Turk, Pitt and those darned officials
MORGANTOWN - Cleaning out a crowded notebook and a cluttered mind while wondering if maybe the Coliseum crowd should take up the same chant road crowds tend toward when Deniz Kilicli is trying to focus:
Not that it hasn't happened before - in fact, it's fairly common - but when the vast student section at Pitt last Thursday began chanting "U-S-A, U-S-A'' as Kilicli was preparing to shoot free throws, it had opposite the desired effect.
He hit nothing but net twice to complete three-point plays. And this from a career 55-percent foul shooter.
"I don't know why the fans do that,'' West Virginia's Turkish center said. "I mean, it doesn't bother me at all. I like it here. I don't want to go home.''
With that in mind, perhaps opposing crowds would be better served to chant "Is-tan-bull, Is-tan-bull.''
If, by the way, that was the last WVU-Pitt basketball game for a while, well, that would be a shame. Even with traffic regularly backed up for an hour trying to get into and through Oakland, it's still one of the very few opponents - football or basketball - close enough to get to and worth getting there to see.
And it's only going to get worse, of course, when the states of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Iowa are thrown into the mix.
But does anyone really think this series won't continue?
"Honestly, I'd be kind of shocked [if it ended],'' Bob Huggins said. "I mean, we've been playing since 1904. We're all looking for good non-conference games.''
The fact is, the teams not only started playing in 1904, they've not missed a year since 1917. For the math challenged that's closing in on 100 years. It wasn't interrupted when the schools were in different leagues before and it's not likely to be interrupted now, either, given that all you have to do is knock on ESPN's door and say WVU-Pitt and there's a crew on its way.
Football's going to be harder, though, but not impossible.
"Anything is possible,'' said WVU deputy athletic director Mike Parsons, who handles scheduling issues.
First things first, though. West Virginia is still in a position where it has to shed games in the immediate future before there's any talk of adding or replacing. The school has gone from five non-conference openings in an eight-team Big East to just three in the 10-team Big 12. And in each of the next four years WVU is or was already contracted to play four.
Dropping Florida State took care of the problem for 2012 (although the financial ramifications of that have yet to be fully developed), but in 2013 there are games contracted with FSU, Maryland, East Carolina and William & Mary. In 2014 Maryland, ECU, Michigan State and Towson are on the schedule. In 2015 it's Maryland, ECU, Michigan State and Liberty.
Not until 2016 is West Virginia within the 12-game limit, having only Maryland, ECU and Brigham Young (in Washington, D.C.) under contract. In 2017 Maryland and ECU are already contracted and in 2018 only ECU is already on the schedule.
So, how does WVU go about paring things down? Well, first of all, don't expect those FCS opponents - William & Mary, Towson and Liberty - to go anywhere. West Virginia not only needs them as home games, the Mountaineers need a breather or a warm-up in a schedule that every year will include Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, TCU, Baylor, Texas Tech, Kansas and Iowa State. No more complaining about one FCS opponent a year. It's not allowed.
That leaves two spots open, long-term contracts with Maryland (through 2017) and East Carolina (2018), the home-and-home with Michigan State in 2014-15, the 2016 game with BYU, and the game with Florida State next season that's still out there.
The Florida State game will, of course, not be played. It's just a matter of how the issue is resolved. The Seminoles aren't coming to Morgantown for a game without a return. The Michigan State series remains a possibility, although that's likely to hinge on what happens with the Maryland and ECU contracts. The game with BYU is another of those moneymakers that will be hard to dump, although it's a possibility because who knows where BYU will be in four more years?
What will be interesting is to see what happens with the Maryland and East Carolina series. Maybe West Virginia should have listened all those years ECU tried to get help in getting into the Big East. Maybe then the Pirates would be grateful and just cancel the football contract. As it is, the teams are all but certain to play in 2013 (after the FSU game is dealt with there will be only Maryland and William & Mary left). It could remain beyond that, too, if the Michigan State series goes away in 2014-15.
The most intriguing spot in the schedule, though, belongs to Maryland. The teams are scheduled to play six more times, including a 2013 game in Baltimore. It's a good series and one that shouldn't go away.
That having been said, Maryland is also about to find itself in a scheduling quandary, when Pitt and Syracuse join the ACC, probably in 2013, and the league goes from an eight-game schedule to nine. The Terps may have to shed games, too.
When that happens, the light bulb has already come on regarding thoughts of working with Pitt to solve the issue. Perhaps WVU plays Maryland in alternating years and slips Pitt into the void every other season. Maryland might be receptive not only because of its need to address scheduling issues, but also due to its newfound brotherhood with Pitt in the ACC.
Nothing has been really talked about, but trust that the idea has been floated in WVU and Pitt circles. When the time comes and things settle down a bit, it could be a very real possibility.
And finally . . .
For those who still believe that officials who work WVU games have an agenda regarding the Mountaineers, we bring you the story of N.C. State alums Tom Gugliotta and Chris Corchiani, who were thrown out of the Wolfpack's home arena by official Karl Hess during Saturday's game against Florida State.
Neither of the former players swore at Hess or his crew, but did admit to criticizing him, as were most of the home fans in a lopsided loss to the Seminoles. Neither Hess nor the ACC came forward with any explanation.
Hess, by the way, was the lead official on the crew that did West Virginia's loss at Syracuse (the no-goal-tending game). He'd done 75 games this season through Sunday's Pitt-South Florida game. His crewmates in the N.C. State game were Brian Dorsey, whose 81 games lead all officials this season, and Ray Natili, whose 68 games rank him in the top 20 in games worked.
The point, I guess, is that these guys aren't picking on West Virginia any more than they're picking on N.C. State. They simply work too many games.
Complain about that, not some sort of imagined bias.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.