Some recent news items in sports worthy of comment while anticipating a Steelers-Packers Super Bowl:
ITEM: PSU loses recruit.
Ishaq Williams of Brooklyn, an All-American defensive end and one of the nation's top recruits, selected Notre Dame over the Nittany Lions.
How the Irish closed the deal is almost unheard of.
Williams planned to take his official trip to Penn State last Friday and was scheduled to leave at 5:30 a.m.
Late Thursday night - in fact at midnight - Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Diaco called Williams' home and asked if it was OK to pay a visit at 4:30 before the family left for State College.
Williams' father, Shaun, agreed. That was the tipoff that Shaun Williams preferred Notre Dame, and the deal/decision was closed by 6 a.m. Friday when Ishaq cancelled his visit to PSU.
Williams was recruited by Larry Johnson, and it was reported during the process that the prospect raised questions over the future of Johnson, defensive coordinator Tom Bradley and PSU's coaching staff.
Although Joe Paterno maintains he wants to continue coaching, Williams' concerns were understandable and something that will not go away until there is a defined succession plan or JoePa retires.
To that end, it's impressive Penn State was in the game as long as it was - and unfortunate that it apparently only took a few donuts to change the heralded prospect's mind.
ITEM: Lions nipped at Purdue.
After some bad non-conference performances, the Nittany Lion basketball team has improved to where it's at least interesting and certainly more competitive.
Of the latest two close road losses, against now-top ranked Ohio State and Wednesday at No. 14 Purdue, the 63-62 setback to the Boilermakers was particularly frustrating. Penn State executed well down the stretch and nailed what could have been a game-winning shot from David Jackson - notable in that it was someone other than Talor Battle.
But with 5.3 seconds left, PSU got a bad call when Purdue was awarded possession of a ball it deflected out of bounds - a classic example of officials being reluctant to wipe out the last breath of the favored home team. That led to JaJuan Jackson's game-winning shot with 3.4 seconds left.
With 10 games left, at 10-8 overall and 3-4 in the Big Ten, the Nits (as in NITs) can still make the Big Dance with a strong finish. But they're going to need to pull a road upset or two and go unbeaten at home.
Doesn't seem likely, but the Lions have more belief than they had a month ago.
ITEM: Graham's staff takes shape.
New Pitt coach Todd Graham has hired eight of nine assistant coaches. Interestingly, four have titles beyond their position duties. Graham has an executive associate head coach (Paul Randolph), an assistant head coach (Calvin Magee), co-offensive coordinators (Magee and Mike Norvell) and co-defensive coordinators (Randolph and Keith Patterson).
There are no such monikers in Joe Paterno's vocabulary. Bradley and Galen Hall, though coordinators, are listed as "in charge" of defense and offense.
Rudel can be reached at 946-7527 or firstname.lastname@example.org.