Home from ACC Media day, ready to catch my breath and I'll be off to Newport, Rhode Island for Big East media day and it will be bittersweet for me because it is my last one. I remember going to Big East media day at Giants Stadium when I first started covering the league way back when and then they moved it to Newport (closer to conference offices).
And actually, I think now that Dave Hickman from Charleston is a Big 12 writer only Tom Lucci from Newark who covers Rutgers has been a regular beat writer covering the Big East football conference longer than I have. So I have obviously made lots of good friends of the years, gotten to know lots of good people and have really enjoyed covering the Big East and that's why I say it will be somewhat bittersweet for me because it is my last one.
I was at Big East media days in 2003 and 2004 when the doom and gloom of losing members cast a big shadow and the future of the conference was in serious doubt. Then in 2006 and 2007 the triumph of the rebuilt league in BCS games and the powers that be were giddy about the future of the league. And now this - two teams are lame ducks (Syracuse, Pitt), one team is a football-only member for a year (Temple) and three other teams are probably still working the phones trying to get out of the league (Rutgers, Connecticut and Louisville) and there is an interm commissioner. Other than that things should go well.....
Seriously, though, the Big East has been a great place for Pitt for a lot of years and that is something that Pitt fans should remember in coming years when they get the urge to put it down. The Big East has been a big part of helping Pitt become a modern and successful athletic department and one that competes nationally in every sport.
But times change, people change and Pitt is moving to the ACC and that's why it was important for me to get a little bit of a jump on what is in store for the future. I think it is obviously a very well-run organization, I met a lot of really good people, John Swofford seems to have a good vision and the future is very bright.
This should be a very good landing spot for Pitt, though it must be pointed out that Pitt will go from being one of the power brokers of the conference (like it was in the Big East) to a small fish (which it will be in the ACC) and so that will be a bit of an adjustment. But the overall strength and stability of the league is much better and that is what makes this move so important.
** I spoke with Maryland coach Randy Edsall and Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer a little bit about the transition to the Big East and it was interesting to hear their takes. Here is a link to the story. Edsall just arrived in the ACC from the Big East so his perspective is a lot more relevant than Beamer's because let's face it, the Big East prior to 2004 when Virginia Tech joined the ACC was much different than the Big East of 2011. I mean, when Beamer was in the Big East it had Miami, BC and Va Tech, Syracuse wasn't the far removed from the Donovan McNabb days and West Virginia and Pitt were on the rise. And so Beamer said that while the depth of good teams and quality athletes is indeed more in the ACC now, it wasn't that big of a difference when he first joined the conference. And he pointed out that the ACC has gotten better each year and is better now than it was in 2004 so he didn't have to make many changes.
But Edsall competed in the modern Big East and while he is very complimentary of the conference and has good memories of his time there, he said it is a whole different world in the ACC and mostly because of the speed and athleticism. He said even the teams at the bottom of the conference have a lot of athletes and that the game is played much faster in that league than in the Big East. It is an interesting perspective and one that would suggest that Pitt will have to rethink its recruiting areas in order to try and tap into the southern states where the high school game is played at a much faster pace and thus there are more athletes with speed.
** The Notre Dame-ACC flirtations is a story that won't go away and is fascinating. It should be something to keep an eye on because in talking to people it sounds like something is going to happen in the future. It may start with some sort of a deal that includes Notre Dame in the Orange Bowl and a scheduling alliance of some sort and grows from there but it seems like if Notre Dame is going to end up in a conference it will be the ACC - and that is good news for someone like Rutgers or Connecticut because if the ACC added the Irish, they'd like look to add one more to get to 16 and those two would certainly be on the short list.
** Pitt fans provided plenty of entertainment today on Twitter and frankly, I am not ashamed to admit I laughed harder reading this than I have in a long time.
Just to give you the background - the Pac-12 media day was today and the social media people got a great idea to allow fans to interact with coaches via twitter so they created #askOSU #askUSC and of course, #AskAsu....well, once Pitt fans got wind of the fact that they could ask Todd Graham questions via Twitter, they did.
And as you might imagine it became very amusing, especially since they completely took it over and at one point there was like 20 or 30 questions being fired away at a time by Pitt fans. Soon, the #AskAAU hashtag was trending in Pittsburgh and nationally - and it was compleley hijacked by Pitt fans and people who are apparently not fans of Todd Graham.
Perhaps the best part of it was that it became more than just Pitt fans piling on as fans across the country began jumping in and it grew so big that several national web-sites wrote about it, the Trib's John Grupp wrote a story about it, the updates on 93.7 the Fan made reference to it and people as esteemed and dignified as ESPN's Andrea Adelson commented on what was going on and admitted they were amused by it.
Some people, as you might imagine, crossed the line and went too far but for the most part, the questions seemed to fit into the categories of asking for text messaging advice (since that is how he informed his players he was leaving), some version of making fun of high octane speed, speed speed (since that is what he continually tried to sell even though the Panthers were decidely low octane and slow, slow, slow last season....), the idea of him being a carpet bagger and moving from job to job and of course, the idea that ASU was his dream job because he has relatives in that area.
Here is a sampling of some of the better ones. I would be remiss if I did not point out that @pghsportsnation and @Pittscript for getting the ball rolling and contributing some incredible zingers early before the thing snowballed out of control....
By now you should at least get the point and a little bit of the flavor of the day - and if you really want to be amused you should go to Twitter and find the hashtag #AskASU. It is quite amazing, to be honest. The only thing that could have made it better would have been had Pitt's players joined in on the parade but they were given specific orders not to even think about it so they stayed away - though someone created a fake Tino Sunseri account and asked something about wanting to go to ASU to be the pooch punter.....
I'll have more on the ACC tomorrow.