By Steve Gephart 1/27/06
I'll be honest. I rooted for them. I rooted for those stinkin' lousy rivals of ours in Morgantown. I rooted for them because they represented the Big East at a time when the conference, fairly or unfairly, was being labeled insufficient and incapable of maintaining its elite status in college football. I even rooted for them because of the men who sadly and unfortunately lost their lives in the tragic accident at the Sago Mine. This very unfortunate incident added an extra layer of emotion to the Mountaineers stunning victory in this year's Sugar Bowl. It was incredible to see all those signs in the Georgia Dome crowd requesting prayers for those men.
And I have no reservations admitting I said many for them.
I did not regret it then, nor will I regret it now. It was important for the Mountaineers to show the world that the Big East champion deserved the same respect as the SEC Champion, or the Big Ten Champion, or even MORE respect than the dreaded ACC champion. It was also important for a proud state to rally behind their beloved football team during such a taxing and ultimately heartbreaking time.
But the Dawg won't be rooting for them anymore...not after this week.
All is fair in love and war. No question about that. And although the recruiting war burgeoning between Pitt and West Virginia MAY have been a war openly declared by Dave Wannstedt, it appears that Rich Rodriguez is certainly embracing it with the utmost fervor. In case you haven't read or seen the news, Eric Rodemoyer decommitted from his pledge to Pitt this week and opted to verbally accept a scholarship offer from West Virginia instead.
The Dawg refuses to get into all the speculation and rumors regarding the circumstances. But the significance of this sudden change of events is clear enough. Wannstedt said that no one was going to recruit in his backyard and then Rodriguez went out and quietly stole one of his verbal commits from right under his nose.
So much for that conference brotherly love; it appears those days are long gone and soon forgotten.
To be fair, Rodemoyer has every right to have a change of heart. He's not bounded to his verbal pledge to Pitt in any way. Plus, once he signs that letter of intent, he would be committed to Pitt and would incur severe consequences should he decide Pitt was not for him. The most important loss being a year of eligibility he would never get back if he indeed decided to leave the program at a later point in time.
And although Rodemoyer might not have been the highest profile recruit on the Pitt radar, he was certainly good enough to warrant a coveted scholarship from the Panthers. Some may scoff at losing him, but the Dawg is positive Wannstedt is not happy losing ANY kid he spent considerable time wooing to play football here. His loss is one that begs the question: Will this year's class become the exodus of 2004?
But I'm sure Rodriguez wishes it would. Especially when one considers the current Pitt class is an unbelievable collection of the best high school football players Western Pennsylvania has to offer. But not only is Wannstedt putting together one of the most talented classes in school history, but also one of the most committed. Unlike two year's ago, this class knows that the head coach's future is secure and the future is bright for the Pitt football program. If there are any reservations from recruits, they are dealt with immediately.
So let the games begin. Rodriguez has not yet been able to capitalize on the Mountaineers' stellar season and Sugar Bowl win to attract any of the top players in Western PA. But neither has Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan, or any of the other traditional strong recruiters in the area. Sure, West Virginia has a history of picking through Pitt's leftover recruits in the area and turning them into All Big East players. So don't be surprised if Rodemoyer follows in Dan Mozes footsteps a few year's from now.
But taking away one or two of Pitt's targets in the area does not mean the wall is crumbling. Despite losing Rodemoyer, the Pitt coaching staff has quickly moved on, winning the verbal commits of star CB/WR Aaron Berry and super sleeper Greg Romeus. Berry is an incredible pickup since he played high school football at Bishop McDevitt High School in Harrisburg, PA, right in the heart of Nittany Lion territory. In the midst of all the success Penn State and West Virginia has had recently, their fans might miss the significance of Penn State losing a star recruit right in their backyard, but Pitt fans know this is only the beginning. Wannstedt might lose a small battle here and there in battle for Western Pennsylvania
But he is definitely winning the war.
In the Dawg House: Well the Dawg never thought he would have a repeat occupant this early into his journalistic career. And who would have thought it would be Seth Davis of all people?
But I guess the Dawg is just tired of having Seth rain all over his parade when trying to enjoy the great season his alma mater is having on the hard wood. I was very excited reading this week's Sports Illustrated when I saw Seth's article on the events of last Saturday. All three remaining undefeated teams, including the Panthers, lost and assured that another season would be deprived of an undefeated team.
Sure, he threw Pitt a couple small bones, mentioning that Pittsburgh (and Florida) "deserved credit for their strong starts." But he also mentioned that their records only included two wins against teams currently in the Top 25. And Pitt only gets one small paragraph in the whole column dedicated to how their "shortcomings were exposed" because of poor 3 point shooting in their loss to St. John's at Madison Square Garden.
The point is this: Seth makes it apparent that Pittsburgh still doesn't seem to deserve the credit the other top teams in the nation deserve. He points to a supposedly weak schedule, but makes no reference to the fact that, outside of Duke, most of the other teams ahead of Pitt have no more than one or two wins against the Top 25 either. Even though other Pitt bashers (most importantly Doug Gottlieb) have started to come around and give the Panther's the credit they deserve, Seth still holds out.
Sorry Seth, until you let up a little and let the Dawg enjoy what is turning into a magical and unexpected season, you are going to have to spend some more time in a place that will be familiar to you.
That's because Seth Davis… you are IN the DAWG HOUSE!