Greetings from Clearwater: Cloudy but fine ...
For all the gloom-and-doom forecasts for fain throughout the day today, the opening day of the Big East baseball tournament at Bright House Field in Clearwater has largely gone as scheduled, with two games in the books and the third game, between West Virginia and Connecticut, starting just a half-hour later than scheduled.
It's overcast but largely dry here -- bonus points for the Delco's cheesesteaks -- and barring any delays tonight, that would have USF's opening-round game against seventh-seeded Pittsburgh starting somewhere between 8:30 and 9 p.m.
The seeds have held easily so far, with fourth-seeded Notre Dame pounding 17 hits in a 14-5 win against St. John's and top-seeded Louisville mercy-ruling Cincinnati with a 12-2 win. West Virginia is up just 1-0 in the fifth inning, and we'll update that game the rest of the way. Other matters to note while we're writing ...
-- In terms of coaching contracts, we often tend to focus on the biggest sports, but it's worth noting that volleyball coach Claire Lessinger signed a new two-year contract in February. Many of USF's "Olympic" sports have coaches on one-year contracts, but Lessinger's new deal runs through January 2011. Her base salary is $58,500 -- most of USF's soccer/golf/tennis/track coaches make around $60,000, so it's on par with that.
Two prominent USF coaches -- women's basketball coach Jose Fernandez and men's soccer coach George Kiefer -- are entering the final year of their contracts, so it'll be interesting to see if they sign new deals this summer or carry out the contracts as written. They've been among two of the most successful coaches on campus in recent years, with Fernandez guiding his team to a Women's NIT championship and school-record 27 wins; Kiefer led USF to a Big East championship and a trip to the NCAA Elite Eight.
-- Legal update: Former USF basketball player Mike Mercer, who was dismissed from Stan Heath's basketball team in January after being arrested on a charge of possession of marijuana, has entered into a pre-trial misdemeanor intervention program that should allow that charge to eventually be dropped.
Mercer agreed Thursday to complete 20 hours of community service, pay court costs and take random urine drug tests. Should one of those tests show up positive, he's required to take drug-related counseling. If he completes those requirements and isn't arrested during a probationary period, the charges will be dropped. A previous arrest from last fall, on a misdemeanor charge of public consumption of alcohol, has been dropped in conjunction with him agreeing to the intervention program on the other charge. Mercer won't play again for USF but is on course to graduate later this summer.
-- Thanks to Eric Cullison for offering a link in the comments to this Youtube video of a TV interview with former USF receiver Taurus Johnson, trying to make the Kansas City Chiefs roster as an undrafted rookie.