Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Media Day musings

Another Big East media day is in the books. I can't imagine there's a conference in the country that comes close to matching the two days we get here in Newport, R.I. Fantastic event, as always.

I'm holed up in the business center of the plush Hotel Viking, where $400 gets you one night in a room but Internet access on the hotel computer costs .80-per minute. I know that only because the couple sitting beside me still haven't stopped complaining about it. I have my own laptop, the ethernet is free for me and I'm not offering to share simply because they're really annoying.

Some news and notes from the morning:
  • UConn was picked sixth in the preseason poll. Oddly, no one was all that surprised. I mean, the league's co-champ, who doesn't lose all that much in personnel (19 starters are back, including the QB, both RBs and most of the defense), is predicted to finish behind three teams it beat last fall? Polls don't mean anything, but you can bet Randy Edsall will use that as motivation in some manner. "The poll is how the media perceives us. I guess they don't think we're very good. We'll have to go out and play with a chip on our shoulder."

  • Mike Tranghese dispelled the recent New York Post story on the Big East looking at Army and Navy for football. He said the conference had discussions two years ago, but haven't spoken since. "We had discussions two years ago, the service academies didn't feel it was in their best interest, and we dropped it," Tranghese said. "Now this story appears, and it sounds as if it's happening now, but that's not so."

  • Tranghese said as of now, there's no teams the Big East would consider a viable option to become a member for football. He says programs have contacted him about joining, but all have been dismissed for various reasons. "Having a ninth member would solve scheduling issues," Tranghese said. "But the (member) presidents aren't going to vote for another team simply to solve a scheduling issue."

  • Tranghese is scheduled to retire soon, but plans to remain active in some way with the league. He says a big reason why he's retiring is the travel schedule. "I'm not a good flyer as it is," he said. "The less time I'm in the air, the better."

  • Brandon Dillon will be at the Huskies first practice Friday, providing some depth on the defensive line. Marcus Campbell was back over the summer, and will also be practicing. Edsall said he's got a meeting scheduled for Wednesday in which he's expecting to lose one, as-of-now unnamed player. The good news is that spot will be filled Friday by one of the team's walk-ons, five of whom are unable to begin practicing until classes begin because UConn is over the 105-man limit.

  • UConn's media guide cover features game-action shots of D.J. Hernandez and Tyler Lorenzen flexing their biceps, while Cody Brown and Darius Butler are just kind of standing around. Brown suspects the photos of the offensive players were doctored. "They must have done something because D.J.'s not that big," Brown said. "I kind of like my picture, though. I still look pretty physical."

  • Get your portfolios ready. Lorenzen has spent the last two months interning for a financial firm in Hartford and keeping a daily eye on the stock market. He doesn't exactly instill visions of the creepy Gordon Gekko or Donald Trump screw-the-other guy tycoon (maybe it's the hair), but Lorenzen seems like the Wall Street type.

  • Edsall still sees Darius Butler playing 15 or so snaps per game on offense, returning kicks and, of course, playing cornerback. He wasn't adverse to the idea of Butler working in on punt returns at some point, either. Just not now.

  • From a personality standpoint, new West Virginia coach Bill Stewart is about as far from Rich Rodriguez as it gets. That's no coincidence. West Virginia wants to distance itself from Rich-Rod, who rivals A-Rod on the prima donna scale. Stewart seems like the friendly country neighbor who's always working on his roof or cooking hot dogs in the new barbecue pit. Actually, he kind of looks and sounds like Lou Holtz, without the speech impediment.

  • South Florida Jim Leavitt wasn't exactly the life of the party (that was Stewart), but he was close. Yep, the same Leavitt who has conducted conference calls in grunts and non sequiturs was reeling in the yuks from the group of media members around his table. He may have a future in stand-up comedy. OK, I overstated that. But he's funnier than Dane Cook. That's not that hard, either. But you get the picture.

  • Stewart actually encouraged his star quarterback, Pat White, to try out for the WVU baseball team last spring. "Coach, I can't hit the curveball," White told Stewart. White, who hasn't played baseball since high school, has been drafted each of the past two years by major league clubs. Stewart wanted White to have another option with baseball, but speaking Tuesday Stewart said he has no doubts White will be able to play in the NFL. He compared him to Antwan Randle-El, Kordell Stewart and even Warren Moon. Hopefully, White's NFL career will be more less like the first two and more like the last on that list. "The people of West Virginia have been blessed," Stewart said. "They have to savor having him back again, and savor what he's done. As an athlete, he's like no one I've ever seen."

  • Louisville coach Steve Kragthorpe explained "noodling", a popular pastime amongst the Cardinals football players. In a nutshell, it's catching catfish with your bare hands. Catfish tend to burrow into the mud. A noodler finds the hold and pulls the fish out, hoping not to get bit. Seems to take the fun out of fishing. Oh, Louisville, picked to finish either first or second the last three years, was predicted seventh in the preseason poll.

  • Ben Mauk is still appealing the NCAA's decision not to grant him another season of eligibility at Cincinnati. But coach Brian Kelly is set to go with Dustin Grutza at QB. Kelly is still angling to build a program that has been successful on the field yet struggling to gain a foothold in other, off-field areas. The practice facility is substandard, the fan base is improving and a year ago Kelly used media day as a pulpit to express his disdain for the lack of attention his team received in Cincinnati. Kelly, you may remember, refused to speak with a New England-based free-lance writer hired by the Cincinnati Enquirer because the paper declined to send a reporter to cover the event. "We used the opportunity not to take a shot at the media, but to let the city of Cincinnati know we had a BCS football team," Kelly said. "If they can support the Bengals and Reds, they can support a BCS football program. Since then, we sold out three times last fall for the first time in the history of the school. Cincinnati has shown it will support college football. My job is to put out a good football team."

See you Friday in Storrs.


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