The Altoona Curve proved to be a team of destiny in 2010, then dismissed their manager in a transaction that defied destiny.
After finishing the 2009 season with a franchise-worst 62-80 record, the Curve rebounded admirably in 2010, winning the Eastern League's Western Division championship with an 82-60 record and moving on to win the first league title in franchise history.
Led by second-year manager Matt Walbeck, who was named the Eastern League's Manager of the Year, the Curve ousted the Western Division runner-up Harrisburg Senators in four games in the first round of the playoffs, then repeated the accomplishment against the Eastern Division champion Trenton Thunder in the championship series.
The Curve boasted a wonderful mixture of outstanding pitching, solid hitting, and good defensive play to bring Altoona its first league title in the 12-year history of the franchise. Altoona's 2004 team had also made it to the league championship series, but lost the series in three straight games to the New Hampshire Fisher Cats.
The 2010 Curve pitching staff was led by lefthander Rudy Owens, who posted a 12-6 regular-season record and 2.46 earned run average, while catcher Hector Gimenez - who was named the team's Most Valuable Player - finished the regular season leading the squad in batting with a .305 average, 16 homers and 72 RBIs.
Left-handed reliever Danny Moskos recorded 21 saves and a 1.52 earned run average during the regular season for Altoona. He was temporarily promoted to Class AAA Indianapolis in midseason, then sent back to the Curve, where he continued his excellent Class AA work in the Eastern League championship series, saving all three Curve victories.
The Curve opened the league championship series with a 3-2 loss in 10 innings to Trenton at Blair County Ballpark in a game in which New York Yankees' perennial all-star pitcher Andy Pettite started in a rehab assignment for Trenton and tossed five innings, leaving the game with the score tied, 2-2.
While Pettite's appearance in Altoona thrilled Curve fans, the Curve themselves provided the biggest thrills, defeating Trenton, 6-4 in Game 2 at Blair County Ballpark before winning Game 3 and Game 4 at Trenton's Waterfront Park by respective 5-0 and 5-2 scores.
Many of the players on the 2010 Curve team had experienced winning a Carolina League championship at high Class A Lynchburg, Va. in the 2009 season, so the pedigree of excellence was already built in with the Curve's first-ever championship squad.
But the Curve still had the challenge of fulfilling that potential, and they did so with an exclamation point all throughout the 2010 season and in the playoffs.
"It was magical, and it was meant to be,'' Walbeck told the Mirror after the series clincher in Trenton. "It's been a pleasure to coach these guys.''
Unfortunately and incredibly, though, that pleasure did not last long for Walbeck.
The Pittsburgh Pirates organization had Curve Nation scratching its heads in late September, when the organization informed Walbeck that he would not be retained for the 2011 season. The Pirates refused to discuss the reasons for Walbeck's dismissal in any depth, pinpointing the manager's desire for a promotion to the Class AAA level - and the lack of availability for a job there with the organization - as the most significant factor in the decision.
Four days ago, the Curve officially announced that P.J. Forbes, who had been the manager of the Pirates' high Class A Bradenton Marauders team, would become Altoona's new manager for the 2011 season.
Outfielder Alex Presley batted .350 with six homers and 47 RBIs in 67 games with the Curve last season before his midseason promotion to Indy. Presley was called up by the Pirates in September, and collected his first major league hit against the Atlanta Braves Sept. 8.
Owens and Presley were named the Pirates organization's minor league Pitcher of the Year and Player of the Year, respectively.
In an interesting aside to all the Curve's success in 2010, former Curve owner Chuck Greenberg joined with Major League Baseball Hall-of-Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan this past summer to gain ownership of the American League's Texas Rangers. Greenberg and Ryan outbid Mark Cuban - the billionaire owner of the National Basketball Association's Dallas Mavericks - in the quest for the ownership reins of the Rangers, who won the American League championship in 2010 and made it to the World Series.
Though the Curve's first championship and Walbeck's dismissal proved to be two of the Mirror's biggest sports stories in 2010, there were many others:
Steelers' off-the-field drama
The Pittsburgh Steelers didn't make very many good headlines on the field in the 2009 season, finishing out of the National Football League's playoff hunt just one year after winning the Super Bowl title.
They made plenty of news clips this past offseason, however, and none for the right reasons. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and wideout Santonio Holmes, two star players who helped the Steelers defeat the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLVIII in February 2009, attracted headlines for two separate alleged off-the-field incidents in early March.
Roethlisberger was accused of sexual assault by a 20-year-old college co-ed after an alleged incident in a bathroom at a Georgia nightclub.
After an investigation by Georgia authorities, no charges were ultimately filed because of lack of evidence, but Roethlisberger's reputation was further sullied just one year after he was accused of rape by a woman surrounding an alleged 2008 incident at a Lake Tahoe, Nev. hotel. No charges were filed, either, in connection with the Lake Tahoe incident, about which Roethlisberger denied the allegations and counter-sued for damages to his reputation.
Roethlisberger, who owns a home near Milledgeville, Ga., where last March's incident was alleged to have occurred, was in the nightclub with three other people, including Steelers' offensive tackle Willie Colon, celebrating the quarterback's 28th birthday. The other two individuals accompanying Roethlisberger were a Pennsylvania state trooper and a Pittsburgh area policeman whom Roethlisberger had hired to work for him as personal assistants/bodyguards. Before the alleged incident, Roethlisberger's group was mingling with another group of people that included the alleged victim.
The fallout from the Georgia incident was, initially at least, extremely damaging for both Roethlisberger and the Steelers. The quarterback's once sky-high popularity plummeted in Pittsburgh and even in his hometown of Findlay, Ohio, and National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell addressed the latest allegations against Roethlisberger by initially slapping the quarterback with a six-game suspension without pay at the outset of the 2010 regular season for violating the NFL's personal conduct code. On Sept. 3, Roethlisberger's suspension was reduced to four games for good behavior.
As part of the suspension, Goodell ordered Roethlisberger to undergo a comprehensive behavioral evaluation by professionals, and forbid Roethlisberger to engage in any football-related activities with the Steelers until the evaluation was completed. The evaluation was completed in May, and Roethlisberger was cleared by the league May 27 to return to the Steelers for offseason workouts that began June 1. He was not permitted to practice at the Steelers' training facility for the duration of his regular-season suspension, however.
Trade speculation surrounding Roethlisberger swirled throughout the Pittsburgh area and on national television and radio sports channels as last April's National Football League draft approached. The public posture, even among some of Roethlisberger's own teammates - notably Pro Bowl receiver Hines Ward - was that the suspension was justified.
In any event, Roethlisberger's absence and subsequent injuries sustained by two of the Steelers' backup quarterbacks early in the season tested the mettle of this year's team immediately. The Steelers responded admirably though, winning their first three games.
In their initial response to the Roethlisberger ordeal, the Steelers reacquired quarterback Byron Leftwich from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Leftwich, who was a backup for the Steelers in 2008, was expected to compete with Dennis Dixon for the starter's job at the outset of the 2010 season. But Leftwich hurt his left knee in the Steelers' final preseason game Sept. 2, leaving Dixon as the Steelers' opening-game starter.
Dixon held the fort in the Steelers' season opener, when Pittsburgh outlasted the visiting Atlanta Falcons, 15-9 in overtime, but was injured in the second game of the season, when the Steelers turned to veteran Charlie Batch to close out a 19-11 road victory over the Tennessee Titans.
The Steelers wound up going 3-1 in Roethlisberger's absence, and his four-game suspension ended October 17, when Roethlisberger threw three touchdown passes to lead the Steelers to a 28-10 win over the Cleveland Browns at Heinz Field.
With Roethlisberger back under center for the remainder of the season, the Steelers won eight of their next 11 games, clinched a playoff spot, and stood a good chance of winning the American Football Conference North Division championship as this story went to press.
While Roethlisberger remained with the Steelers, the team parted ways with two of its better-known players, Holmes and placekicker Jeff Reed, in 2010.
Less than three days after the Roethelisberger rape allegations first surfaced, Holmes was in the news for allegedly physically assaulting a woman in an Orlando, Fla. nightclub. The woman, Anshonae Mills, 21, filed a lawsuit in late March claiming that Holmes grabbed her face and threw a glass at her March 7 in the nightclub, cutting her above the eye.
Holmes - who was named the Most Valuable Player in Super Bowl XLVIII after catching a game-winning touchdown pass from Roethlisberger in the final minute - denied hurting Mills. According to a police report, Holmes told an officer that Mills grabbed his wrist and called him a racial name, and then another woman threw the glass that hit Mills in the face. Mills didn't press charges originally, then changed her mind, claiming that Holmes and a police officer had tried to intimidate her and sway her from doing so.
In early April, another man stepped forward and claimed responsibility for the incident. But just days later, the weary Steelers traded Holmes - who also faced a four-game suspension this season for violating the league's substance abuse policy - to the New York Jets for a fifth-round pick in last April's National Football League draft.
An in-season casualty for the Steelers was veteran kicker Reed, who was released Nov. 16 after missing seven of 22 field goal attempts in the 2010 season, including a 26-yarder against New England at Heinz Field Nov. 14. Reed had been the Steelers' placekicker since 2002, and was ranked 12th in NFL history with an 81.9 percent field-goal kicking accuracy rate. The Steelers replaced him with Shaun Suisham, a former kicker with the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys.
Penn State football headlines
Big Ten Conference realignment, the starting quarterback situation, and legendary coach Joe Paterno's health and status headlined the Penn State football saga in 2010.
Paterno - NCAA Division I football's all-time winningest coach - also celebrated his 400th career coaching victory this year, and senior running back Evan Royster became the school's all-time rushing leader.
In a transaction that has national ramifications in the college football world, Nebraska announced its defection from the Big 12 Conference to the Big Ten Conference, effective in 2011. It's a move that will increase the number of Big Ten teams to 12, and set up two six-team divisions and a first-ever conference championship playoff game next year at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
It was announced Sept. 1 that Penn State will be part of the conference's new Leaders Division with Ohio State, Wisconsin, Illinois, Purdue and Indiana. The other division will be known as the Legends Division and include Michigan, Nebraska, Iowa, Michigan State, Minnesota and Northwestern.
The conference's championship trophy will be named after Paterno and another college football coaching legend, the late, great Alonzo Stagg.
The conference realignment will give the Nittany Lions another blockbuster cross-division conference rival in Nebraska, which played in what was arguably the most exciting game in Beaver Stadium history, back in 1982.
Even though Paterno announced that at his final regular-season press conference, on Nov. 23, that he is planning to return as coach in 2011, Paterno began his 45th season as Penn State's coach this past fall amid speculation that it might be his last. Now 84 years old, Paterno was plagued by intestinal problems last spring that forced him to cancel several scheduled public appearances.
But as the 2010 season kicked off, he publicly maintained that he had no plans to step down as coach in the near future, even though he was quoted in the Mirror that his assistant coaches had been "carrying" him. At the November press conference, Paterno - whose current contract runs through 2011 - said that he believed the Lions could be a pretty good team next year, and he would "like to be part of it.''
Penn State started the 2010 season with a true freshman quarterback, Michigan native Rob Bolden, under center. It was the first time in Paterno's head coaching career that he had begun a season with a true freshman at the quarterback spot. However, when Bolden suffered a concussion in the seventh game of the season, at Minnesota, walk-on redshirt sophomore Matt McGloin stepped in, jump-started the Nittany Lions' offense and took over the starting job for the rest of the season.
McGloin, a native of West Scranton, engineered the Lions' road victory at Minnesota, and their home wins the next two weeks against Michigan and Northwestern. The 35-21 win over Northwestern Nov. 6 was Paterno's 400th career coaching win, and came after McGloin brought the Lions back from a 21-0 second-quarter deficit. Penn State's victory over Indiana the next week gave Paterno his 401th career win.
Royster claimed the program's all-time rushing record with a 150-yard rushing effort against Michigan Oct. 30 at Beaver Stadium. Royster broke Curt Warner's mark of 3,398 yards that had stood since 1982. He finished the 2010 regular season with a career rushing total of 3,834 yards on 666 carries and 29 touchdowns.
Penn State finished the 2010 regular season with a 7-5 record and earned a berth in the upcoming Jan. 1 Outback Bowl in Tampa, Fla. against the Florida Gators, who also finished the regular season 7-5.
Penn State opened the 2010 calendar year with a 19-17 victory over LSU in the Capital One Bowl in Orlando, Fla. last Jan. 1. The Nittany Lions - who finished the 2009 season with an 11-2 record - mounted a 69-yard, six-minute drive that ended when kicker and State College native Collin Wagner booted a game-winning 21-yard field goal with 57 seconds left in the game.
Top prospect pitches here
If Stephen Strasburg ever lives up to his lofty advance billing, thousands of Curve baseball fans can claim they saw him make his first professional pitching appearance in person.
Strasburg, the top pitching prospect in all of baseball, made his professional debut with the Eastern League's Harrisburg Senators against the Curve last April 11 at Blair County Ballpark.
A total of 7,887 fans, and a throng of media that included an ESPNews camera crew, were on hand to watch Strasburg - who the Washington Nationals made Major League Baseball's top draft pick in 2009 - kick off what is expected to be a brilliant career.
On a warm, sunny, made-for-baseball Sunday afternoon, the big righthander threw 82 pitches in five innings of work, striking out eight batters, and allowing four hits, four runs - three of which were unearned - and walked two batters while picking up the pitching victory as Harrisburg wiped out a 4-0 deficit and beat the Curve, 6-4.
ESPNews aired Strasburg's debut live for 11 minutes during the first inning of the 2 p.m. game and ESPN aired clips of his performance that Sunday night, along with highlights of the prestigious Masters golf tournament.
Although the Curve managed to collect four hits - including an impressive first-inning double to right-center field by outfielder Presley - the 21-year-old Strasburg showed onlookers that he is the real deal, frequently topping out at near 100 miles per hour on the stadium pitch-speed board, and mixing in curve balls that averaged over 80 miles per hour.
Strasburg, who can also handle the bat, helped himself at the plate with a run-scoring double to deep right field.
The Curve also faced Strasburg a second time on May 2 before a sellout crowd at Harrisburg's Metro Bank Park, and jumped on him for four second-inning runs in a 6-1 victory.
Strasburg was promoted to the Nationals' Class AAA affiliate at Syracuse in early May, and made his major league debut with the Nationals on June 8 against the Pirates before a sellout crowd at Washington's Nationals Park, striking out 14 batters in seven innings in a 5-2 victory.
Strasburg's season ended badly, however. In late August, Strasburg suffered a tear in a ligament in his pitching elbow which will require Tommy John reconstructive surgery and sideline him for the entire 2011 season.
BG girls defend state title
It would have been difficult to believe at the outset of the 2009-10 high school basketball season that the Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic High School Lady Marauders could have done anything to improve upon the program's past basketball accomplishments.
After all, BG had entered the season as the reigning PIAA Class A girls basketball champions, and boasted senior power forward Alli Williams, who committed to St. Francis University on a Division I basketball scholarship.
When BG won the school's fifth girls basketball championship in March 2009, it marked the second time in three years that the Lady Marauders had captured the gold medal.
BG already had established itself as a girls basketball power entering the 2009-10 campaign, but the Lady Marauders further cemented their reputation as one this past March.
The 2009-10 Lady Marauders became the school's first undefeated girls team in school history, polishing off a perfect 30-0 season with a 49-29 victory over District 6 rival Northern Cambria in the state championship game at Penn State's Bryce Jordan Center March 27.
For players like Williams - who was named the Pennsylvania girls Class A Player of the Year for the second straight year, winning another state championship last year was extra special. She was a freshman player on the 2007 team that defeated Pittsburgh North Catholic, 43-38 for the Class A state title, and last March's championship victory meant Williams played on three state championship teams in her four terrific seasons at BG, where she wrapped up her career as the school's all-time leading scorer (1,756 points) and all-time leading rebounder (900).
During her four years at BG, Williams played on teams that won an eye-opening 128 of 134 games.
"Winning a state championship is winning a state championship - it's always amazing,'' Williams told the Mirror after scoring 16 points and collecting 14 rebounds in the title win over Northern Cambria.
Last March's victory was BG's third straight Class A championship under veteran coach Mark Moschella, who also coached the Lady Marauders to the Class A title back in 1993. The Lady Marauders also won two Class AA state titles under John Frederick in 1984 and 1991.
Junior Kelsey Livoti ignited BG's 2010 championship win over Northern Cambria by scoring seven first-quarter points as the Lady Marauders opened a 16-7 lead.
Though Williams and another valuable senior player, Kaleigh Floyd, graduated last spring, BG returns an impressive nucleus led by Livoti and two sophomores, Halee Adams and Elyssa Ehredt, both of whom played key starting roles on the team last season as freshmen.
Adams scored 11 points in last March's championship game, and may be a candidate to unseat Williams as BG's career scoring leader before she graduates in 2013.
Wannstedt done as Pitt coach
On the surface, the numbers appeared to be good enough for Dave Wannstedt to remain as the head football coach at the University of Pittsburgh.
The Panthers were 42-31 in Wannstedt's six seasons, including a 26-12 record in the past three seasons. Pitt was in contention for a Big East Conference championship this year, and finished with a 7-5 record and a berth in the Jan. 8, 2011 BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham, Ala.
But numbers sometimes lie, and in this case, they were deceiving. Pitt failed to play in a Bowl Championship Series [BCS] Bowl under Wannstedt, and the Panthers often floundered on the big stage, being routed by Miami in a national prime-time game this year and getting shellacked by archrival West Virginia in the annual Backyard Brawl. Both games were played on Pitt's home turf at Heinz Field.
Wannstedt resigned his coaching position under pressure Dec. 7, but will remain as a special assistant to athletic director Steve Pederson.
While Pederson attempted to cast Wannstedt's move as a mutual decision, Wannstedt's demeanor at the press conference to announce his departure revealed otherwise.
Pitt hired Miami of Ohio University head coach Michael Haywood to replace Wannstedt Dec. 15. Long-time Penn State defensive coordinator Tom Bradley, a Johnstown native, was reportedly interested in the position, but Pitt did not grant him an interview.
Pirates change managers
After three straight last-place finishes in the National League's Central Division in as many seasons, the Pittsburgh Pirates fired John Russell as their manager following the 2010 campaign. He was replaced by former Colorado Rockies manager Clint Hurdle in November.
Hurdle, 53, had served as the batting coach with the Texas Rangers in the 2010 season. Hurdle and Jeff Banister, who was the Pirates interim bench coach last season, emerged as the two finalists for the position that became open when Russell was let go after compiling a 186-299 record in three seasons at the Pirates' helm, from 2007-09. Last year's club won only 57 of 162 games, finishing 34 games behind the first-place Cincinnati Reds.
PSU spikers win another
Penn State has become the country's elite collegiate women's volleyball program. The Lady Lions won their fourth consecutive NCAA Division I volleyball championship this season, closing out a 32-5 season with a 3-0 victory over the University of California in the title match at Kansas City, Mo. Dec. 18.
Penn State won the championship bout, 25-20, 27-25, 25-20 behind 18 kills and 10 digs from senior Blair Brown and 16 kills from Deja McClendon, who was named the national freshman of the year.
It was Penn State's fifth overall national championship under veteran coach Russ Rose, who took over the program back in 1979.
PIAA track gold rush
Led by seniors Janae Dunchack and Brady Gehret, the Mirror coverage area enjoyed an exemplary showing in the PIAA Track and Field Championships last May 28-29 at Shippensburg University's Seth Grove Stadium.
Dunchack, Northern Cambria's three-sport standout, won her fourth PIAA Class AA girls high jump state championship with an effort of 5 feet, 6 inches. Dunchack, who is now at Dartmouth College, also took third place in the long jump, enabling her to finish her stellar high school track career with a total of eight state medals.
Dunchack became just the 13th athlete in the history of the PIAA track championships to win an event in the meet in four consecutive seasons.
Gehret, Altoona's standout sprinter who committed to Penn State University for a full Division I track scholarship last February, won gold medals in the PIAA, Class AAA boys 200 dash and 400 dash, and a silver medal in the long jump, last May in Shippensburg.
Gehret won the 200 dash in a time of 21.23 and the 400 dash in 46.46 while leading the Altoona High School boys team to its second PIAA Class AAA team championship in three seasons.
Gehret and Dunchack were also named the Mirror's 2009-10 respective boys and girls Athletes of the Year earlier in the month of May last year.
Tyrone sophomore Nick Patton also brought home a gold medal for the Mirror coverage area in the Class AA boys 200 dash at states last spring, winning that event in a time of 22.31.
Schopp captures wrestling title
A.J. Schopp become the 12th state champion in Tyrone Area High School's rich wrestling history last March 13, when he secured the PIAA Class AA 135-pound state championship by defeating Montoursville's Luke Frey, 4-2 in the title match at Hershey's Giant Center.
Schopp wrapped up his senior season with a 42-0 record and his career with a 160-11 mark. He is starting his collegiate wrestling career this winter at Edinboro University.
Schopp negotiated a gauntlet of obstacles to win his first state title last year after finishing second twice and fifth in three previous appearances in Hershey.
He suffered a broken nose in practice drills against Portage state medalist Shawn Perich four days before the state tournament began, and wore a protective facemask during his first three matches at states.
He discarded the facemask prior to the start of the second period of his bout with Frey, who won a state championship at 103 pounds as a freshman in 2008.
Trailing, 2-0, Schopp tilted Frey for two back points in the second period, then scored a third-period reversal to win the match, 4-2.
Schopp reached the championship match by scoring a 4-2 win over Wyomissing High School's Nick Hodgkins - last season's 119-pound champ - in the semifinals.
"I'm feeling pretty good, finally getting the gold this year after three times in the state finals,'' Schopp told the Mirror after his state championship victory.
Schopp was named the Mirror's 2009-10 Wrestler of the Year. He also won the recognition in March 2009 after taking second place in the state tournament at 130.
SFU women reach NCAA tourney
The 2009-10 basketball season was a very special one for the St. Francis University women's basketball team, which won the Northeast Conference Tournament championship and advanced to the NCAA tournament.
The Red Flash entered the NEC Tournament as the fifth seed, but claimed the school's fifth NEC title - and first since 2005 - by defeating second-seeded Long Island, 77-68 in the tournament championship game on the losers' home court.
Senior Britney Hodges - who averaged 22 points in the tournament and was named the tourney's Most Valuable Player - scored a game-high 23 points in the NEC title game as St. Francis built a 16-point lead midway through the second half.
St. Francis punched its ticket to the NCAA tournament and a first-round game against second-seeded Ohio State at the University of Pittsburgh's Petersen Events Center, but the fun ended there for St. Francis, which was defeated, 93-59. The Lady Red Flash finished the season with a 17-15 record.
Neither the St. Francis men's basketball team or the Penn State men's basketball team qualified for postseason competition last March.
The University of Pittsburgh men's basketball squad fell just short of another berth in the NCAA's Sweet Sixteen, losing to Xavier in the second round of the NCAA tournament. The Penn State women's basketball team qualified for the Women's National Invitational Tournament but lost a first-round game there to Hofstra at the Bryce Jordan Center.
Central, P-O teams reach finals
Both the Central High School baseball team and the Philipsburg-Osceola High School softball team reached the state championship game in their respective sports last spring.
Central, seeded seventh in the District 6-AA tournament entering playoff competition, staged a remarkable run through the postseason, finishing second in the state with a 5-3 loss to Bermudian Springs of District 3 in the PIAA Class AA state title game played at Blair County Ballpark June 18.
Central closed its season with a 17-11 record and became the school's first state baseball finalist since 1984, when the Scarlet Dragons dropped a 3-1 decision to Chambersburg in the Class AAA state championship game.
Also last June 18, the P-O softball team dropped its Class AA state championship game to Nanticoke, 3-1, in 11 innings in a matchup of 25-1 teams at Shippensburg University's Robb Field.
Pentoney cries foul
Hollidaysburg Area High School boys basketball coach Mick Pentoney has never been reticent about expressing his personal opinions, but his doing so last January landed him in a barrel of hot water.
In an exclusive interview with the Mirror, Pentoney expressed his displeasure over the fact that top-100 recruit Taran Buie was playing basketball last season as a senior at State College Area High School.
After Buie - the half-brother of Penn State University men's basketball star Talor Battle - had verbally committed to play college basketball at Penn State in the summer of 2009, Pentoney felt that Penn State and the Nittany Lions men's basketball coach, Ed DeChellis, may have motivated the decision of Buie's family to relocate from the Albany, N.Y. area to State College.
"I just look at the timeline,'' Pentoney told the Mirror. "He picks Penn State, and they move to State College. If it looks like a fish and smells like a fish, I think it's a fish. Somebody's trying to tell me it's chicken. It's not healthy for scholastic sports.''
Pentoney made it clear in the interview that he didn't think anybody involved with the State College High School basketball program had any influence in the move, but he instead targeted the Penn State program and the governing bodies of both college sports [the NCAA] and Pennsylvania scholastic sports [the PIAA] for not taking a stronger stand against what he feels are colleges using such a tactic to keep closer tabs on the players they recruit.
The Hollidaysburg Area High School District's administrative officials immediately made it clear that they were distancing themselves from Pentoney's comments, with HASD Superintendent Paul Gallagher maintaining that "the statements made by Mr. Pentoney in the newspaper, that is not our position.''
Pentoney was suspended for one game by the school's administration following his comments.
In a later, related development, Buie told the Mirror that he "just thought the coach acted childishly" when referencing the comments.
"I don't know the guy personally, but I think his comments were childish and ridiculous,'' Buie said of Pentoney's comments.
Battle also refuted Pentoney's claims, saying that his family "moved down here to be closer to me, with no one's help.''
Denise Murphy, the mother of both Buie and Battle, told the Mirror that Penn State University never offered either her or any member of her family any incentives - financial or otherwise - whatsoever in exchange for Buie committing with the Nittany Lions.
"I'm probably one of the most honest people you'll ever meet, and [Penn State] absolutely gave me not one cent, ever,'' Murphy said. "Absolutely not one thing.''
DeChellis, whose team struggled at the bottom of the Big Ten Conference standings all of last winter, called Pentoney's comments "unfortunate,'' but he also refused to dwell on the issue.
"I've got a lot of problems, and that ain't one of them right now,'' DeChellis told the Mirror.
Pentoney later issued a public apology that was published in the Mirror.
Events leaving area
A couple sporting events ended their association with the Altoona area - at least for the immediate future - and the future of a few more are in question here as the 2010 year came to a close.
The Pennsylvania Scholastic Football Coaches Association East-West All-Star Football Game in Altoona will probably end after 10 seasons following the announcement, this past summer, that the Allegheny Mountains Convention and Visitors Bureau has discontinued its association with the game.
Also in July, it was announced by the PIAA that, starting next season, the state championship games in both baseball and softball will be held at State College's Medlar Field. The state baseball finals are being transferred to State College from Blair County Ballpark, and the softball finals are moving from Shippensburg University's Robb Field.
After being cancelled in 2009, the Tour de 'Toona came back this past August as a one-day event - a criterium held through the streets of intown Altoona on Sunday, Aug. 29. Two years ago, in 2008, the Tour de 'Toona was also cut back to one race. After its inception as a one-day criterium back in 1987, the Tour de 'Toona eventually grew into one of America's biggest stage races, involving seven days of competition through the 1990s and the early and middle part of this decade.
Altoona also did not host a National Amateur Baseball Federation Regional Tournament at Vets Field last summer for the first time in over a decade, and George B. Kelley Federation teams voted in September not to host a regional again in 2011.
PSU hockey goes Division I
Thanks to the generosity of a wealthy alum, Penn State announced in September plans for a new multi-purpose arena that will house the school's new Division I men's and women's hockey programs.
University leaders announced in September that Penn State's men's and women's current club ice hockey programs are being upgraded to NCAA, Division I status, beginning in the 2012-13 season.
The new arena, which will seat between 5,000 and 6,000 fans and will be completed in 2014, is being funded by an $88 million donation from Penn State alumnus Terry Pegula and his wife, Kim.
Terry Pegula is the founder and former president of the energy company East Resources, Inc., one of the kingpins in the state's natural gas industry. The East Resources, Inc. company was sold earlier this year for $4.7 billion.
Gehret wins national gold
Altoona's Brady Gehret placed first in the Nike Indoor Nationals in the 400-meter dash at Boston's Reggie Lewis Sports & Athletic Center last March 14.
Gehret, who also won two gold medals and two silver medals in the Pennsylvania state indoor track and field championships a week before, captured first place in the national event with a time of 47.69 seconds, edging out James Harris of Lanett High School in Alabama by .04 seconds for the gold medal.
Riley nets title
Peter Riley won the PIAA Class AA boys singles state championship in the PIAA tennis tournament last May 29 at the Hershey Racquet Club.
Riley, who attends Northern Bedford High School but competes in tennis for Tussey Mountain High School because Northern Bedford does not have a tennis program, was declared the state champion after his scheduled opponent in the finals, Drew Hoffman of Lower Moreland High School, was forced to bow out of the tournament due to illness.
"It was bittersweet,'' Riley, a junior last season, said of the victory. "[Hoffman] was a really good player, and I would have liked to have played him in the finals and won, but I guess this happens sometimes.''
Riley, the District 5 singles champion, reached the PIAA final by winning three matches at states, including a 2-6, 6-0, 6-3 victory over Danny Malloy of Wyomissing in the semifinals.
The following area sports figures passed away during the 2010 calendar year, in order of age: tennis legend Bill Parsons, and former heralded St. Francis University track and cross country coach Father Bede Hines, T.O.R., both 92; former Altoona Area High School track and football standout Jack Hopper, 88; former Hollidaysburg Area High School baseball coach J. Paul "Scrappy" Weaver, 85; former Pittsburgh Pirates broadcaster Nellie King, 82; former Altoona High School football coach Chuck Coder, 80; former area television and radio sports personality Dick Richards, 77; former Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic High School assistant track coach Bill Conrad, 78; the Rev. James Conrad, 72, a former area official, coach and administrator; former Central High School athletic director, basketball and baseball coach Sam Ebersole, 64; former Central Blair Recreation Commission superintendent Ralph Williams, 59; former Tyrone High School assistant football coach John Meredith, 55; Juniata Valley High School girls basketball coach Jama Greene, 32; former Altoona Area High School wrestler Scott Russell, 31; former Chestnut Ridge High School wrestler Chans Feather, 18; former Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic High School basketball player and cross country runner Mary Kantoski, 18; Penn Cambria High School junior wrestler and cross country runner Joey Stoy, 17.