Just when it looked as if the dust had settled rumors started to swirl, once again threatening to re-shape the landscape of college football.
Like love and war, the winners and losers change every time the gossip mill churns out something delicious enough to chew.
No BCS football conference seems more vulnerable than the Big East, which is the latest to move closer to the guillotine after the Big 12 escaped extinction by allowing Texas to horde all the vaults from Oklahoma to the lone star state.
With the Big 12 intact, the Big 10 (which is really the Big 12, which is really the Big 10) announced it will look into expansion within the next 12 to 18 months. Its focus is on the Big East’s Pittsburgh and the Price Is Right Rutgers, which has all those New York TV dollars to bargain.
Reports say the Big East has responded by taking a preemptive mode and plans to extend an invitation to UCF and Memphis in the not too distant future.
The big winner in all of this could be UCF, but USF can reap some financial reward, which can’t be taken lightly in this cost cutting era.
Former USF head coach Jim Leavitt didn’t want to play UCF because he felt losing to a non-BCS school would damage his program’s image and hurt recruiting. But he is gone, replaced by the more opened minded not as paranoid Skip Holtz, and frankly a USF-UCF game makes a lot of “cents” in these troubled economic times.
The game would put more than 40,000 fans into the seats and keep travel expenses to a minimum. And if UCF is a BCS school, it won’t matter much if the Knights occasionally get a W over the Bulls.
If Pittsburgh and Rutgers bolt the Big East, it seems certain West Virginia would look for a new home, and in that case, USF and UCF would really need each other like two jilted lovers crying on each other’s shoulder.
Braden River grad Pittman finishes first year strong
It took Nathan Pittman a little time to figure out college pitching, but once he got the hang of it the former Braden River High standout showed why he is a valuable commodity.
The outfielder played sparingly during the first half of his freshman season at Florida Atlantic and his batting average never got above the .200 mark.
But when given the opportunity to play regularly because of an injury to a teammate, he found the groove, hit over .300 the rest of the way and even showed some power with three homers.
The 5-foot-10, 175-pounder finished with a .280 batting average, which is more than respectable for a true freshman. But the best news came after the Owls’ 34-27 season came to a close when he was told the centerfield job would be his next season.
“I am real happy. We made it to the regionals, and I got a lot of playing time in the second half of the season,” Pittman said. “It was difficult at first to make the transition from high school. You are facing pitchers every game, who are throwing in the upper 80s and 90s and can spot the ball.”
Pittman began to figure things almost exactly at mid-season against New Orleans when he had four hits in three games. The next weekend, he helped spark the Owls to a sweep over then 19th-ranked Western Kentucky when he went 4 for 9 in three games.
“During the first half of the season, I studied the pitchers and that helped me when I got a chance to play more. I got a couple of hits and just stayed hot,” Pittman said.
The lefty thrower is playing in the wooden bat Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League this summer for the Riverhead Tomcats in New York and hopes to get some time on the mound.
Alan Dell, sports reporter, can be reached at 745-7080, ext. 2112.