Here are five things that happened in Pittsburgh sports this week, with some of my own spin on them as well.
STORY: Jeff Capel wrapped up his best recruiting class yet as head coach of the Pitt Panthers heading into this week. According to Rivals.com, Pitt finished with the third-best class in the ACC and 17th overall in the country. John Hugley was 77th overall, William Jeffress 79, Femi Odukale was 145th while Noah Collier & Max Adamasun were just outside the top 150.
SPIN: It's now time to put some expectations on this Pitt team. They've earned it. Jeff Capel has earned it. His staff has earned it. I think it's time the conversation shifts from "Wow, look at this dumpster fire Capel took over, he's doing all he can" to actually expecting a win total on the floor in 2020. For me, another season without a berth into the NIT or NCAA Tournament would be a failure.
Pitt has a third-year starter in Xavier Johnson returning, a second-year starter Justin Champagnie, who is capable of averaging 15 points per game, coming back. Au'Diese Toney is a quality depth piece who received starter minutes in 2019. Ithiel Horton, a transfer from Delaware is coming in. Jeff Capel has been effusive in his praise of him at practice and thinks he'll be a difference maker. And then to top it off, this recruiting class lead by Hugley and Jeffress.
It's a credit to Capel and his staff to have created expectations and I think now is the time we can have them. Let's see the collection of talent turn into wins. The rubber needs to meet the road.
STORY: In an attempt at a continuation of the 2019 season, the NHL is considering a model that would include games at two hub cities with 12 teams making the playoffs from each conference.The top four teams in each conference would receive a first-round bye but play a three-game round-robin to determine the final standings. The next eight teams, including the Penguins in the Eastern Conference, would be pitted in a best-of-five series to play in a subsequent 16-team playoff bracket. The hub cities have not yet been announced, although Las Vegas seems to be a leading candidate along with Dallas, Columbus, Tampa and Pittsburgh.
SPIN: In this proposal and format, the Penguins would be the 5 seed in the Eastern Conference and play the 12 seed Montreal Canadiens in that play-in series before the real postseason starts. While that is the Pens getting the obvious short end of the stick, missing the bye by one spot, I find it hard to complain. In this world of proposals, ideas, hub cities, new formats, fluid timelines, etc...I just want to see live games back. In this case, I just don't want to see an opportunity be taken away from the core group of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang to win another Stanley Cup. That's what is most important from a sports angle, outside of course the concern of general human health and safety. The details are still a little hazy and we should get clarity over the weekend. For now, I'm excited about the progress this has made and the idea of playoff hockey coming back which is always one of the best times of the year.
STORY: The NFL wants to adjust the Rooney Rule in order to produce better results. As you most likely know, the rule was spearheaded by the late Dan Rooney to improve diversity in head coach and front office hiring, requiring each team with a vacancy to interview a minority candidate. NFL Network reported last week that the owners were considering a proposal that would have improved teams' third-round draft picks by six for a hired minority head coach and 10 spots for a hired minority candidate at GM. It even included draft compensation for the hiring of minority candidates for such positions as quarterbacks coach. After owner's met together Tuesday, they decided to table that idea.
On Thursday, NFL Network reported the idea of an untimed 4th & 15 from the 25-yardline as an alternative to the onside kick proposal set forth by the Philadelphia Eagles is gaining steam among teams and owners. The play would be an elective endeavor, would have the same officiating rules as any normal play and would result in a turnover on downs from the spot of the ball at the end of the play for a failed attempt. A successful attempt would allow a team to keep possession of the ball. Teams can only do it after scoring plays and twice per game.
SPIN: The idea of attaching draft picks to the Rooney Rule completely baffles me. I wouldn't think there are many minority candidates who would be comfortable knowing that their hiring may have come as a backhanded way to better their team's draft position and not necessarily as an affirmation of their skills at their profession. Also, teams that did not hire a minority candidate or didn't have a vacancy in the offseason to hire one, would be getting punished for that by being bypassed in the draft. I'm glad it's been tabled and I hope it falls off that table soon. The Rooney Rule is a tricky thing, I believe in it in principle and do believe the numbers behind the lack of minority hires in the game is an issue, I just don't think there is an easy fix. The NFL is full of retreads and "coaching trees" that can often times be dangerous and lead to candidates being hired that probably don't deserve it. But, at the same time, I do believe teams honestly hire the person whom they think will lead them to victories. There's too much at stake not to. Maybe increasing the number of minority candidates to be hired and sending this mandate down the coaching ladder is the best way to approach this.
As far as the 4th and 15 idea...I love it. Give me more of the best players on the field in crunch time. If you are a good defense, you stop it. The numbers in conversion are about the same as the onside kick conversion numbers before they weren't allowed to get a running start anymore. It's also enough of a risk because you are essentially giving away at least 3 points if you try and fail. My only hesitation is potential pass interference calls ruining this play. Other than that...let's do it.
1. (cont'd)...Except For Governor Tom Wolf
STORY: Not long after the video was posted, Governor Tom Wolf was asked about Ben receiving a haircut and beard trim. Wolf expressed what he called "general concern" for him saying in part, "I don't care who you are, the chances of that virus wreaking havoc on your life increases." Then rumors swirled about whether or not Cuttin' Edge Barbershop in Sewickley opened its door illegally.