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South Carolina trolls USA Today after beating Duke

Consider the 2017 NCAA Tournament party crashed after South Carolina’s upset win on Sunday night.

The Gamecocks took down No. 2 seed Duke in a game that many pundits had all but given the Blue Devils prior the the meeting in Greenville. After all, the South Carolina program had just won its first NCAA tournament game in 44 years and had never visited the Sweet 16. They’d be happy with just one win against Marquette, right? Wrong.

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In fact, USA Today was so confident that the Gamecocks would fold on Sunday that its sports account tweeted out a message after No. 1 seed Villanova fell to Wisconsin on Saturday, proclaiming: “Duke’s path to the Final Four looks ridiculously clear with Villanova’s loss.”

Let’s just say the fine folks at South Carolina bookmarked that tweet for future reference.

On Sunday night, in the moments following the Gamecocks’ historic victory, the school’s official Twitter account sent out this zinger to the news publication:

South Carolina will next play Baylor for a chance to advance to the Elite 8 for the first time in program history.

Former NFL star Dwight Clark announces he has ALS

Dwight Clark, a wide receiver for the San Francisco 49ers during the team’s heyday in the 1980s, disclosed Sunday that he has a debilitating illness.

The Mercury News said Clark was diagnosed in 2015.

The newspaper said Clark, a two-time Super Bowl winner, said in a note: “I have ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Those words are still very hard for me to say.”

Clark played nine seasons for the 49ers and was one of Joe Montana’s favorite targets. He had 6,750 receiving yards in his career, which is third on San Francisco’s all-time list, behind Terrell Owens and Jerry Rice.

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In the 1982 NFC Championship game, with less than a minute to go, Montana rolled to his right and threw a ball that most thought he was trying to throw away. But Clark jumped high and hauled it in, and the play was immediately anointed, “The Catch.” Sports Illustrated ranked it No. 33 on the list of 100 greatest plays of all-time.

The news comes on the same day the family of football legend and Hall-of-Famer Gale Sayers announced he has dementia.

Report: Pitt reportedly to hire Heather Lyke as new athletics director, per ESPN's Brett McMurphy

Recently, the Post-Gazette posted an article about potential athletics directors for Pitt. One of those folks said to be in the running was Eastern Michigan's Heather Lyke.

On Sunday, ESPN's Brett McMurphy said the hunt is over.

Eastern Michigan AD Heather Lyke is leaving to become Pitt’s new athletic director, source told @ESPN — Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) March 20, 2017

The Post-Gazette's Brian Batko said it will become official on Monday.

Here's a look at her Eastern Michigan bio as well. She would become Pitt's first female athletics director and one of the few in that role for a P5 school.

Initially, I expected this to drag on for another couple of weeks and didn't see a hire coming until April. But that's always dependent upon finding the right person and if you're convinced you have that, there's no point in waiting too long just to follow protocol.

One of Lyke's accomplishments was helping to turn the football program around. She was hired in 2013, brought in new coach Chris Creighton in 2014, and after winning only three games combined that year and 2015, they won seven this year and made a bowl game. And, at least according to this quote, she seems like a 'football drives the bus' type of AD, which Pitt had with Scott Barnes.

That doesn't mean she doesn't care about the other sports. She has hired ten coaches there her coaches have also won 17 Conference Coach of the Year awards. So she's seen some success across the board covering a lot of sports despite only being there since 2013.

She was also a softball player in college and a few years back, interestingly enough, was even commentating for the Big Ten Network in that sport while an associate AD at Ohio State. We don't yet know her but she at least seems to have an interest in the Olympic sports and has made a lot of hires there.

One thing that was important in Pitt's last search for an athletics director? Fundraising. Lyke has done that, too, setting a record at Eastern Michigan last year in terms of dollars and new donors. Her bio also states that the school is on track to outpace those numbers again for 2017's fiscal year.

Another thing that likely impressed Pitt was her involvement in Eastern Michigan's current facilities plan. She recruited a team of people to help with their building facilities plan. Pitt has been, and will continue to be, upgrading facilities around campus. Recently, Eastern Michigan put a plan in place for $35 million in facility upgrades.

Finally, also noteworthy is that, while she came from a smaller, non-P5 school in Eastern Michigan, she was an associate/senior AD at Ohio State for about 15 years. She received her undergraduate degree at Michigan and also spent some time in Cincinnati's athletics department. Lyke very much has experience working in high-level administration at the P5 level.

This wasn't the big splash hire that many wanted but I have to say that, on the surface, the hire at least makes sense from a Pitt standpoint in terms of what they wanted. Many of the same qualities they wanted with Barnes they seem to have gotten with Lyke in terms of fundraising, Olympic sports, and putting football first. And with the many years at Ohio State, she doesn't appear to be in over her head.


Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

Pitt sees offensive line shuffling in spring practices

As is standard this time of year in the offseason, Pitt is shuffling some guys around on the offensive line. That's pretty typical and is no different this year with spring practices underway.

With tackle Adam Bisnowaty and guard Dorian Johnson graduating, Pitt has two open slots on its line. Brian O'Neill, who started last year at right tackle, is moving over to the left to replace Biz while backup Jaryd Jones-Smith takes his spot at right tackle. Last year's center, Alex Officer, heads over to left guard to replace the spot left vacant by Johnson and backup Connor Dintino looks to have the lead for the center job. The lone returnee at the same position is right guard Alex Bookser.

The Post-Gazette, I should add, also has a look at some other positions, if you're curious.

That might seem like chaos but I expect Pitt to fare well on the line again. Is it as strong as last year's group? Nope. Last year's line had two (what should be early-round) NFL Draft picks on it in Bisnowaty and Johnson. But there's still a lot here. O'Neill will be in his third-year as a starter and Bookser, his second. Officer is in his fourth year as a starter and while he's moving to guard from center, he started at guard in 2015, so it's not a new position for him at all. That's three guys with starting experience under the belts at their 2017 positions, with the exception of some movement to left or right.

Jaryd Jones-Smith is a new full-time starter, but he does have four spot starts in his career. And he's been with the program for four years heading into this season and has plenty of experience. You might also remember that he was expected to be a starter in 2015 before suffering a season-ending injury in conditioning workouts. Jones-Smith should get the most playing time he's ever had but he is more than capable.

Dintino is the biggest question mark, obviously, since his experience is limited. He's also new to offense having just moved there last year after coming over from defense. Dintino, of course, is no lock here. The other guys aren't necessarily either (in particular, if you read Pat Narduzzi's comments in that Post-Gazette link about newcomer Jerry Drake, you wonder if Jones-Smith's job is even safe) but they look much more firm with all of the experience they have.

But while the Dintino move has some concerns, the good thing to know is that Pitt still has Officer for this season. If Dintino struggles in practices, they can always move Officer back there and insert someone else at guard.

The offensive line has some questions and is a little weaker than last year. But it still returns enough to be considered a strength of the team.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

Oakland Zoo t-shirt design bracket contest

Louisville player mistakes TV sideline reporter for spy

It was a case of mistaken identity. Friday night Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino assured one of his players that the woman on the sidelines near the Cardinals’ huddle Friday night was not a spy, but a television reporter.

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Pitino, whose team advanced in the NCAA tournament with a 78-63 victory against Jacksonville State, said one of his players mistakenly thought CBS sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson was stealing plays Friday for Jacksonville State.

"This is a very inexperienced team," Pitino told reporters. "We're down two scholarships. Our backcourt is a little thin. Show you how inexperienced we are, one of my players said, 'There's a lady in the huddle stealing our plays.' It's Tracy Wolfson."

CBS' Wolfson said via Twitter she found Pitino's assertion humorous, ESPN reported, although the coach apparently was not joking.

"They thought she was giving it to the other team," Pitino said. "I told [sophomore guard Donovan Mitchell], she's not doing that.”

Dayton sports columnist’s mustache gets national airtime

Tom Archdeacon is usually writing news, not making it, but he caught some airtime and the attention of one writer covering the NCAA tournament in Indianapolis on Friday.

>> Read more trending news

The longtime Dayton Daily News columnist drew attention from USA Today’s The Big Lead for his “glorious mustache.” While sitting behind CBS’ Jim Nantz, Bill Raftery and Grant Hill, Archdeacon was on television and caught the notice of Kyle Koster from TBL.

“There was much to discuss at the top of the broadcast before tip-off and the trio did a nice job setting things up. Or so I guess. It was quite difficult to pay attention with Tom Archdeacon’s impressive mustache lurking in the background,” Koster said. It’s a tough look to pull off, but the Dayton Daily News “old-school storyteller” is doing just that. The Big Lede posted a link to Archdeacon’s archive of award-winning columns.

Archdeacon has made headlines before — he won the Society of Professional Journalists Sports Columnist of the Year in 2012 and 2013, beating out competition from national outlets like ESPN and Sports Illustrated. 

Pitt wrestlers sent packing at NCAA Championships

The Pitt wrestling team sent four wrestlers to the NCAA Championships this weekend. Three, you could say, seemed to have legitimate All-American chances. Dom Forys, Teshan Campbell, and Ryan Solomon were all ranked in the Top 20 this year and had a shot. Taleb Rahmani had been very impressive but an All-American ranking seemed like a reach there.

At the end, all four of Pitt's wrestlers had some success but were sent packing on Day 2 of the event without making the All-American team. Here were the brackets going into tonight's session. The only change from a Pitt perspective is that Solomon's final loss is not shown here.

At 133 pounds, Forys managed only one win in the Championship bracket before being upset by No. 11 Bryan Lantry in the second round, 5-3. Ironically, Lantry barely moved on after posting a 3-1 first-round win over a lower ranked guy while Forys, the No. 6 seed, easily defeated No. 7 seed Eric Montoya. Forys dropped into the wrestlebacks bracket, won a match, but then was upset again by No. 14 Mitch McKee - the guy that also lost to Lantry. In all, Forys was 2-2 and lost to two lower-ranked wrestlers. Forys, 21-3, ended up losing to a nearly .500 wrestler (22-18) in McKee.

Now, to be fair, McKee is no slouch. That evidenced by the fact that he was ranked despite being only 22-18. No one else in that weight class had such a bad record with such a high ranking, so the kid is pretty good and almost surely had a difficult slate of competition. But at the end of the day, you still would consider that an upset because of how good Forys had been this season.

Campbell had the exact same path at 165 pounds, winning his first match then dropping his second. In wrestlebacks, the 10th-seeded wrestler won a match before being upset by No. 15 Drew Hughes and also finishing 2-2.

Rahmani continued to impress at 157 pounds. He dropped his first bout to No. 7 Dylan Palacio, but then went on to win two matches in wrestlebacks, including one against No. 9 Joshua Shields in the biggest upset win of the tournament for Pitt. He lost his next bout to No. 15 Archie Colgan but absolutely shouldn't hang his head about his performance coming in unranked.

Solomon had the most success and came closest to being named an All-American. He finished 3-2, winning two matches in wrestlebacks after a win in the Championship bracket, but was defeated by No. 5 Nick Nevills of Penn State for an All-American slot. Ranked No. 15, his losses were hardly shameful, losing to the No. 2 and No. 5 ranked heavyweights.

I want to feel a little torn on how to feel about Pitt's showing. The easy way out is to be fine with the results because of all of the turmoil this year in changing head coaches. But at the end of the day, wrestling is very much an individual sport. And when you look at guys like Forys and Campbell, in particular, that had three dual losses combined, there's just no way to not feel disappointed and feel like they came up short. I'm not going to attempt to speak for them but I don't know how you wouldn't feel that way to be honest with such high expectations.

So do I feel like it's just one of those things you chalk up to the instability of the program this year? Maybe from a team perspective in terms of some of the duals, etc., but certainly not from an individual standpoint at NCAAs. Jason Peters being dismissed doesn't really have much to do with guys not making All-American status. They were very good wrestlers when he was here and that doesn't change simply because he's gone. I have a really hard time pinning upset losses in NCAAs on the fact that Pitt lost its head coach in the middle of the year because those guys still went on to a lot of success after he was gone.

The good news is that the future looks bright for next year in terms of who should be returning. Pitt still has to find a coach, but doesn't lose too much to graduation. John Rizzo and Mikey Racciato were the only two seniors and Racciato was dismissed from the team a few weeks ago for a violation of team rules. Both guys did some decent work at times for Pitt but certainly aren't irreplaceable. Racciato was about as up and down as you can be at 149 pounds and Rizzo was 13-16 on the year at 197. I really enjoyed watching Racciato wrestle, especially. But there's no getting around the fact that he was very up and down for Pitt after a very nice 2014 campaign when he won an ACC title.

Now, you can never account for unexpected departures. After all, I don't know if there will be any more fallout from the incident earlier this year that cost Peters his job (I doubt it) and you also can't account for random departures, such as the team losing Cody Wiercioch (an NCAA qualifier in 2016) this year. But it looks like Pitt will return the core of their production from this season, including all four NCAA qualifiers. There are question marks at some weight classes that I'll cover later, but overall, they should return a ton from this year.

I'll have more in an upcoming article about the outlook for next season.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

Pitt Football Spring Practices: Qadree Ollison hoping to bounce back from rough 2016

With the loss of running back James Conner to the NFL a year early, the Pitt football program will be turning to a new starter in the backfield in 2017. As I wrote at the end of last season, there's plenty of opportunity with all of Conner's carries now available. One of those guys hoping to land the job? Qadree Ollison.

The entire trio, consisting of returning contenders in Ollison, Darrin Hall, and Chawntez Moss, of course, is hoping to be named the starter. But it's Ollison who probably has the most work to do in terms of catching up.

Ollison had, by most measurements, a great 2015. After taking the starting job as a freshman, he won the ACC Offensive Rookie of the Year award and ran for more than 1,100 yards. Last year? With the return of Conner after he had missed most of 2014, Ollison had only 38 carries and saw his yardage per carry drop to only 3.8. Ollison wasn't only behind Conner, but he also fell behind both Hall and Moss - two guys that are returning. Add in a pair of talented freshmen backs coming in (A.J. Davis and Todd Sibley), and you can see that he will have to fight off many players for the job.

Pitt is only two days into spring practice but head coach Pat Narduzzi is at least encouraged by what he's seeing so far.

"He's looked good," said the head coach. "Again, it's in shorts and we are letting them run through the line of scrimmage, so they all look good when no one is getting tackled. The good winter is going to transfer onto the field for sure."

So, what's different? Well, with practices mostly closed (Narduzzi is again allowing only a small portion, mostly consisting of warmups, of the actual practice open to the media), it's hard to say. But Ollison talked a little about how he wants to approach this season.

"I'm smarter now," Ollison said. "I am the oldest running back in the room going into my redshirt junior year. The new me is really trying to be a leader. Last year, we had James [Conner] and Rachid [Ibrahim] who were both older guys, leaders in the room. Now, I'm that older guy who is trying to be a leader for the younger guys in the room, not only for my position, but for the team as well."

We'll see how it plays out. It was weird to see Ollison, who had such a big year for a freshman in 2015, relegated to the No. 4 back on the roster only a year later. I'm not sure I can recall that happening before on a Pitt depth chart. And as mentioned, he not only has the two returnees to worry about but also the incoming guys. Even if the freshmen don't contend to be a starter, they will be contending for playing time. And, similarly, if Ollison isn't named the starter, he'll be battling those guys for backup time.

Heck, you can even argue that there's more competition since Davis and Sibley are two players as opposed to just one with Conner. Neither is as good as Conner, obviously, but you get the point. There are a lot of bodies here.

Based on how quickly he was buried last year and how much competition there is this season, I'm not sure I can see him winning the starting job back. But if he shows improvement, hopefully the opportunity is there for him to get some carries. The more capable guys that Pitt has, the better. And if he's in the mix, Pitt will hopefully be able to redshirt at least one of the two freshman they have coming in since there's just no need to play five guys - especially when all three returning players are pretty good.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.

Pat Signal: Jay Symonds commits to Pitt

Pitt landed their first recruit for the 2018 class

PITT IS IT! #L1TS8URGH #H2P— Pat Narduzzi (@CoachDuzzPittFB) March 16, 2017

The long wait is over. In case you missed it, Pitt got their first commitment for the 2018 recruiting class when Jay Symonds committed to Pitt yesterday afternoon. Pitt was one of the few programs in the country without a commitment for whatever reason, and now they are on the board.

Jay Symonds is a 6’4” 250 pound tight end/H-Back from Cambridge, Massachusetts. He chose Pitt over offers from Boston College and Temple, along with some FCS offers. He is not graded out by the four recruiting services yet, and he should get a ranking during the upcoming Spring evaluation period.

Symonds plays for Buckingham, Brown, and Nichols School in Cambridge. He helped lead his team to a 7-2 record in 2016 as a junior. His team used him all over the field, and you can check out his highlights here.

Pitt brought in three tight ends last recruiting class, and only have four total on the roster. This is obviously a position that still needs to be replenished over time. Pitt’s recruiting class will be interesting this year. There are only 11 seniors on scholarship heading into the 2017 season, so a large recruiting class is not expected. It’s hard to pinpoint a number at this point for this class. It’ll be a wait and see approach.

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