The 2017 calendar year has ended and it’s time to look ahead to 2018 and what stories and headlines it will bring us.
Pitt football, Pitt basketball, Duquesne basketball, Robert Morris basketball, Pitt wrestling and the WPIAL provided us with plenty of stories over the past 365 days.
As we wait to see what the next year brings us in terms of news, here’s our choice for the Top 10 storylines for the teams that we cover here on Pittsburgh Sports Now.
1) James Conner Drafted by the Steelers:
After having accomplished everything on the field and his heroic efforts off the field, James Conner storybook season was completed when he was drafted in the 3rd round by the Pittsburgh Steelers. There was plenty of talk about where and when someone would select Conner but the Steelers saw enough to use a pick on him in the 3rd round. That was a great ending to Conner’s collegiate career.
2) Scott Barnes Leaves, Heather Lyke Hired at Pitt:
This story actually happened in the last week of December of 2016 but close enough that we’ll count it for 2017. Despite being at Pitt for just 18 months, Scott Barnes left to accept the athletic directors position at Oregon State. Barnes wasn’t at Pitt long enough to accomplish much but he did make the much discussed move of hiring basketball coach Kevin Stallings. The departure of Barnes led to Pitt replacing him with Heather Lyke from Eastern Michigan. This was historic as Lyke became the first female AD in the history of Pitt athletics.
3) Duquesne Hires Keith Dambrot:
After firing Jim Ferry, Duquesne University made a huge investment in his basketball future by hiring long-time Akron coach Keith Dambrot. This wasn’t the first time Duquesne approached Dambrot about its basketball position but it was the first time that they were truly ready to commit to the program. It’s only been two months but Duquesne fans are already starting to see positive results from the big hire.
4) Pat Narduzzi Long-Term Extension:
Following the 2017 season, Pitt decided to invest in the future of their football program by signing Pat Narduzzi to a 7-year contract extension. The length of the contract surprised some but considering the turnstile of coaches that have come through Pitt in the last 10 years, it was an important and I believe the right move.
5) Matt Canada Leaves Pitt:
After leading the Pitt 2016 offense to some record performances, offensive coordinator Matt Canada decided to leave Pitt for the same position at LSU. Canada didn’t last long as he’s reportedly going to be fired following LSU’s bowl game vs. Notre Dame.
6) Pine-Richland Football Program:
No other way to put it but it was just a tremendous season for the Pine-Richland football program. The Rams dominated during the regular season and then went on to win both the WPIAL and PIAA titles. Following these accomplishments, the USA Today ranked Pine-Richland in their Top 15 National Rankings and head coach Eric Kasperowicz is a finalist for the national High School Coach of the Year.
7) Pitt Beats #2 Miami, Fla. To End Regular Season:
For the second consecutive season, the Pitt football team knocked off the #2 team in the country. Last year it was Clemson and this year, they closed the regular season by upsetting the Miami Hurricanes. The Panthers still fell one game short of qualifying for a bowl game but it was a positive way to end the season and to start the recruiting season.
8) Pitt Getting Players to the NFL:
Pitt football hasn’t won as many games as they ultimately need to but they are having success getting players to the NFL. in the 2017 NFL Draft, former Panthers James Conner, Dorian Johnson, Adam Bisnowaty, Ejuan Price and Nathan Peterman were all drafted, while a number of other Panthers earned their way on NFL practice squads. Following this year, Jordan Whitehead, Brian O’Neil and Quadree Henderson all announced that they where leaving school early to enter the 2018 NFL Draft.
9) Mike Lewis Stays At Duquesne:
Following the firing of Jim Ferry, a number of Duquesne players and verbal commitments left the program. Fortunately for Keith Dambrot, the teams best and most important player didn’t follow course. Sophomore guard Mike Lewis, Duquesne’s leading scorer, decided to stay at the school which was tremendous news for the program.
10) The Emergence of Kenny Pickett
Panther fans will have to wait until 2018 to see how this turns out, but if the Miami game was any indication, Pitt looks like it has its quarterback of the future in Kenny Pickett.