Sports Outside the Beltway

TCU to join Big East Conference

Does anyone consider east to include places almost on Mountain Standard Time? From ESPN-

TCU has accepted a bid for full membership to become the 17th member of the Big East Conference, effective July 1, 2012.

“Having BCS automatic-qualifying status was a priority for our football program and a great reward for the success we’ve had the last decade,” TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte said in a statement.

The conference change allows TCU to play in an automatic BCS-qualifying league beginning in the 2012-13 school year.

“Access got easier, not the road,” said Horned Frogs coach Gary Patterson, whose third-ranked Frogs (12-0) wrapped up their second consecutive undefeated regular season and Mountain West title with a 66-17 win at New Mexico on Saturday.

The Mountain West does not have an automatic bid to the BCS and is going through some changes of its own. BYU and Utah are leaving the conference just as Boise State enters.

Del Conte said losing BYU and Utah was a “significant blow” to the Mountain West.

It isn’t all that long ago that TCU was a member of the Southwest Conference and most of the school’s games were played in Texas. If I had to guess, the Big East will be more expensive travel expense wise for the Horned Frogs but strategically it is a wise move. The Mountain West is a dying conference.


For the record- UConn beats Notre Dame 59-44

The Huskies broke the consecutive win streak also set by the Huskies back in 2001-03. From AP-

Tina Charles, Maya Moore and the latest Connecticut Huskies dynasty now have their own place in the record books.

Charles scored 16 points and Moore added 11 to help top-ranked Connecticut win an NCAA record 71st straight game — a 59-44 victory over Notre Dame (No. 7 ESPN/USA Today, No. 6 AP) on Monday night in the semifinals of the Big East tournament.

UConn surpassed its own mark set from Nov. 9, 2001, to March 11, 2003. Unlike that amazing run, which ended in a loss in the Big East conference tournament semifinals to Villanova, this Huskies team has thoroughly dominated its opponents in every game, winning all of them by double digits.

Connecticut (32-0) will face either West Virginia or Rutgers on Tuesday night with a chance to win its 16th Big East conference tournament championship.

Maybe the most spectacular aspect of UConn’s record is the fact they have seldom been behind in any of the 71 games. Has there ever been a more perfect sports team?


Rutgers Basketball coach C. Vivian Stringer suspended for one game

She will miss the February 11th game against Seton Hall. From AP-

Rutgers suspended Hall of Fame women’s basketball coach C. Vivian Stringer on Tuesday for one game for misusing practice players.C. Vivian Stringer

Duncan Williams/Icon SMIC. Vivian Stringer was found to have violated an NCAA bylaw that bars managers from participating as practice players. Rutgers has only nine players on its roster.

Stringer will miss the Scarlet Knights’ game against Seton Hall on Wednesday. She is third among women’s coaches on the all-time victories list with 838 wins and was enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame last September.

Stringer violated an NCAA bylaw which states that managers may not participate as practice players with the institution’s team if they are not eligible student-athletes.

“Accountability is a vital element of the Rutgers athletics family,” the school’s athletic director, Tim Pernetti, said in a statement. “We will always follow what is in accordance with athletic department and NCAA policy.”

Associate head coach Carlene Mitchell will be the acting head coach against Seton Hall.

Rutgers is down to nine players due to one player transferring away from the school. In my opinion a one-game suspension or a warning is enough punishment for this particular rules violation.


South Florida fires football coach Jim Leavitt

He had a record of 94-57 at USF and been the only football coach the school has ever had. From ESPN-

South Florida football coach Jim Leavitt was fired Friday following an investigation of an allegation that he struck one of his players in the locker room.

In confirming his dismissal, Leavitt told The Associated Press he was “disappointed” and the allegation was “absolutely false.”

South Florida said the findings of its investigation into the alleged incident will be discussed at a 12:30 p.m. ET news conference. In its statement, the university did not mention Leavitt’s status as coach.

A South Florida staff member told ESPN’s Joe Schad that a staff meeting has been called for noon ET, at which time the entire coaching staff will be officially fired. A meeting with the players is not expected.

Leavitt has been under investigation by the university for allegedly grabbing and striking special teams player Joel Miller at halftime of a November game against Louisville. The allegations against Leavitt originally were made by Miller’s father, Paul, in an online report. Paul Miller has backtracked from original comments that alluded to contact Leavitt allegedly made with his son’s neck and face.

Miller has since said Leavitt only grabbed his shoulder pads. Apparently the school is believing the first version of events.

Honestly, I don’t understand why abuse of college athletes is even tolerated by society. What would lead to criminal charges if it happened outside the world of sports, or happened to young men and women just a few young years younger, would result in criminal charges for the abuser. Instead excuses are made and the victims get criticized. What is wrong with this picture?


#9 Georgetown holds FIU to 38 points, wins 76-38

Reminds me of college basketball scoring before the shot clock was introduced. From AP-

On Tuesday night, the Hoyas polished off undermanned Florida International 76-38.

Austin Freeman scored 17 points, Chris Wright had 14 and DaJuan Summers added 13 for Georgetown (9-1).

The Hoyas, who won their sixth straight, completely outclassed the Golden Panthers (4-9), who scored the fewest points in their history.

Florida International dressed 10 players — five of them walk-ons — and it was quickly apparent they weren’t in the Hoyas’ class. Georgetown led 23-4 with 10:31 left and were ahead 43-16 at halftime.

FIU was without its 3 best scoring players and shot barely 30%. This game was basically a warmup for Georgetown who faces #2 UConn on December 29th.


Oops- Syracuse Univ. statue of Ernie Davis has him wearing Nikes

A movie celebrating the former Heisman Trophy winner’s life was released to movie theaters last Friday. From AP-

SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Ernie Davis never wore Nikes, until now. A new statue of the first black player to win the Heisman Trophy depicts him in modern-day football gear — including Nike cleats.

The problem is that Davis led Syracuse to the national title in 1959 and won the Heisman two years later, before Nike was formed.

The university unveiled the Davis statue last Saturday, a day after “The Express” — a movie about Davis’ life — had its world premiere at the Landmark Theatre in downtown Syracuse. The film opens nationwide in October.

Call it an honest mistake by the sculptor, 82-year-old Bruno Lucchesi of New York City, who said he was asked to work off a picture of Davis. The school said it also sent him football gear.

The statue has Davis wearing his famous No. 44 jersey, but “NIKE” is inscribed on the heel of each cleat, there’s a swoosh on his chest, and he’s holding a helmet much different from the one he wore.

Accidents happen, but one question remains. Will any of Davis’ surviving family members(Ernie died of leukemia at age 23 in 1963) get royalties from Nike? I’m not sure if that’s a serious question or not.


NFL Draft 2008 – Round 1 #19 – Carolina Panthers – OT Jeff Otah (via Philadelphia Eagles)

NFL Draft 2008 Logo The Eagles are on the clock. The ESPN gang is yapping about quarterbacks but the Eagles just took one in the 2nd round last year. Is a trade in the offing?

We’re two hours, ten minutes into the draft at already 18 guys gone. That’s fantastic for me as a fan of the Cowboys, who have the 22nd pick, but it’s hard to live blog at this speed!

The Eagles have traded the pick to the Carolina Panthers. The speculation is that they’re after Jeff Otah, the last stud offensive linemen, or one of the remaining quarterbacks.

Otah it is!

Scouts, Inc.: 19th

Strengths: Is a massive, mauling right tackle type. Has a huge frame with very long arms (35.3 inches). Not a great athlete but does play with good balance. He has a massive base. Will get low and uproot DL. Does an excellent job of anchoring versus the bull rush. Shows very good overall strength. Rarely loses a battle once he is locked on. Will drive his legs and create a new line of scrimmage as a run blocker. Still learning technique but is intelligent and continues to improve with more experience and coaching.

Weaknesses: Below average athlete. The more space he’s in the less effective he becomes. Lacks ideal initial quickness out of his stance and struggles to get set in time versus speed edge rushers. Struggles to reach the second level as a run blocker. Will have trouble hitting moving targets in space. Hands are smaller than ideal (9.2 inches).

Overall: Otah was born in Nigeria, came to the United States when he was seven years old and did not play organized football until his senior season of high school. He attended Valley Forge (Pa.) Military College in his first two years out of high school (2004-’05), making 17 consecutive starts at left tackle. He also averaged nearly 19 points and 12 rebounds for the Valley Forge basketball team. Otah transferred to Pitt in 2006 and made an immediate impact, starting all 24 games of his junior and senior seasons with the Panthers. He was an All-Big East first team selection in 2007. The Nigerian-born Otah lacks ideal playing experience and is still unpolished. While he is not a great athlete, he is not as slow as his combine workout numbers might indicate, as he participated despite an ankle injury. Otah is a massive mauler with the size, power and short-area quickness to develop into a good starting right tackle in the NFL, which is why we grade him as a mid-to-late first round prospect.

Rick Gosselin: 16th

Mel Kiper: 12th

A great value at the spot, presuming they didn’t give up too much in the trade. But it’s unusual to move up to take a tackle.


Upset Saturday in College Football

It was a bizarre weekend in college football, with eight ranked teams losing to teams ranked below them — seven to teams not ranked at all.

    #3 Oklahoma lost to unranked Colorado, 24-27.
    #4 Florida lost to unranked Auburn, 17-20.
    #5 West Virginia lost to #18 South Florida, 13-21 (Thursday night).
    #7 Texas lost to unranked Kansas State, 21-41
    #10 Rutgers lost to unranked Maryland, 24-34
    #13 Clemson lost to unranked Georgia Tech, 3-13
    #21 Penn State lost to unranked Illinois, 20-27
    #22 Alabama lost to unranked Florida State, 14- 21

This was on top of several other close finishes.

ESPN’s Pat Forde dubs it “Insanity Saturday” and observes that this throws the whole season out of whack.

Just that fast, the college football landscape shifted seismically beneath our feet.

Just that fast, the Red River Shootout game Saturday between Oklahoma and Texas was dropped to undercard status. For the first time in years, it’s not the marquee game in the Big 12. And for the first time in years, the league’s maligned North looks more compelling than the South. If you can believe it, the biggest game in that league next week might be unbeaten Kansas at 3-1 Kansas State — either that or 4-1 Nebraska at unbeaten Missouri.

Just that fast, the upcoming LSU-Florida showdown Saturday in Baton Rouge lost half its helium when the Gators were shocked in The Swamp by an Auburn team that had lost at home to South Florida and Mississippi State on consecutive weekends.

Just that fast, the three Big East teams that began the season in the Top 25 all have at least one loss. Louisville went down first, then West Virginia, now Rutgers. Suddenly South Florida, Connecticut and Cincinnati are the unbeaten teams in the Big East. Honk if you foresaw that in August.

Just that fast, Illinois is 4-1 and tied for first in the Big Ten at 2-0. That’s the same Illinois that went 2-10 last year, with only one victory over I-A competition.

Just that fast, we have an ACC plot twist that leaves Virginia and Boston College well out in front in their respective divisions at 3-0 in league play. Virginia was left for dead after a Week 1 blowout loss to Wyoming. Boston College was picked last in its division by at least one preseason magazine.

And just that fast, USC and LSU put that much more distance between themselves and what’s left of the pack.

The object lesson here is that no favorite is safe. Not at home, not on the road, not in league play, not out of league play. If those lessons hadn’t already been learned by Appalachian State 34, Michigan 32, and Syracuse 38, Louisville 35, they were reinforced on Insanity Saturday.

And no lead is safe. You’d think the Sooners getting up 24-7 would be enough to make Colorado quit. You’d be wrong. The Buffaloes scored the final 20 points, winning on the last play of the game — a 45-yard field goal by Kevin Eberhart.


Underdogs aren’t scared right now, by much of anyone. Players and coaches are shrugging off past history, blowing off bad losses, not worrying about falling behind and regrouping to pull upsets nobody saw coming. Nobody’s rolling over.

I’ve seen this sort of thing in college basketball before but never to this extent in football. The bottom line, though, is that Notre Dame and Alabama and Michigan no longer have an automatic recruiting advantage over South Florida and West Virginia and Georgia Tech. There’s a wealth of talent out there and plenty of television exposure to be had in the realigned conference structure. Players would rather go to a program with less prestige and start than sit on the bench and one of the Big Boys.


South Florida Upsets #5 West Virginia

A bunch of turnovers and the early exit of their star quarterback sent #5 West Virginia Mountaineers to a loss to the upstart South Florida

No. 18 South Florida is not only basking in the national spotlight, the Bulls are thriving in it. Matt Grothe upstaged West Virginia stars Pat White and Steve Slaton for the second straight year, leading rapidly rising USF to a 21-13 victory over the mistake-prone, fifth-ranked Mountaineers on Friday night.


West Virginia (4-1, 0-1) averaged 357 yards rushing in its first four games, but only managed 188 on the ground after surprisingly opening the game throwing on seven of its first 11 offensive plays.

The Mountaineers lost White late in the second quarter after the junior quarterback was hit in the right knee on a running play. He limped off the field and remained on the sideline, but did not return.


The victory before a record crowd for a USF home game (67,018), figures to propel the Bulls to unprecedented heights for a program that has only been in existence for 11 seasons. They moved up to the Football Bowl Subdivision, formerly known as Division I-A, in 2001 and entered the Top 25 for the first time two weeks ago.

“It’s a big win for everybody around here,” USF coach Jim Leavitt said as he waved his left arm toward the on-field celebration. “Pretty neat stuff.”

Although many will view the result as an upset, USF is not a stranger to taking down ranked opponents. The Bulls upset Louisville at home two years ago and knocked West Virginia out of contention for a BCS bowl berth with a 24-19 upset at Morgantown last November. They moved to the brink of cracking the Top 25 for the first time with a 26-23 overtime victory at Auburn earlier this month.

In a season of stunning upsets, it may not even be surprising anymore. That’s especially true for a Florida team, where they seem to grow more top flight college football players than the other 49 states combined.

AP Photo/Chris O’Meara


Easiest College Football Schedules

The easiest path to a mythical college football national championship is to go undefeated. The easiest way to do that? Not play anybody Mark Schlabach gives his take on the teams that have the weakest opponents:

1. KANSAS: The Jayhawks’ nonconference schedule includes more cream puffs than your favorite bakery: Central Michigan, Division I-AA Southeastern Louisiana, Toledo and Florida International (all at home). Kansas doesn’t play Texas or Oklahoma in Big 12 Conference play, and the Jayhawks will face Nebraska in Lawrence, Kan., and Missouri in Kansas City.

Nonconference opponents: Central Michigan (home), Southeastern Louisiana (home), Toledo (home), Florida International (home)
Toughest game: at Texas A&M, Oct. 27
Easiest game: vs. Southeastern Louisiana, Sept. 8

Hawaii 2. HAWAII: Warriors quarterback Colt Brennan won’t have many problems putting up Heisman Trophy-like numbers against Hawaii’s schedule. The Warriors play two nonconference games against Division I-AA teams Northern Colorado and Charleston Southern, along with a road game at UNLV and home game against Washington. The Warriors’ WAC schedule includes home games against Fresno State and Boise State and road games at San Jose State and Nevada.

Nonconference opponents: Northern Colorado (home), UNLV (road), Charleston Southern (home), Washington (home)
Toughest game: vs. Boise State, Nov. 23
Easiest game: vs. Charleston Southern, Sept. 23

Arkansas 3. ARKANSAS: The Razorbacks’ slate is a perfect example of why SEC teams have a poor reputation when it comes to out-of-conference scheduling. The Hogs will get fat on a nonconference schedule that includes home games against Troy, North Texas, Division I-AA Tennessee-Chattanooga and Florida International. SEC road games at Alabama, Tennessee and LSU prevented this from being the country’s easiest schedule.

Nonconference opponents: Troy (home), North Texas (home), Chattanooga (home), Florida International (home)
Toughest game: at LSU, Nov. 23
Easiest game: vs. Tennessee-Chattanooga, Oct. 6

Indiana 4. INDIANA: In a season in which the Hoosiers don’t play Big 10 heavyweights Michigan and Ohio State, they beefed up their nonconference schedule with the likes of Division I-AA Indiana State, Western Michigan, Akron and Ball State. Indiana plays rival Purdue and Penn State at home, but travels to Iowa and Wisconsin. Thanks to the soft schedule, look for the Hoosiers to play in a bowl game for the first time since 1993.

Nonconference opponents: Indiana State (home), Western Michigan (road), Akron (home), Ball State (home)
Toughest game: at Wisconsin, Oct. 27
Easiest game: vs. Indiana State, Sept. 1

Connecticut 5. CONNECTICUT: The Huskies might have put together a tougher schedule by returning to the Atlantic 10. Their nonconference schedule includes games against Division I-AA Maine and two of the worst I-A teams — Duke and Temple. The Huskies play seven of their 12 games at home, including key Big East dates against Louisville and Syracuse.

Nonconference opponents: Duke (road), Maine (home), Temple (home), Akron (home), Virginia (road)
Toughest game: at West Virginia, Nov. 24
Easiest game: vs. Maine, Sept. 8

Navy 6. NAVY: The Midshipmen play only four Division I-A teams that finished with winning records last season: Rutgers, Wake Forest, Notre Dame and Northern Illinois. Five of Navy’s 2007 opponents won four games or fewer last season, including Duke (0-12), Temple (1-11), North Texas (3-9), Army (3-9) and Air Force (3-8).

Toughest game: at Rutgers, Sept. 7
Easiest game: vs. Duke, Sept. 22

Northwestern 7. NORTHWESTERN: The Wildcats could see a big turnaround in coach Pat Fitzgerald’s second season, thanks to a not-so-daunting schedule. Nonconference games against Division I-AA Northeastern, Nevada, Duke and Eastern Michigan (at Detroit) are potential victories. Home games against Minnesota and Indiana could bring the victory total to six, making Northwestern eligible for a bowl game.

Nonconference opponents: Northeastern (home), Nevada (home), Duke (home), Eastern Michigan (neutral)
Toughest game: at Ohio State, Sept. 22
Easiest game: vs. Northeastern, Sept. 1

Texas Tech 8. TEXAS TECH: Give the Red Raiders some credit for scheduling a pair of nonconference road games … at SMU and Rice. A home game against UTEP might be challenging, but a Sept. 29 game against Division I-AA Northwestern State will be a rout. Texas Tech plays home games against two of the Big 12 conference’s most talented teams, Texas A&M and Oklahoma.

Nonconference opponents: SMU (road), UTEP (home), Rice (road), Northwestern State (home)
Toughest game: at Texas, Nov. 10
Easiest game: vs. Northwestern State, Sept. 29

Ohio State 9. OHIO STATE: The Buckeyes won’t miss Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith and the rest of their departed stars during the nonconference schedule. Not against Division I-AA Youngstown State, Akron and Kent State, anyway. At least a Sept. 15 game at Washington will be played outside the state of Ohio. The Buckeyes play two of their most difficult Big 10 games on the road, at Penn State on Oct. 27 and at Michigan on Nov. 17.

Nonconference opponents: Youngstown State (home), Akron (home), Washington (road), Kent State (home)
Toughest game: at Michigan, Nov. 17
Easiest game: vs. Youngstown State, Sept. 1

Texas 10. TEXAS: The Longhorns get kudos for scheduling a home game against TCU, a possible BCS sleeper. But the rest of the schedule sets up very well for coach Mack Brown. The other three nonconference games should be routs, against Arkansas State, Central Florida and Rice. The Longhorns play top Big 12 foes Nebraska and Texas Tech at home, along with the Red River Shootout against Oklahoma in Dallas.

Nonconference opponents: Arkansas State (home), TCU (home), Central Florida (road), Rice (home)
Toughest game: vs. Oklahoma (Dallas), Oct. 6
Easiest game: vs. Arkansas State, Sept. 1

You can’t blame the athletic directors. It’s to each school’s benefit to play weak teams — so long as they don’t lose.


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