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Basketball surpasses stalled football 'corporation'

After Illinois performed a 63-21 woodshed job on his powerless Cavaliers in January, George Welsh promised a "reinvented corporation."

Little did he know his refurbished pigskin machine would be the football equivalent of Crystal Pepsi.

So I exaggerate.

But the man with 185 victories to his name could never have guessed that media vultures would recite his memorable prophesy more often than the Preamble to the Constitution. And never could he have foreseen that his vision of a well-oiled, finely-tuned factory would net him a game of 20 questions and a heaping bowl of his own words to snack on.

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    Months of speculation and four weeks of on-field evidence have afforded the Wahoo faithful little hope and numerous queries about the new gridiron buzzsaw.

    Can Dan Ellis deliver the goods under center? Can irreplaceable Thomas Jones be replaced? Can Jermese Jones stay away from the jello mold?

    But following Woodrow Dantzler and Clemson's 31-10 trampling of Virginia, perhaps Welsh should ask: Can DeSagana Diop play defensive end?

    The Senegal native, a 7-foot, 300-pound man-child who stars for the Oak Hill Academy basketball team - a virtual dynasty among high school ranks - absorbed the Tigers' thrashing along with the other 61,499 Scott Stadium martyrs. But Diop, who might as well set up his own 900-number phone service to handle the outrageous number of colleges constantly propositioning him, was not alone. Joining him in the bleachers were power forwards Eric Bond and Jason Clark and over-the-goalpost, down-Alderman-Road, through-the-front-door-of-University-Hall, nothin'-but-net shooting guard J.J. Redick.

    The contrast was too blatant not to notice ... that is, unless you were too busy standing over your George Foreman grill in the stadium parking lot while the "reinvented" Cavs were getting pawed around.

    One corporation, while not in red figures and nowhere near Prairie View A&M futility, is about as rusty as a column writer who takes three months vacation and then suddenly attempts to recall witty metaphors from the annals of his sports-infested brain. The other corporation may as well be a Bill Gates operation: not the government, not the Gestapo, not even Dantzler can stunt this machine's growth.

    As Virginia basketball coach Pete Gillen paraded his coveted recruiting targets around Carl Smith's $86 million baby, Scott Stadium stopped. Virginia and Clemson and homecoming and tailgating and Ozzy Osborne's "Crazy Train" blaring from Hoo Vision for the 73rd time mattered little. What did matter was the chance to watch the future of a rising program in four adolescents and one dynamic mastermind. Fans and students alike appreciated the moment in a rousing round of applause. It was about as loud as the place got all afternoon.

    In just two years in charming little Charlottesville, Gillen is pulling off a magic show the likes of which only Tommy Bowden or David Copperfield could match. The fiery floor general embarked upon an odyssey many proclaimed would culminate in basketball death: leaving a thriving Providence program to assume control of a dead-in-the-water Virginia club. Just 24 months later, the rabbit keeps coming out of the hat every time Gillen reaches for it. The Hoos have a supremely skilled group of veterans returning to what should be a shoe-in NCAA Tournament squad. And the man-child and his three chums may be coming soon.

    Welcome to the new Gillenium and welcome to the truly reinvented corporation.

    Not that I'm hopping off the Cavalier football bandwagon. I already did that with the Redskins, so I better stick with the Hoos.

    Only destiny dictates that this wagon is bound for more Bowls and seven-win frustrations, while the engine down the street keeps motoring toward prominence.

    These are the truths I now hold as self-evident: Basketball still reigns supreme in the land of Jefferson and tip-off is only 52 days away.


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