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UConn football joins conference in 2005

Friday, July 28, 2000

By Shelly Anderson, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Plans for Big East football expansion are set -- Connecticut is in, Central Florida is not.

Conference Commissioner Michael Tranghese yesterday said Connecticut, which is already in the Big East in basketball and other sports, will become a league member in football in 2005, as long as the Huskies' plans for a new football stadium are fulfilled. Groundbreaking is scheduled for next spring.

Connecticut will try to play every Big East team on the road at least once before 2005, Tranghese said. The Huskies are in the process of moving up from Division I-AA to I-A. Tranghese said opponents' wins or losses against the Huskies will now count at the I-A level.

Central Florida, coached by Howard Schnellenberger, already has made the move up to I-A and would like to join a conference. Through a marketing blitz this summer, Central Florida made a bid for entry into the Big East and Conference USA.

"We just don't have any interest right now in further expansion," said Tranghese, speaking at the annual Big East football media day at Giants Stadium.

The addition of Connecticut will give the Big East nine teams beginning in 2005.

Tranghese said there is no danger of that number being reduced with the loss of Temple. The Owls, who struggle with attendance at Veterans Stadium, probably won't meet a new NCAA mandate that teams must draw an average of at least 17,000 per game over a four-year period to play in I-A.

Tranghese said there are challenges to that rule and, in any case, Temple will receive enough backing from the Big East that it will be exempt through a grandfather situation.

Hurricanes top pick

Miami was picked to win the league in the Big East media poll, despite the fact Virginia Tech went undefeated in the regular season last year, went to the national championship game and returns quarterback Michael Vick, who finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting.

"I think that's accurate," said Virginia Tech Coach Frank Beamer, whose team was picked to finish second. "Miami has a lot of great players coming back -- more than we have."

The Hurricanes, who were 9-4 overall, 6-1 in the conference last season, received 15 first-place votes and 183 points in the poll. They have placed higher than Virginia Tech in all of the preseason polls so far.

Virginia Tech got nine first-place votes and 177 points.

Syracuse was picked third with 134 points, followed by Boston College (109 points), Pitt (100 points), West Virginia (85 points), Temple (48 points) and Rutgers (28 points).

Priestley OK

Pitt Coach Walt Harris said junior quarterback David Priestley's right (throwing) shoulder is healthy. Priestley, who will compete with senior John Turman for the starting job, had surgery in December and missed spring drills.

"He's fine physically," Harris said, "but he's got to stretch it out and he's got to get hit. He needs to get knocked around, but he doesn't need to get hurt."

Harris hasn't decided how much contact Priestley will be allowed in training camp.

The Panthers training camp opens Aug. 12.

What a ride

Rainy weather Wednesday led to flight delays that forced Harris to miss a Big East dinner and reception that night.

But that was only half of it.

Harris, traveling with players Ramon Walker, Jeff McCurley and Latef Grim plus media relations director E.J. Borghetti, had what he called a "harrowing" limousine ride from the Newark airport to the team's hotel at the Meadowlands Sports Complex.

The limo driver got lost three times, then drove past the entrance to the hotel. So he stopped in the middle of a fairly busy service road and -- in the rain and the dark -- backed up on the berm to finally get the Panthers entourage to the hotel.

Quick hits

Moving day for Pitt is Tuesday. That's when the Panthers will settle for good into the UPMC practice and training facility on the South Side. They will hold training camp there this year instead of Pitt-Johnstown, with the players housed in Sutherland Hall, a five-minute shuttle ride away on campus. Harris said nothing else about training camp will change. ... Walker, a sophomore free safety whose spring practices were cut short by strained ligaments in his right shoulder, said he expects to participate in training camp. He led the Panthers last year with 131 tackles and made the all-conference team. ... The Big East this year has five bowl affiliations -- the Bowl Championship Series, the Gator Bowl, the Bowl, the Music City Bowl and one of the two games played in Hawaii, the Aloha and Oahu bowls. ... The Big East delayed an announcement of its all-decade team, which would cover the history of the football league. The team will be announced before the start of the season.

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