Looking ahead to Big East media days
Newport, R.I. -- When your editor calls and asks you attend the Big East media days in Newport, R.I., you don't complain.
It's like when you're invited to play Augusta National Golf Club, which is an invitation I'm still waiting for. The Big East stages its preseason news conferences better than any other league in the country. There's the Atlantic Ocean. There's golf. There's lobster. There's great access to the league's coaches and players.
Here are a few of the storylines heading into Big East media days, which begin Monday:
- How much will Pat White throw the football this season?
Last year, White and departed tailback Steve Slaton were like rock stars here. ESPN TV cameras followed them around Newport for three days. Slaton left for the NFL, but White might have an even bigger role with the Mountaineers this season. New coach Bill Stewart wants his quarterback to throw more and run less often. Will that plan work?
- Will Ben Mauk be eligible to play quarterback for Cincinnati?
According to a report in the Cincinnati Enquirer, Mauk is still waiting to learn his fate from the NCAA regarding a sixth year of eligibility. In fact, the former Wake Forest transfer doesn't even know when he'll get to plead his case during a teleconference with the NCAA's Student-Athlete Reinstatement Committee.
The NCAA has twice rejected Mauk's plea for an additional year, claiming he lacked evidence from Wake Forest that an injury caused him to miss his freshman season in 2003.
Mauk plans to work out with the Bearcats when preseason practices start Aug. 1, even if the NCAA hasn't yet ruled on his case.
"I think it would benefit me because now I'm missing out on some job opportunities," Mauk told the Enquirer. "I don't know what to tell employers that are inquiring about what I'm going to do."
Dustin Grutza, who is in line to start at quarterback if Mauk's latest appeal is denied, is one of two Cincinnati players coming to Newport.
- Will Greg Robinson survive another season at Syracuse?
The former Texas and NFL defensive coordinator has a 7-28 record in three seasons with the Orange, including a 2-10 mark last year, which is the worst three-year stretch in Syracuse history. Athletics director Daryl Gross brought Robinson back for the 2008 season, even after saying the current state of the Syracuse program was "very, very painful."
Interestingly, Donnie Webb of the Syracuse Post-Standard reports Gross might have been given a three-year contract extension last week. Syracuse officials declined comment when asked about the extension.
- Is Pitt ready to contend for the Big East title?
The Panthers have received a lot of attention during the offseason after finishing 2007 with a 13-9 upset of West Virginia, which knocked the Mountaineers out of the BCS title game. Coach Dave Wannstedt is bringing star tailback LeSean McCoy, receiver Derek Kinder and linebacker Scott McKillop to Newport.
Kinder, who missed all of the 2007 season after tearing the ACL in his right knee during preseason camp, could be a huge factor for the Panthers this coming season, especially if Bill Stull returns to form at quarterback. Stull missed most of 2007 after injuring his thumb in the opener.
- Can Mike Teel carry the Rutgers offense?
Ray Rice won't be there to carry the Scarlet Knights on his back anymore, so Teel and the rest of the passing attack will really have to step up. With Tiquan Underwood returning, Rutgers might look a lot different than it did last season. Teel and Underwood will be in Newport, along with Courtney Greene and Kevin Malast.
- How will South Florida rebuild its defense?
The Bulls lost star linebacker Ben Moffit and cornerbacks Mike Jenkins and Trae Williams. Coach Jim Leavitt and defensive coordinator Wally Burnham feel really good about Tyrone McKenzie playing middle linebacker. McKenzie, a former Iowa State transfer, will be in Newport. Star defensive end George Selvie and quarterback Matt Grothe won't be here (Leavitt only brings seniors to the event).
Other news and notes from around the league:
- Is it time for Rutgers fans to start getting nervous about keeping coach Greg Schiano?
The Newark Star-Ledger reported Sunday that the school's fund-raising attempts to pay for $102 million in improvements to Rutgers Stadium have all but collapsed.
In fact, the Star-Ledger reports the school raised no more than $2 million to pay for the stadium's expansion. Rutgers is now faced with the possibility of having to borrow most of the construction costs and might raise ticket prices to offset some of the costs. The school hoped to land as much as $30 million in private donations.
The Star-Ledger reported that Rutgers has a self-imposed deadline of Aug. 1 to determine whether it is feasible to proceed with stadium expansion or severely scale back the project until more funding is available.
The Star-Ledger reported last week that Schiano can leave Rutgers without penalty if the stadium's expansion was delayed.
- Brett McMurphy from the Tampa Tribune had an interesting story about new South Florida defensive line coach John Hendrick, who expects to report back to work Monday -- only three weeks after suffering a heart attack.