Penn State recruiting No. 3 in Big Ten

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Penn State recruiting No. 3 in Big Ten

Chicago-based recruiting analyst Tom Lemming of CBS Sports Network predicts Penn State will rank behind only Ohio State and Michigan in the Big Ten recruiting sweepstakes for 2013, indicating little if any backlash from the Jerry SanduskyJoe Paterno scandal that rocked the school.

Lemming has completed 34 of his annual series of coast-to-coast (and don't forget Hawaii) trips to evaluate the most talented high school football players in the country and he observed that Penn State, under the guidance of new coach Bill O'Brien, is one of the hottest programs on the recruiting trail.

"It has been six months since the SanduskyPaterno scandal surfaced and Penn State is starting to do well in recruiting," Lemming said. "O'Brien has no connections to the past at Penn State. That gives him an advantage with recruits. Based on what O'Brien and his staff are doing, there is no doubt it will be between Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State for the recruiting title in the Big Ten."

Penn State has six four-star prospects among its seven commitments to date. Adam Breneman, a 6-foot-5, 225-pounder from Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, is the No 1 tight end in the nation. Quarterback Christian Hackenberg of Fork Union, Virginia, Military Academy is a top 100 player. So is 6-foot-2, 290-pound defensive tackle Greg Webb of Sicklerville, New Jersey.

Webb is an interesting case study. He was ignored by Paterno's coaching staff during a campus visit last fall. But he said in December that he would still consider Penn State if defensive line coach Larry Johnson was retained, which he was. Webb, a two-time All-South New Jersey selection, is rated as the No. 1 defensive tackle in the Northeast.

Here are Lemming's other observations as he prepares for his three-week West Coast swing, which will include visits to Hawaii, California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Utah, Colorado, Nebraska, Minnesota and Wisconsin:

Contrary to reports out of Ann Arbor, Michigan, Logan Tuley-Tillman of Peoria Manual, one of the nation's top-rated offensive linemen, will remain in Peoria for his senior year. Wolverine.com, a Michigan website, reported that Tuley-Tillman, who is committed to Michigan, was planning to transfer. He has relatives in the Ann Arbor area and Michigan coaches would like him to move "closer to home" where they can keep an eye on him.

But Tuley-Tillman told sportswriter Lonnie Schwindenhammer of the Peoria Journal Star that he plans to be at Peoria Manual for his senior year. "He does have an aunt a short drive from the Big House and he did say his mother plans to move there, but not until after the football season. That said, it wouldn't surprise me if he said something to a Michigan blogger that could have been interpreted as a family move being imminent. Logan is a good kid. He probably could use some direction and fatherly advice," Schwindenhammer said.

The No. 1 player in the class of 2013 is 6-foot-4, 260-pound defensive end Robert Nkemeiche of Loganville, Georgia, who has 4.59 speed and recorded 19 sacks last season. There is talk that Nkemeiche is silently committed to Alabama. His high school coach played at Alabama. Florida, Georgia, Auburn, USC and LSU also are in the mix.

"He reminds me of my second year in the recruiting business when I saw Reggie White in Chattanooga," Lemming said. "He is big and fast. He has great speed for someone that big. He is in the same category as Reggie White, Julius Peppers and Jadeveon Clowney (the nation's No. 1 player in 2010)."

Lincoln-Way West offensive lineman Colin McGovern's decision to commit to Notre Dame marks the first big catch out of the Chicago area for the Irish in quite a while, someone who everybody else wanted. It is significant in many ways.

"McGovern is an All-American," Lemming said. "He is as good as (Michigan-bound) Kyle Bosch of Wheaton St. Francis, Ethan Pocic of Lemont and (Michigan-bound) Logan Tuley-Tillman of Peoria Manual. He has a great frame and he is very athletic. He will weigh 320 pounds in a few years."

Notre Dame had a weakness in the offensive line. But they have four commitments from offensive linemen, two in the top 100 -- McGovern and Steve Elmer of Midland, Michigan, the No. 2 player in the state. The Irish also got 6-foot-7, 290-pound Hunter Bivin of Owensboro, Kentucky, the best offensive lineman in his state. And keep an eye on 6-foot-9, 270-pound Mike McGlincey of Philadelphia, who has the highest upside of any offensive tackle that Lemming has seen.

Lemming reminds that football fans shouldn't be hoodwinked by the number of scholarship offers that prospects accumulate. It often isn't an accurate measuring stick as to their talent and ability.

"You should never rank players according to the number of offers they have. That's political. It is an indication that big schools like you but it isn't an indication that you are a better talent than a kid who has few fewer offers. Some kids seek offers. To some kids, it's a game to see who can accumulate the most offers. It doesn't necessarily mean they are better than kids with fewer offers," Lemming said.

For example, Pocic has only 10 offers compared to McGovern's 14. But he narrowed his list sooner than others. Bolingbrook quarterback Aaron Bailey has 13 offers but Lemming believes he will accumulate more. "He is an enormous talent. When people realize it, he will have more offers," Lemming said.

At least six Chicago area players will rank in the top 100 in the nation in the class of 2013, the highest number in recent years -- Bailey, McGovern, Bosch, Pocic, running back Ty Isaac of Joliet Catholic and wide receiver LaQuon Treadwell of Crete-Monee. Tuley-Tillman also will rank in the top 100.

Critics complain that Illinois hasn't been able to recruit any blue-chip players from within the state in several years but Lemming thinks new coach Tim Beckman will be successful where former coach Ron Zook wasn't. Beckman received an oral commitment from running back Kendrick Foster of Peoria Richwoods on Thursday and Lemming feels the Illini have a good shot at Bailey.

"Illinois has to come out of the gate strong," Lemming said. "They have been weak in the last few years. Kids are waiting to see how the program will develop. They want to see what Illinois will do with a new program. Illinois isn't like Ohio State with Urban Meyer, who had a great record of success at Florida.

"Recruiting is all about perception. Advance information on Beckman is his staff is doing a great job of getting their name out there. But kids are hesitant. They want to see how the program proceeds. Is the program on the ascent? Or is it still on the decline? Illinois has to build a buzz."

According to Lemming, 6-foot-5, 275-pound defensive end Josh Augusta of Peoria Central is one of the big surprises in the class of 2013. Last January, he had no Big 10 offers. Now Illinois, Michigan, Indiana and Iowa have offered. So have Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Memphis and Louisiana-Monroe.
More can be expected.

"He is a very good defensive end and they are tough to find," Lemming said of the very athletic youngster who played on Peoria Central's state championship basketball team. "If he lived in Chicago, he would have over 25 offers,"

Lemming ranks Augusta and Maine South quarterback Matt Alviti among the top 150 players in the nation.

On his recent trip, Lemming also was impressed by 6-foot-2, 180-pound cornerback Rashad Kinlaw of Galloway, New Jersey, who is committed to Notre Dame; 6-foot-3, 170-pound running back Robert Foster of Monaca, Pennsylvania, who has 13 offers (including Illinois)_ but appears to be leaning to Ohio State, Florida and Pittsburgh; 6-foot-6, 225-pound wide receiver O.J. Howard of Montgomery, Alabama, who is committed to Alabama; and 6-foot-4, 200-pound wide receiver Ahmad Fulwood of Jacksonville, Florida, who is committed to Florida and ranks among the top 10 players in the nation.

Kinlaw is an interesting story. As a sophomore, he had five interceptions in 32 snaps. As a junior, he suffered a broken leg and played in only five games. He has 4.4 speed. "He is the best defensive back in the East, a great athlete when healthy," Lemming said.

Why is the Chicago area such a popular haven for college recruiters?

"The word is out. There is a lot of talent here," Lemming said. "Schools such as Alabama, USC, Auburn, Florida and Oklahoma were always here in the 1980s but there wasn't as much talent in the last two decades. Now the perception is Chicago is a place to go.

"The buzz got out. Pocie, Isaac, Bosch and Alviti have been talked about for three years. Treadwell benefited from the presence of Anthony Standifer (who originally committed to Michigan, then switched to Ole Miss). Bailey benefited from a great junior year and because he is playing at a big-time program at Bolingbrook. Hopefully, Chicago can sustain it."

Pat Summitt used the sport to empower women at Tennessee and beyond

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Pat Summitt used the sport to empower women at Tennessee and beyond

Needing yet another men's basketball coach, Tennessee officials turned to the one person they thought would be perfect to take over the Volunteers program.

Pat Summitt said no.

She wasn't interested in the job in 1994 after Wade Houston was forced out, and she turned it down again when Jerry Green quit in March 2001. A Tennessee governor once joked he wouldn't have his job if Summitt ever wanted to run her home state.

Breaking the glass ceiling in the men's game, political office, that wasn't Summitt's motivation. She had the only job she ever really wanted.

"I want to keep doing the right things for women all the time," Summitt said in June 2011 after being inducted into her fifth Hall of Fame.

Summitt died Tuesday morning at age 64.

The woman who grew up playing basketball in a Tennessee barn loft against her brothers, and started coaching only a couple years after Title IX was invoked, spent her life working to make women's basketball the equal of the men's game. In the process, Patricia Sue Head

Summitt stood amongst the best coaches in any sport when she retired in April 2012 with more victories (1,098) than any other NCAA coach and second only to John Wooden with eight national championships.

Summitt used the sport and her demand for excellence to empower women and help them believe they can achieve anything, taking no backseat to anyone.

When I moved to Tennessee in 1976, girls played six-on-six, half-court basketball designed to protect them from getting hurt. Summitt, who took her Lady Vols to four AIAW Final Fours, refused to recruit Tennessee players. Tennessee high schools switched to five-on-five rules starting with the 1979-80 season.

The NCAA finally started running a national postseason tournament for the women in 1982. At the time, Summitt was known for having "corn-fed chicks" on her roster, big and strong but not talented enough to win national titles. After she won her first national title in 1987 in her eighth Final Four either in the AIAW or NCAA, she said, "Well, the monkey's off my back."

Back then only a student ID was needed to attend a women's game. And there was no demand for the results of those games. After graduating from Tennessee, I helped the sports writers by bringing notes from an NCAA Tournament game back to the office for someone else to write up. There was no urgency since there was no reader demand.

So Summitt worked to make it impossible to ignore her team or the women's game.

By January 1993, so many people wanted to watch then-No. 2 Tennessee visit top-ranked Vanderbilt that the contest became the first Southeastern Conference women's game to sell out in advance. With children under 6 allowed in free, having a ticket didn't guarantee getting through the door; at least 1,000 were turned away at the door - including Vanderbilt's chancellor.

The Lady Vols won 73-68, a game I covered in my first year as a sports writer for The Associated Press in Nashville.

"This was the biggest game in women's basketball, and that's what I've been waiting 19 years to see," Summitt said. "I'm glad I stayed around to see it."

Summitt scheduled opponents anywhere and everywhere, barnstorming the country to introduce people to women's basketball. Tennessee played Arizona State in 2000 in the first women's outdoor game played at then-Bank One Ballpark, drew the largest crowd ever to a regional championship in March 1998 when 14,848 packed Memorial Gym in Nashville with Tennessee trying to finish off the NCAA's first three-peat and helped Louisville set a Big East record christening the KFC Yum! Center in 2010.

The Lady Vols became must-see TV in the sport as Summitt put the women's game on the national stage with six national titles in the span of 12 years.

I remember when I got real up-close look at what drove Summitt.

Assigned to cover Summitt as part of AP's annual college basketball preview package in the fall of 1998, I spent nearly 30 minutes with the coach in her office.

Door closed, Summitt gave a glimpse of that famous stay-away stare. With undivided attention now on me, she wanted to know if I had talked with her mother, Hazel, for the story. She then showed me the engaging side, laughing when asked about a stretch of play during the 1998 title game that resembled the Showtime Lakers, beaming while reflecting on how well her Lady Vols showed women could play the game.

The Lady Vols lost 69-63 to Duke that season in the East Regional. The next day I left a message at Summitt's house and late that afternoon, she called back to talk about more life lessons and basketball.

"It's a game, and winning and losing both can be great ways to teach kids how to get ready for the real world," said Summitt, who had to stop the interview because her mother had given son, Tyler, a gift. She explained he would have to save some of that cash before buying something for himself. Then she resumed the conversation about the game.

That was Pat Summitt: Hoops and family.

She held everyone to the exacting standards she learned from her father cutting tobacco and helping bale hay on the family farm. Tennessee and Connecticut was the biggest draw in women's basketball with Geno Auriemma and his Huskies handing Summitt her lone title game loss in 1995. But Summitt canceled the series in 2007 and refused to say why other than, "Geno knows."

Summitt ended a nine-year championship drought with her seventh national title in 2007 followed by the eighth in 2008. She became the first NCAA coach to win 1,000 games Feb. 5, 2009, and received a new contract that boosted her annual salary to $1.4 million - far removed from the $8,900 of her first season.

She never got to the 40th season in that contract, her career cruelly and prematurely ended by early onset dementia, Alzheimer's type. She finished 1,098-208 with 18 Final Fours, at the time tying the men of UCLA and North Carolina for the most by any college basketball program.

Not that numbers define Summitt, who once said, "Records are made to be broken."

Yes, all marks fade, but no one will eclipse Summitt's contributions to women's basketball.

Illini starting pitcher Cody Sedlock named Big Ten Pitcher of the Year

Illini starting pitcher Cody Sedlock named Big Ten Pitcher of the Year

University of Illinois starting pitcher Cody Sedlock was named the Big Ten Pitcher of the Year on Tuesday.

The junior from Sherrard, Ill., led the conference in strikeouts (116) and innings pitched (101.1).

He is the fifth Illini pitcher to take home the award, following Tyler Jay who was given the honor last year — and later went on to be picked No. 6 overall by the Minnesota Twins in the 2015 MLB draft. It's the second time in program history that an Illini pitcher has won the award in back-to-back seasons.

The right-hander Sedlock is projected by many to be a first-round selection in the upcoming MLB draft on June 9.

Sheryl Swoopes under investigation for coaching practices at Loyola

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Sheryl Swoopes under investigation for coaching practices at Loyola

Loyola women's basketball coach Sheryl Swoopes is under investigation for coaching practices at the university.

The investigation was sparked after 10 of the team's 12 players have transferred or have requested releases — nine having been recruited by Swoopes. Loyola began an "independent and comprehensive university investigation" on April 15.

According to Shannon Ryan of the Chicago Tribune, five former players have stated that Swoopes' "unusual coaching style" was the reason behind their exits.

Swoopes has declined to comment on any allegations, according to Ryan. Loyola released the following statement on Thursday:

"Until the investigation is completed, the athletics department and women's basketball coaching staff are conducting business as usual as we prepare for the 2016-2017 season."

Swoopes is listed as one of the greatest WNBA players of all-time. She was hired to coach Loyola's women's basketball team in 2013.

Click here to read the full story from the Chicago Tribune.