Toyota Gator Bowl: West Virginia v Georgia Tech

WVU’s current mess has an easy, albeit controversial, fix

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Rich Rodriguez previously admitted it was a mistake for him to leave West Virginia more than three years ago.  Now, West Virginia could be admitting it was a mistake not to deal with the Bill Stewart/Dana Holgorsen mess by bringing Rodriguez back.

Though the move surely would create significant local controversy in the short term, all parties need to take a longer view of the current situation.  The Mountaineers need a stable, long-term fix at the coaching position.  And with Rodriguez’s tail currently tucked between his legs after being fired by Michigan, this could be the perfect moment to secure true long-term loyalty, along with consistently high-level performance.

Whether it’s Rodriguez or not, change is surely coming to Morgantown.  The one-year forced marriage between Stewart, the outgoing coach, and Holgorsen, the offensive coordinator/incoming coach, was doomed from the outset.  Athletic Director Oliver Luck surely hoped that Stewart’s pride would prompt him to walk away once Holgorsen arrived, with Stewart giving up all or part of his severance pay in lieu of suffering the public awkwardness of being a lame duck with his replacement, a stranger to the program, on the staff.

Luck’s instincts were right, sort of.  Stewart reacted, but not by quitting.  Instead, he fought back, reportedly launching an effort to smear Holgorsen, either in an effort by Stewart to save his job or in a fit of vengeance aimed at blowing the whole thing up on his way out the door.  With WVU now possibly having enough ammunition to send Stewart out that door without paying him another penny, the three-year head coach who never should have been given the job in the first place could soon be fired “for cause” based on the disclosure that Stewart asked a Pittsburgh reporter to dig up dirt on Holgorsen.

But that doesn’t mean Holgorsen is the answer.  Questions remain regarding the much-publicized incident involving Holgorsen and more than a few Heinekens at a Charleston-area casino last month, not to mention the report of five other similar incidents.  Even if Stewart had a hand in publicizing those five incidents, there’s a chance the report of those five incidents contains some truth.

With Rodriguez currently available and engaging in an obvious image reclamation effort in his native state, why not bring him back?  Folks in West Virginia were outraged (count me among them) when Rodriguez left, primarily because we all wanted him to stay.  If a prodigal son who took to program to the cusp of a national title is willing to truly come — and stay — home, slaying the fatted calf could translate to finally hoisting the crystal football.

Current rumblings out of Morgantown suggest that, if Holgorsen and Stewart are sent packing, Tommy Bowden could be the replacement.  Bowden, the former Clemson head coach, Rodriguez mentor, and son of legendary Florida State coach and West Virginia coach Bobby Bowden, has been involved in recent fund-raising efforts at his alma mater, and many assumed he, not Holgorsen, would be Stewart’s replacement.  Still, we (or at least I) think that Rodriguez is best suited over the long term to take the program back to the brink of the one thing that every West Virginian covets — a national championship in football or basketball, and preferably both.

Given the current state of the football program, Bob Huggins’ basketball program may continue to be the best bet for finally getting it done.  But there’s still an opportunity to emerge from the current mess in a positive way.  Though it will require plenty of forgiving and forgetting from the fan base (especially since many of them genuinely believe Rodriguez threw the 2007 Pitt game so that he could take the Michigan job), it could be the best thing for both parties.

Four years ago, Rodriguez had a chance to become a Bobby Bowden or a Joe Paterno-type figure in Morgantown, holding down the same job well into his 70s and becoming a living legend.  The window is open now for that three-year stretch of ugliness to eventually become a faded memory for both the coach and the school.  And it’s coming at a time when the program stands on the brink of full-blown disarray.

With Luck suddenly having good reason to worry about his own job given the manner in which the ill-conceived Stewart-Holgorsen arrangement has played out, Luck’s best chance for keeping the job over the long haul could come from bringing back the coach who found out the hard way that the grass is always the greenest in his own backyard.

Reports: Joe Paterno, Penn State assistants knew of Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse

STATE COLLEGE, PA - NOVEMBER 09:  Penn State University head football coach Joe Paterno watches his team during practice on November 9, 2011 in State College, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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On Thursday, Penn Live uncovered a line in a trail over an insurance claim alleging Joe Paterno may have learned of Jerry Sandusky‘s sexual abuse of children as far back as 1976.

A day later, that kindling has exploded into a bonfire.

Our own Tom Winter and Hannah Rappleye of our own NBC News reported Friday that “as many as six” Penn State assistant coaches witnessed abusive acts by Sandusky, dating back to the 1970’s. “You won’t believe what I just saw,” an unnamed Penn State assistant reportedly said to a room full of football staffers.

Additionally, Sandusky’s adopted son Matt Sandusky told NBC News he was informed by investigators that a Nittany Lions employee witnessed Sandusky molesting him in the team’s locker room in the 1990’s.

“The university is facing and has faced a number of litigation matters and claims related to the Sandusky events. Allegations of various kinds have been made, and will likely continue to be made,” Penn State said in a statement to NBC News.

“The university does not speculate publicly or hypothesize about individual allegations. These are sensitive matters, and we want to be respectful of the rights of all individuals involved. It would be inappropriate to do otherwise.”

Separately, Sara Ganim of CNN reported simultaneously of another man who accused Sandusky of raping him in 1971, and told CNN he informed Paterno of Sandusky’s crime. He said Paterno then threatened him.

“I’d be willing to sit on a witness stand and confront Joe Paterno,” the man CNN last year. “Unfortunately he died and I didn’t get to.”

The man was not included in the state of Pennsylvania’s investigation into Sandusky because it fell outside the statute of limitations.

The crime occurred when the victim was 15 and the coach was 27.

Victim A says he was hitchhiking when Sandusky picked him up, bought him beer, gave him pot — and then attacked him as he was standing at a urinal in a Penn State bathroom.

“I felt his presence behind me,” he said. “I felt his left knee on the back of my knee, and his arms went around me, grabbing my …” he trails off. “He said, ‘Let me help you with this.'”

Victim A said he jerked his head back, hitting Sandusky in the jaw. His head started bleeding and they both fell to the floor.

“Then there was a wrestling session,” he says. “And I lost. One thing led to another and the crime happened.”

The victim says he informed Penn State authorities — who accused him of making the story up and threatened to go to the authorities themselves — one of whom, he says, was undoubtedly Paterno.

Paterno passed away of lung cancer in January 2012 shortly after being fired by Penn State. Sandusky will spend the rest of his natural life in prison, and Penn State is litigating a claim against its insurance company arguing the university is owed reimbursement for the more than $60 million in payments it has made to Sandusky’s victims.

Oklahoma RB/KR Alex Ross joins graduate transfer market

STILLWATER, OK - NOVEMBER 28: Alex Ross #28 of the Oklahoma Sooners returns a kick off against the Oklahoma State Cowboys in the first quarter at Boone Pickens Stadium on November 28, 2015 in Stillwater, Oklahoma. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
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One of the most dangerous kick returners in college football just joined the graduate transfer market.

Oklahoma announced Friday running back Alex Ross will graduate this spring and ply his craft elsewhere for his final collegiate seasons.

Considering his plight on the Sooners’ depth chart, Ross’s decision to transfer is entirely understandable. After accumulating 88 carries in 2014, second-most on the team, Ross saw his usage drop to just 32 attempts (for 172 yards and one touchdown) last fall as Joe Mixon gained eligibility and Baker Mayfield‘s presence in the running game rendered Ross largely to the bench. Both will return next season — along with presumptive Heisman candidate Samaje Perine — so Ross will not.

“Alex has been a great teammate and team guy for four years for us, and we’ve always been proud of him,” OU head coach Bob Stoops said in a statement. “This is an opportunity for him to go somewhere else and play full time. We wish him the best.”

Ross ranks third in Oklahoma history with a 25.7-yard kickoff return average and surely would have broken the Sooners’ all-time kick return yardage record had he returned to Norman this fall. He took kickoffs back for touchdowns against West Virginia and Texas in 2014, and logged a 90-yard return in OU’s 58-23 Big 12-title clinching beatdown of Oklahoma State last November.

Ross was a second-team All-American kick returner on CBS Sports‘s list in 2014.

Charges against ex-Orange DB Howard upgraded in Syracuse stabbing incident

SYRACUSE, NY - SEPTEMBER 26:  Syracuse Orange takes the field amidst a cloud of pyrotechnic smoke before the game against the LSU Tigers on September 26, 2015 at The Carrier Dome in Syracuse, New York.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
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Former Syracuse defensive back Nasean Howard was arraigned last month on two counts of assault in the second degree after allegedly stabbing two of his former teammates.

On Thursday, Howard’s charges were upgraded to first degree assault, in addition to the second degree charges and fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon.

The first-degree charge states Howard intended to cause “serious physical injury” — a safe bet considering he allegedly came at the two men with a knife — and carries a sentence stretching up to 25 years.

The 20-year-old Howard is accused of attacking Chauncey Scissum and Corey Winfield unprovoked during an on-campus birthday party for an unnamed Syracuse student. Scissum was stabbed in the jaw and, unable to protect himself due to a recent surgery, was protected by Winfield, who took stabbings in the arms, chest and ribs on Scissum’s behalf.

Defense attorney Irene Aurora Flores stated “there’s a lot more to the story” but declined further comment, according to the Associated Press.

Howard remains free on bail.

Pitt RB Chris James completes transfer to Wisconsin

SYRACUSE, NY - OCTOBER 24:  Chris James #5 of the Pittsburgh Panthers carries the ball during the first half against the Syracuse Orange on October 24, 2015 at The Carrier Dome in Syracuse, New York.  Pittsburgh defeats Syracuse 23-20.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
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Hailing out of Chicago, Chris James hoped to sign with Wisconsin after leaving Notre Dame College Prep but wound up heading east to play for head coach Paul Chryst, offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph and running backs coach John Settle at Pittsburgh.

All three of whom are now at Wisconsin.

So, naturally, James is now set to join them. The rising junior has planned to transfer to Wisconsin for months, and on Thursday received confirmation he’d been admitted to the Big Ten school.

“Coach Settle sent me a text, saying ‘welcome to the Badger family,’” James told Badger Nation. “I am really excited. It’s definitely been a long journey.”

James said, naturally, that his childhood love for the Badgers combined with his former coaches now employed in Madison drew him to Wisconsin. The presence of Ron DayneMontee BallMelvin Gordon and a handful of other 1,000-yard backs couldn’t have hurt, either.

“It was funny because everybody who I knew was wearing red now,” James said. “It was kind of weird but I’m glad I got to chance to go back up there. Things really haven’t changed that much. Stepping into Camp Randall, I got chills, man. As crazy as it feels, it felt like home.”

James rushed 87 times for 437 yards and four touchdowns as a freshman in 2014, and accumulated 56 carries for 253 yards last season.

Two of Wisconsin’s top three running backs will be seniors this fall, so James figures to be a regular in the Badgers’ running back rotation when his eligibility resumes in 2017.