Some recent news items in sports worthy of comment while hoping this is the year we see Pitt in the Final Four:
ITEM: PSU may lose top recruiter.
Larry Johnson's apparent courtship with Illinois - should Johnson accept the defensive coordinator's position - could present a major void at Penn State.
Johnson has been Penn State's best recruiter over the past 10 years. He's forged the Nittany Lions into Virginia and Maryland. He's also done an excellent job developing the defensive line position, which has become one of the strengths of the program.
Further, and perhaps most importantly, as one of only two full-time African-Americans on the 10-man football staff, Johnson has been a mentor and a second father to many of the current and former black PSU players. In fact, a lot of them stay at his home when they return to visit State College.
One could argue that the defensive coordinator position at Illinois is not much of a step up from the defensive line coach at Penn State, but assistants climb the coaching ladder by positioning themselves into coordinator positions.
Of course, Penn State doesn't work that way because there's little movement. Penn State is not typical in that assistants stay much longer and potential successors (ie: Sandusky, Ganter, probably Bradley) see their tenures outlived. The tradeoff for the lack of promotion, though, is job security.
Johnson's timing - smack in the middle of recruiting - shows he's tired waiting and maybe even dissatisfied with Penn State and Joe Paterno's latest extended tenure.
It's also the product of what can happen when the head coach wants to continue until he's 100 or, well, you know.
ITEM: LeSean McCoy stays at Pitt.
When he announced in November that he intended to return for his senior season, nobody believed McCoy.
Now he's reiterated his plans not to enter the NFL early.
I give the kid credit. Let's hope McCoy enjoys the same kind of success his first two seasons have brought, and that he stays healthy and enhances his pro stock.
Meantime, can Pitt find a quarterback to go with him?
ITEM: Ohio State loses to Texas.
Is there any doubt the Buckeyes would have been a more formidable offensive opponent by keeping former starting quarterback Todd Boeckman as an option to Terrelle Pryor?
Boeckman came in against Texas and played terrific, even hitting Pryor for a TD on a fade pattern.
Pryor, at this stage, can not pass and will need huge improvement to have a chance to be an NFL quarterback.
ITEM: Dambach leaves Curve.
The exodus from the Curve front office to the Greenberg Sports Group continues with the regrettable departure of Jason Dambach, radio voice and media coordinator.
By my count, the Greenberg empire now includes Parney, Dambach, Jeff Garner, Rick Janac and John Donley.
At whatever minor-league venture they wind up advising/running, aside from the Spikes, that's an expensive pie-eating contest.
Rudel can be reached at 946-7527 or firstname.lastname@example.org.