Pittsburgh football has not been playing very well this season. Up until Saturday night, no one could understand why the school would give coach Dave Wannstedt a three-year extension. After all, in Wannstedt's three seasons at the helm, Pitt has not had a winning record. But just when I thought they couldn't get any worse, the Panthers go and beat the No. 2-ranked team in the country ... and totally redeem themselves. Accordingly, the Dean's List Team of the Week goes to Pitt for marching into Morgantown and beating West Virginia 13-9. Entering the Backyard Brawl the Panthers were four-touchdown underdogs. But during the game, they just beat up the Mountaineers, dominating the line of scrimmage and allowing only nine first downs.
If a tree falls in the woods yet no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? Similarly, if a running back rushes for 2,448 yards in a season, but plays in Conference USA, will anyone notice? As Willy Loman's wife said, "Attention must be paid." The Player of the Week goes to Central Florida running back Kevin Smith, who ran for 284 yards and 4 touchdowns to help the Golden Knights' defeat Tulsa 44-25 and win the Conference USA championship. Smith is currently second on the NCAA's single-season rushing list and needs a mere 180 yards in the Liberty Bowl to surpass Barry Sanders as the most prolific college running back ever. And just think, two weeks ago, the only Kevin Smith anyone knew of was the fat dude who played Silent Bob.
Ask Tommy Amaker and he'll tell you, revenge is a dish best served cold. The first-year Harvard basketball coach, who was fired by Michigan at the end of last season, led his team to a 62-51 victory over the Wolverines. That's right, Harvard beat Michigan. Although, maybe we should've seen this coming. Not to take anything away from Amaker and his Crimson squad, but these are the same Michigan players (excluding the two freshman starters) whose poor play last season pretty much got their old ball coach fired. It seems fitting that they would come in to Lavietes Pavilion and lay down to a Harvard team that had lost by 32 points to the Wolverines just one year ago.
Anyone who's seen a team like Villanova play in the Wachovia Center knows that college basketball should not be played in professional basketball arenas. The best gyms are the smaller ones, the ones with feeling. It's not about the number of LCD screens. It's about dusty rafters. Unfortunately, most universities, motivated by increased revenue, are building arenas more appropriate for professional teams. Maryland, Virginia, USC and Ohio State have all fallen victim to this trend, but not the University of Oregon. The Ducks' new $200 million basketball arena won't have any luxury suites and will try to recapture the intimate, vertical feel of McArthur Court by maintaining a relatively small seating capacity. That's great news for Oregon basketball fans and anyone who's ever had to sit through a St. John's game at the Garden.
No one can sing the praises of Ralph Mims better than ... well ... Ralph Mims. The senior guard at Florida State not only scored 13 points and grabbed 18 rebounds in the Seminoles' 75-61 win over Minnesota, he also sang the national anthem before the game. Mims, who wants to be a professional singer after his playing days are over, had never sung in front of such a large crowd and admitted that he was a little nervous, but his rendition of the Star Spangled Banner went off without a hitch. Afterwards FSU coach Leonard Hamilton joked, "You guys came to watch a basketball game and a Ralph Mims concert broke out." Sing Ralphy, sing.
The Dean's List is convinced that if you want to find the smartest, most creative students at a college you need to look no further than the marching band. Take, for example, the Rice marching band, which put on such a brilliantly satirical halftime performance during the Conference USA West Division title game that Tulsa filed a complaint with C-USA. At issue was Golden Hurricane football coach Todd Graham, who left Rice after one season to coach Tulsa. Needless to say, Graham isn't the most popular fella in Houston. At halftime, the Rice marching band performed Todd Graham's Inferno, a show that depicted the pursuit of Graham through different circles of Hell, ala Dante's Divine Comedy. Graham ended up getting the final laugh, though, as Tulsa defeated Rice 48-43, but any time the marching band can make it into the game story, they're doing something right.
When Boston College lost to Virginia Tech 30-16 on Saturday in the ACC title game they couldn't really turn to running back A.J. Brooks for support. That's because Brooks had been suspended from school for beating up a 20-year-old man on BC's campus. Brooks was charged with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon after he punched and kicked the victim, who required stitches and suffered injuries to his head, neck and face. OK, what Brooks did was stupid -- like really dumb -- even if he was pushed, as he claimed, but battery with a dangerous weapon for kicking a man with your shoe on? That seems a little ridiculous, unless Brooks was wearing high heels. Those can be dangerous.
It's not easy being a college football referee. If you do your job well, no one notices. If you do it poorly, well then you make the Dean's List. We'd like to recognize the Big East officiating crew of the Pittsburgh-West Virginia game for calling two of the worst holding penalties ever recorded. At the end of the third quarter with Pitt holding on to a slim three-point lead, the Panthers scored on a ridiculous run by running back LeShaun McCoy. But the officials called a holding penalty on wide receiver Oderrick Turner and Pitt had to settle for a field goal, which they missed. Then, with three minutes left in the game and Pitt winning by six, the officials called another holding penalty on poor Oderrick that negated an important Panthers' first down. Admittedly, we've never completely understood proper blocking technique, but neither of Oderrick's penalties seemed to warrant a flag. Of course, in the end, Pitt won anyways so no one is too upset, except for Oderrick. Poor Oderrick.
Blogs really don't get the credit they deserve. Everyone's always talking about how bloggers aren't real journalists and how blogs are just glorified journals. Well, these blog naysayers obviously haven't read Earl Clark's blog. The Louisville sophomore forward uses his "web log" to keep in touch with a group of fifth graders from his hometown Franklin Elementary School. On mye5cblog.com, Clark answers the students' questions and tries to be a, what do you call them, oh yeah, positive role model. It wouldn't be that big a deal if Clark were a benchwarmer, people might even say that blogs are for benchwarmers, but Clark, also known as E5, might be the best player that Pitino's got. In Saturday's 47-44 win over Miami of Ohio, he scored 10 points, grabbed 11 boards and blocked 5 shots. That'll get the kids to listen.