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

27 Comments

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.

Notre Dame jumps to No. 9, Iowa State replaces Michigan in latest AP poll

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The most newsworthy changes in the latest AP poll come at the bottom. Michigan is out after falling 42-13 at No. 2 Penn State. Taking their place? The twisting Cyclones of Iowa State. Following a 31-13 win at Texas Tech and riding the crest of a 3-game winning streak that began at then-No. 3 OklahomaMatt Campbell‘s crew is off to its best start since 2002 and in the AP poll for the first time since Sept. 25, 2005. The Cyclones will have to earn their keep, though. Their next three games: No. 4 TCU, at No. 22 West Virginia and No. 11 Oklahoma State.

Elsewhere, Notre Dame jumped four spots to No. 9 after a 49-14 destruction of USC, a loss that pushed the Trojans down 10 spots to No. 21.

After a 31-21 win at Navy, Central Florida continues to track down I-4 rival South Florida as the top-ranked Group of 5 team; the Knights are up two spots to No. 18, while South Florida dropped a spot to No. 17.

The full poll:

1. Alabama — 1,525 total points (61 first-place votes)
2. Penn State — 1,444
3. Georgia — 1,409
4. TCU — 1,327
5. Wisconsin — 1,241
6. Ohio State — 1,165
7. Clemson — 1,113
8. Miami — 1,101
9. Notre Dame — 1,066
10. Oklahoma — 1,040
11. Oklahoma State — 894
12. Washington — 836
13. Virginia Tech — 791
14. NC State — 666
15. Washington State — 648
16. Michigan State — 615
17. South Florida — 604
18. Central Florida — 500
19. Auburn — 397
20. Stanford — 344
21. USC — 319
22. West Virginia — 196
23. LSU — 182
24. Memphis — 111
25. Iowa State — 98

Coaches’ Poll: Top 5 remains the same, Notre Dame moves into top 10

Getty Images
2 Comments

The top five remained the same in the latest edition of the Coaches’ Poll, released Sunday. Notre Dame’s 49-14 whipping of then-No. 11 USC allowed the Irish to move into the top 10, while the Trojans plummeted all the way to No. 21.

Michigan was the other big loser this week, falling 10 spots to No. 25 after falling 42-13 at No. 2 Penn State.

And in our weekly reminder why the Coaches’ Poll is the lesser of the two irrelevant polls, voters moved Clemson ahead of Miami after the Hurricanes beat Syracuse, the team the idle Tigers lost to just one week ago.

The full poll:

1. Alabama — 1,600 total points (64 first-place votes)
2. Penn State — 1,520
3. Georgia — 1,463
4. TCU — 1,385
5. Wisconsin — 1,343
6. Ohio State — 1,244
7. Clemson — 1,173
8. Miami — 1,172
9. Oklahoma — 1,084
10. Notre Dame — 951
11. Washington — 931
12. Oklahoma State — 926
13. Virginia Tech — 818
14. South Florida — 730
15. NC State — 683
16. Washington State — 636
17. Central Florida — 561
18. Michigan State — 560
19. Auburn — 455
20. Stanford — 367
21. USC — 321
22. West Virginia — 211
23. LSU — 178
24. Texas A&M — 151
25. Michigan — 121

Ole Miss QB Shea Patterson to miss rest of season with knee injury

Associated Press
1 Comment

An already lost Ole Miss season just drove deeper into the woods with no way out.

Rebels quarterback Shea Patterson tore the PCL in his right knee during the first half of Ole Miss’s 40-24 loss to No. 24 LSU on Saturday night. OM Spirit broke the news, citing confirmation from Patterson’s father and head coach Matt Luke, and the program later confirmed it.

Patterson was examined in the medical tent during the first half of Saturday night’s game. He was given a brace around the knee and remained in the game until the final series of the loss. He finished the night 10-of-23 for 116 yards with no touchdowns and three interceptions, easily the worst night of the sophomore’s brief but stellar career. He’ll finish the season hitting 166-of-260 throws (63.8 percent) for 2,259 yards (8.7 per attempt) with 17 touchdowns against nine interceptions. His 151.49 efficiency rating ranks fifth in the SEC.

The loss dropped Ole Miss to 3-4 on the year and 1-3 in SEC play. Though the schedule does lighten from here, the Rebels will still be underdogs in at least three of their five remaining games. The program announced a self-imposed bowl ban in February, but it seems the rest of the SEC and Patterson’s injury will likely conspire to make that bit of penance unnecessary.

Ole Miss will now turn to junior Jordan Ta’amu, and their fortunes may have been better on Saturday had they done that earlier. He finished the LSU loss hitting 7-of-11 throws for 78 yards with three carries for 20 yards. It was the first action of the New Mexico Military Institution transfer’s career.

No. 15 Washington State rebounds from first loss to thump Colorado with a shutout

Getty Images
1 Comment

It was not the most rousing of responses, but No. 15 Washington State bounced back from their first loss of the year last week and thumped Colorado 28-0 on Saturday night.

Many of the struggles could be explained by the conditions, which were rainy and windy for most of the night in a not so lovely bit of fall/winter weather out on the Palouse. Nevertheless, it was an impressive outing by the Cougars defense as they controlled the game throughout and held the Buffs to just one third down conversion all night while recording three sacks and making life miserable for last year’s Pac-12 South champs.

Luke Falk was not the most efficient quarterback running WSU’s Air Raid, but did enough to get the victory in a game that never was as close as the scoreboard indicated. He set another Pac-12 career record, this time for completions on a night where he threw just 17 total for 197 yards and three touchdowns. Running back Jamal Morrow was part of a more balanced approach on offense, rushing for 73 yards and a score that was part of a season-high 194 on the ground.

If there was any Pac-12 After Dark element to this game, a Mike Leach team coming close to rushing for more yards than they had through the air would be it.

As for the Buffs, there will not be much to enjoy when they go back and watch the game film. Running back Phillip Lindsay was bottled up fairly successfully and needed nearly 30 carries to run for 98 yards on the night. QB Steven Montez had just four completions and was benched in the second half for Sam Noyer after a rough, rough outing. The defense had their moments in recovering two fumbles but were continually put in bad spots given how lackluster the offense was.

The victory by Wazzu moves them to 7-1 on the year for the team’s best start in over a decade and keeps them atop the Pac-12 North standings — while also keeping them within control of their own destiny when it comes to the conference title. It also sets up a very interesting road trip next week, as they go to Tucson to play an Arizona team that also finds themselves suddenly in the mix for a division title as well.

Strange times indeed out West, even if things aren’t always pretty.