GEPHART: In the Dawg House

I have to be honest; I never thought my very first column for Panther Report would start out with an item on Rutgers football. But, that's a perfect example of the strange and unpredictable year it's been for Big East (and of all of college) football.

As I'm sure most of you know, The Scarlet Knights are indeed bowling for only the second time in their long football history, and the first time since taking a trip up to the Meadowlands in the late 70's only to be solidly beaten by the Arizona State Sun Devils. Rutgers gets a chance for long awaited revenge in this year's Insight Bowl.

It is a great story, but that's not what has the Dawg fascinated with Rutgers football enough to have it lead off this week's column. What does is the fact that outgoing Governor, Richard J. Codey has authorized a $25,000 state donation for a fund that will assist students in helping cover costs for traveling to the big game out in Arizona. It's a huge story nationally and in New Jersey where many local papers are decrying the state for basically giving Rutgers students tax revenue to party it up in Arizona.

Now I'm NOT saying that I'm one who is completely against state and local tax revenue contributing to college and/or professional athletics. Sporting institutions like Rutgers give the local community a strong sense of unity and when successful can legitimately provide a boost to local economies. BUT shouldn't a governor who wasn't EVEN elected to his current position (and who is replacing another governor who resigned in disgrace) be a little more scrupulous in how he supports local sports? Especially considering the fact that the issue of high property taxes turned the recent governor race (Codey decided not to run) into a very nasty and personal campaign. One would assume the current out-going governor would be a little more aware of how this state expenditure would be viewed by an incredulous populace as frivolous.

And I personally can certainly understand why there would be so much criticism of this move. Although I would have loved seeing more Pitt students at last year's Fiesta Bowl, I'm not sure I would have been excited about MY hard earned tax money paying for it. The question is, would you?

Greg Lee is considering making himself eligible for the 2006 NFL Draft? Now I'm not a big Greg Lee basher, like many of the faithful Pitt posters on message boards tend to be. But the fans' frustration with Lee is certainly understandable. Lee had a tough year and his drops at crucial moments of key games were agonizing for all Pitt fans, including the Dawg. But, I look at him as a very integral part of Pitt's team next year and it would be a huge blow to the offense, and especially Tyler Palko, to not have the one experienced senior at a crucial skill position return in 2006.

I just have to think that Lee has to know that despite his impressive stats as a sophomore and even as a junior (one of the highest YPC in the nation) his timely drops and lack of concentration will hurt his draft status. These are legitimate concerns that have many scouts reporting across the country that Lee should come back for his senior year. It's obvious the talent is there, but if Lee can have a big senior year and eliminate the bad case of "dropsies" he will certainly position himself for a much bigger pay day in the 2007 draft by returning to play his senior season.

What the Dawg wonders is whether Lee's strong consideration to leave is more reflective of the well-reported crack down by Head Coach Dave Wannstedt and his staff on players not totally buying into the system and overall team attitude. With rumors already swirling of another high profile player looking to transfer, the Dawg is definitely prepared for another active off-season of surprises for the Pitt football program.

In the Dawg House: From time to time I will pick someone whose plain stupidity or ignorance truly deserves to be highlighted. This week, Sports Illustrated writer and part time CBS correspondent, Seth Davis has the honor of being the Dawg House's inaugural occupant. For the most part Seth's writing on has been fairly accurate and for the most part competent.

So that's what makes his gaffe on the halftime show of CBS' broadcast of the Duke/Texas game last Saturday so even more unbelievable. As Greg Gumbel was describing the Pitt/Penn State basketball game highlights (which were entirely of Pitt destroying its cross state rival) Seth awkwardly interrupted Greg because he just HAD to offer his opinion (of course presented as fact) that Pitt is not as strong this year as they have been in the past, and that this year's edition of the Panthers are basically Carl Krauser and bunch of young guys with no experience. Fair enough. But then Seth goes on to mention the PSU/Pitt game as a rare early conference game, and that hopefully Carl Krauser and the rest of the Pitt team will heat up more once the rest of conference play starts up.

First of all, Seth, try checking out the highlights you are commenting over. Pitt was beating UPS (everyone KNOWS that it's the University of Pennsylvania State!) by almost 30 points and making it look easy. Second of all, it is unforgivable for a national sports writer to not know that two major college programs like Pitt and UPS are NOT in the same conference. Especially when it's been widely reported the problems these two long-time rivals have had playing each other in football (and now basketball) because they AREN'T in the same conference.

For that, Seth Davis, you ARE in the DAWG HOUSE!


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