>Great trade by Shero. Doesn’t suck he gave up nothing to get Kris Letang. Be great if he makes a similar deal soon to get the best player in the NHL and a 3rd line center.

  16. Steve says:

    Although they’ve lost the last two games, Pitt has played better. They clearly faced a better opponent last night. I thought Taylor at least rebounded well. Their old nemesis, poor free throw shooting, raised its ugly head. Syracuse really shut Gibbs down as the game went on. He just can’t create a shot for himself and needs someone who can feed him the ball. Not having a stronger inside game from the big men has really hurt Ashton this year. If they keep playing with this effort they should win a few games in the BE. Maybe they can pull off an upset over Louisville this Saturday in prime time.

    Pouncey seems to have made it in to that category of NFL player who, once they make the pro bowl, all-pro or whatever seem to automatically get that recognition year after year. See Ray Lewis for example. Hopefully Pouncey can stay injury free and play the entire season next year.

  17. Jandy says:

    JAL, your last link, from the Pensburgh, got me thinking. Funny thing is, looks like the Pensburgh doesn’t like Josh Yohe!

  18. Arriba Wilver says:

    Dan–I agree with your comments about Graham totally. What a classy guy to trash your last school (e.g., criminalities, half the commitment) as a way to show how classy a guy you are.

    He got the first call at “something like” nine, talked and prayed with his wife, called Pitt, they refused, so he quit at 10:30. That’s what HE says. Doesn’t sound like they did much praying about it.

    And the poor guy was without a job, so he HAD to leave overnight without talking to his players. Well, that’s of course because he quit so he could go to Arizona.

    Good Riddance!

  19. JAL says:

    Jandy

    Does like they don’t like him

  20. Vinqtin says:

    How bad is the Gilbert kid at Pitt if he can’t see any minutes over Zanna or Taylor? Oh, and Robinson looked scared to death last night.

  21. CWalton_67 says:

    I think DK should rename this the Todd Graham fanclub blog.

    Interesting post from Pensburgh on Paul Martin in JAL’s links. While I thought that Josh Yohe’s description of Martin’s play as indifferent was inaccurate, I think he’s done a pretty good job covering the team. Statistics do tell a big part of a story, but not the whole story.

  22. Paul says:

    Thanks DK for the link to the Bernie Fine Story. Why is it that someone living in Central New York gets the best Fine story so far from a link from a Pittsburgh writers blog…..We don’t call our local paper the “SUB STANDARD” for nothing…LET’S GO BUCS

  23. Jandy says:

    CWalton, I was telling JAL (above) that it looks like the Pensburgh doesn’t like Josh Yohe lol.
    The article did get me thinking in that one can’t go by statistics alone.

    Bottom line is, Martin HAS BEEN struggling this season, even he admits it.
    But, like any other good player, sometimes you have to let them play thru it.
    His play has picked up considerably the past few games, IMO.

    And I agree with you, Josh Yohe does a pretty good job.

  24. Jandy says:

    All right, where is Groat with the Pirates update???

  25. JAL says:

    Pitchers and catchers report February 18, 1st full workout the 19th. Position players report February 23, first full workout February 24

  26. January 17

    32 days until Pirate Spring Training

  27. CWalton_67 says:

    @Jandy-
    Agreed on Martin, he hasn’t necessarily lived up to expectations, though I definitely agree he’s much improved lately. I think many had the expectation that he was the next #55, and that’s not really his game. Given the number of outstanding defense prospects in the Pens system, I don’t think he’ll see the end of his contract here.

  28. Kevin says:

    Gotta tip my hat to not only DK as one of the greats in his business, but also to all who contribute to this blog.

    You guys make what Dejan does/says that much better with the follow up! Wouldn’t miss reading this everyday for anything…

  29. Jandy says:

    CWalton, I am torn on how long Martin will remain a Penguin. We DO have a lot of depth, and the callups have proven just how well they can/will fit in. Since the same system is used at WBS and is used in Pittsburgh, it enables the guys to jump right in. And they have. Depres has been steady – up to the time he was unjured.
    That said, I find it hard right at this point to find a team that will take on Martin’s contract. But that could change over time. Who knows?

  30. Bunch of fair weather fans... says:

    Just need to respond to a comment about Todd Graham’s response to the commitment at Pitt.

    “He had half the support he has at ASU?”

    I can’t believe anyone is surprised he said this. I can’t speak for Arizona State but have you seen or been to Heinz field on a gameday? There were nearly as many West Virginia fans as Pitt fans in the stadium at the end of 2010. That shouldn’t happen. For a region that is supposed to be football first, the Pitt Panthers certainly don’t sell tickets like it.

  31. Dan1283 says:

    “I can’t believe anyone is surprised he said this. I can’t speak for Arizona State but have you seen or been to Heinz field on a gameday? There were nearly as many West Virginia fans as Pitt fans in the stadium at the end of 2010. That shouldn’t happen. For a region that is supposed to be football first, the Pitt Panthers certainly don’t sell tickets like it.”

    To understand the competition for the sports dollar in Pittsburgh is to understand why the Pitt football program doesn’t sell out every game.

    This ain’t Morgantown.

  32. JohninOshkosh says:

    As much as London Calling in my youth forever changed my musical tastes, I could never shake my love for music of the 1940′s. JAL, your link to Anne Shelton made my day! Took me back to my childhood when my father “forced” me to listen to his LP’s. Thanks.

  33. Dan1283 says:

    It’s cyclical, people. I can remember Heinz Field selling out for Pitt-Virginia Tech in 2002 or 2003 and going to Penguins games where there were 7,000 people. Should the Pens be disgraced, or is it just the fact that Pittsburgh fans flock to winners and stay home from losers just like in any other pro sports town.

  34. JAL says:

    JohninOshkosh

    Most welcome, picked that song because it seems that Pens, Steelers, Pitt, and the Pirates have been coming in on wing and prayer. Anne Shelton had a number 1 hit in England in 1956 and was doing concerts up to her death in 1994.

  35. Arriba Wilver says:

    bunch–I didn’t interpret that support comment as from the fans, but as from the administration. Now, if it was about how many were showing up at the games, how many games has Coach Graham coached there to find out? Right. Unless he can add soothsaying to his resume.

  36. JAL says:

    Couple of Pirates points

    Gerrit Cole, Mike Crotta, Ramon Cabrera, Eric Fryer, Tony Sanchez and Robbie Grossman have been invited to spring training

    Also, reached agreement with Karstens on a contract

  37. NMR says:

    @Dan

    “To understand the competition for the sports dollar in Pittsburgh is to understand why the Pitt football program doesn’t sell out every game.”

    This is the excuse that Pitt always falls back on, and it’s wrong. Do you think all those people in Morgantown live in Morgantown?

    Are all 100,000 people at Beaver Stadium from State College? Take Route 22 on a Saturday and look at all the Steelers license plates. Same thing with Eagles fans coming from the East.

    To blame Pitt’s attendence on location and not peformance/fan base is looking for an excuse. You can’t tell me that 30,000 empty seats correspond to an equivalent amount of Steelers/Penguins/Pirates tickets.

  38. JAL says:

    Karstens’ contract $3.1 million

  39. I’m interested in seeing what Karstens signed for.

    Dejan, you are such a big Karstens booster——I fear this is the year he “returns to mean.”

    I hate that term by the way. As Mark Twain said, “There are lies, darned lies, and statistics.” People so blithely threw “return to mean” around when the Pirates fell off the cliff on July 25. What happened in the 1st 100 games, and the different performance level for the last 62 was not a “return to mean” . . . . it was falling off a cliff. The two opposites seasons the Pirates had were not just averaging out. How could they play 6 games over .500 and be in 1st place for almost 2/3 of the season, and then crash and burn so indescribably?

    Can Jeff Karstens continue to progress and get better, Dejan and crowd, or will he return to his “average”? For Karstens, for Lincoln, for Neil Walker and Andrew McCutchen, for Tabata and “Legend” Jones, for Charlie “Whirlybird” Morton and James MacDonald, is there continued upside that can be mined, or is this all we’ve got to play out the string? Does Pedro even have an upside, or just a “me” side and a heavy one at that?!

    These are questions posed and hopefully set to be answered in just 32 days!!!!

  40. Dan1283 says:

    “This is the excuse that Pitt always falls back on, and it’s wrong. Do you think all those people in Morgantown live in Morgantown?”

    No, it’s the only game in town for the sports dollar. A very large swath of these people attend nothing but WVU events in person. Doesn’t mean they aren’t fans of other teams but they don’t go to their games.

    “To blame Pitt’s attendence on location and not peformance/fan base is looking for an excuse. You can’t tell me that 30,000 empty seats correspond to an equivalent amount of Steelers/Penguins/Pirates tickets.”

    Yes I can. In fact I can tell you I personally know several Pitt season ticket holders who also hold Steelers season tickets. They often don’t choose to go to both games if they’re at home on the same weekend. In fact, earlier this year when the Steelers played the Colts on the road, they drove to Indy and missed the Pitt game.

    I’m sorry but when you live within 30 miles of the city and you have $100 to spend, and you can spend it on the Steelers, Penguins, Pitt or the Pirates different people are going to spend that money in different ways.

    If you don’t believe me, please, find me some other examples where the pro teams do as well as the college teams and vice versa. There might be 2 or 3 examples in the entire country where you find a city that has sellout numbers for both the pro teams and college teams every year, which is what you’re asking for since the Steelers and Penguins DO sell out every year.

    Try it. Seriously.

  41. Jandy says:

    Ahhh, now we’re sitting on the edge of our seats…well…maybe not ;)

  42. Arriba Wilver says:

    Dan–and attendance isn’t the issue, as I pointed out above. Graham doesn’t know that yet. It’s a red herring (and I’m not saying it’s intentional) in evaluating what Graham said. And I didn’t check the attendance figures, but the article said ASU is coming of something like 4 down years. But be that as it may, if Graham was talking about support from the fans, he doesn’t know yet to make that comparison. Seems to me at this point in his Pitt tenure there was a lot of excitement about his “high octane” approach. And if you believe what you read about the ASU athletic department, they make Steve Pederson look like a genius. Pitt is fair game for legitimate criticism, but their treatment of Todd Graham isn’t one of them. He’s just selling some more snake oil.

    But maybe it isn’t all his fault. It’s pretty clear who rules that roost. :-)

  43. NMR says:

    @Dan

    This is a case of labeling the symptom as the cause. If Pitt’s campus was in Somerset County, do you think they’d magically fill a 60-100k seat stadium?

    There aren’t many examples of pro teams and college teams selling out large stadiums in the same city because there simply aren’t many cases where the two overlap. USC has trouble selling out games, but LA doesn’t have a football team AND has an enourmous population. “The U” doesn’t sell out football games, but neither do the Dolphins.

    What are the other MAJOR college football teams that are also located in a city center?

    You said it yourself. It’s cyclical. When Pitt is good, fans jump on. When the team is bad, fans jump off. I’m sure personal examples like yours exist, but there literally are not enough extra seats in Heinz and Consol combined to explain Pitt’s attendance situation.

    It’s not something to get defensive about. I could care less how many people are at Pitt games. Lets just not go around telling other people they don’t understand something without looking in the mirror.

  44. Milo Hamilton says:

    DK

    So what was it like meeting Craig Adams for the 1st time ?

  45. aglebagel says:

    Of course Karstens is going to fall off this season. When’s the last time the Bucs’ best pitcher followed it up with another good season???

  46. Jandy says:

    LOL @ Milo (where’s that like button when you need it?)

  47. Just to be clear on an earlier link, Pensburgh doesn’t dislike Josh Yohe. Yohe’s a talented young writer who works his tail off.

    Pensburgh actually does like him. An individual writer on the blog put up a post critiquing his statistical methodology in analyzing Paul Martin. There’s a fairly long discussion that follows in the comments, where some others (including myself) argue to the contrary of the posting. Some speak in defense.

    There’s some merit in the content and research of the actual post. What he’s really arguing in favor of is Martin playing better than noted upon first glance. But if anything is regrettable in the post, it’s that the language the writer used was perhaps unduly harsh.

    But trust me, on the whole, if there’s a Penguins beat writer that Pensburgh does like, it’s definitely Yohe.

    DK: Me, too.

    Thanks for clarifying.

  48. JohninOshkosh says:

    DK, Per your Tweet:

    XTC is one of the great studio bands, but Andy Partridge’s stage fright prevented the band from touring. A band that does not tour and present their music in a live format for the public’s consideration can not be the Best.Band.Ever.

    DK: Best. Non-touring. Band. Ever.

    I still take the stage-fright thing personally. Happened two weeks before they were due in Pittsburgh. Alas, neither I nor anyone else would see them live again.

  49. Jandy says:

    @Stephen Catanese ~ my thanks also for clarifying this. i was completely taken aback by the tone of the article myself, which is why I drew from it that Josh was disliked. I like Josh myself. He and DK do a great job covering Pittsburgh sports. Thanks again!

  50. JohninOshkosh says:

    Can’t doubt Partridge’s stage fright was a real problem for him, though. It has no doubt cost him a lot monetarily-especially with the band reunion craze from the late 90′s to the mid 00′s. I would have paid to see them, as not being able to see them live is near the top of my musical regrets.

  51. JAL says:

    Meek agrees to contract, $875,000 with an additional $25,000 possible in performance-based incentives

  52. Bunch of fair weather fans... says:

    @Dan

    Please spare me the lame excuse of WVU being the “only game” in Morgantown. Most northern West Virginians are Pittsburgh professional sports fans and many attend games regularly. Couple that with the fact that there are more people in the Pittsburgh metro area than the entire state of West Virginia. Heinz Field, Consol, PNC, hold the “Pete” hold a combined 150,000 people (and I’m being generous). There are more than enough people to fill all of them because any reasonable person knows that, at minimum, more than 6% of people in the PMA are sports fans.

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