Happy Friday, everybody. I've now seen seven of the Big East teams in person this spring and if I don't see another pass skeleton until August, I'm fine with that.
Let's get to some mail.
Steve from Seattle writes: What's your take on the rules change for taunting? I'm in the camp that high-stepping and somersaults over the goal line isn't that big a deal, but pointing the ball at a trailing opponent is in fact taunting and should be banned (like the Mutombo finger wag). I think it should be left to the coaches to discipline the player, not take away the points.
Brian Bennett: I'm with you, Steve, and I think this has the possibility to be a real disaster. I have no problems with the celebrations and really don't understand why the NFL and NCAA keep trying to legislate fun out of the game. I personally like a little showmanship, as long as it doesn't go over the edge. To put the judgment in the hands of officials and potentially take points off the board can only lead to controversy and trouble.
Raph from Seattle writes: I am a big Rutgers fan who unfortunately is located in the Northwest, so I can follow RU football only through your blogs. My question is: Antwan Lowery came in as a highly-touted recruit together with another imposing DT prospect in Isaac Holmes. Given that there is buzz on how deep the defensive line is, and with Lowery's move to the OL, how has Holmes performed this offseason? The RU fanbase was definitely excited to get him last year, but there hasn't been much buzz about him since or his performance with the team.
Brian Bennett: Wow, the Big East blog is big in Seattle. Who knew? Anyway, Raph, it looks as if Holmes is running third team on the depth chart this spring. The D-line is pretty deep, and Holmes appears to be behind some other young players there. Have patience, though. It often takes linemen a while to develop.
KK from San Diego writes: As a Cincy fan, I sympathize with fellow Big East Mountaineer fans about the NCAA investigation into the program and Rich Rodriguez's conduct there. Do you think it is a bit unfair that the only the school gets penalized for the behavior/conduct of coaches while the coaches don't? I've seen it happen so many times and it still keeps happening. Why? Maybe the correct fix is to penalize the coach since he/she is the violator. Yes, the school has the responsibility but if this keeps happening maybe the NCAA needs to reevaluate their approach. Your thoughts?
Brian Bennett: The West Coast influence continues. I couldn't agree more, KK. Coaches who show a habit of misconduct can get the dreaded show-cause penalty, which basically prevents them from taking another job (see Kelvin Sampson). But more often than not, schools and players get penalized long after the coach has skipped town. That's why you'd better do your due diligence when hiring a coach and make sure your compliance people are on top of things. By the way, I got the sense that West Virginia people aren't too worried about the investigation and that they're confident their house is in order. But you never know what the NCAA might find when it starts snooping around.
Stephen from Syracuse writes: Based on what you've seen and heard from the spring practice sessions so far, which of the teams that finished below .500 in conference last season (Connecticut, Louisville, Rutgers, South Florida and Syracuse) has the best chance to win the league title in the upcoming season?
Brian Bennett: Out of that group, definitely UConn. Remember the Huskies could have beaten West Virginia, Pitt and Cincinnati on the road last year with just a couple of bounces. And they get all three of those at home this year. UConn is deep and talented, and it's a real contender in 2010.
Thomas from Raleigh, N.C., writes: I want to preface this by saying that I am an ECU fan and alum. I have been keeping track of Big East football since the ACC shake-up several years ago. Do you think the current Big East commissioner is making the right decision by doing nothing in terms of expansion? We have heard that the best defense is a good offense. Why don't you think he is being proactive and going on the offensive to streghthen the conference and stop the pending attrition?
Brian Bennett: The Big Ten was a hot topic everywhere I visited this spring. And with good reason. Everyone is kind of waiting around to see what will happen and hoping they don't get left out when the musical chairs start. But as I've said before, what can the Big East do to prevent this? Adding teams of the caliber of East Carolina, Memphis or Central Florida won't change a thing, and they'll still be there after the Big Ten does its thing. The Big East doesn't have enough financial incentive to entice other BCS teams to defect. So, really, the league just needs to be prepared to react. The ball is totally in the Big Ten's court right now.
Robert K. from Park City, Utah, writes: So if you played for Pitt through 2006, how did you work in Louisville for nine years prior to 2008? Not to mention being born in 1983 -- THAT would have you at The Courier-Journal at age 16.
Brian Bennett: What can I say? I'm precocious. Like this guy.
Jim from Pittsburgh writes: You say you're leaning towards making Pitt your pick to win the Big East this year. Please, I beg of you, don't. I don't want to end up like Rutgers last year or worse, watch us lose the Big East on the last day of the season after blowing another 21-point lead to Cincy.
Brian Bennett: Jim, if my predictions actually caused the opposite to occur, don't you think I'd use that power for good and not evil? Just in case, let's give it a try: I predict that Natalie Portman will definitely not go out with me in 2010.