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.

Illinois boots three players charged with home invasion and robbery

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Illinois head coach Lovie Smith has dismissed three players charged with home invasion and robbery. Offensive linemen Darta Lee and Howard Watkins and tight end Zarrian Holcombe have all been dismissed from the program, according to a statement.

Lee and Holcombe were previously suspended by Smith for violations of team rules. Watkins had also been indefinitely suspended following the initial allegations. All three players claimed the incident that led to the charges was nothing more than an innocent prank, but the authorities and Smith didn’t seem willing to buy that claim.

Each player faces a mandatory prison sentence of 4-15 years on each count against them if found guilty.

Report: Conference USA to air at least 15 football games on Twitter in 2017

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Conference USA is in a position where it needs to think outside the box and look to stay ahead of the curve in a changing TV landscape. It appears to be ready to air games on Twitter in 2017.

A report from The Virginian-Pilot says broadcast company STADIUM will air at least 15 football games involving Conference USA teams this fall. STADIUM is the result of a recent merger between the American Sports Network, 120 Sports and Silver Chalice (which also owns Campus Insiders and the online ACC Digital Network). The ASN had owned the broadcast rights to Conference USA games through the end of the 2017-2018 sports season that will carry over to the STADIUM deal (allowing for Conference USA basketball games to be aired on Twitter as well). It was announced earlier this month STADIUM intended to broadcast Conference USA games on Twitter, but it was unknown how many games might make it to the networking service. STADIUM reportedly has an interest in continuing to air Conference USA contests beyond the next athletic season.

Conference USA still has broadcast deals with ESPN and CBS Sports in effect as well, so don’t expect the premiere matchups in the conference to be aired on Twitter. However, by sharing the games online, Conference USA is hoping to reach a wide-spread audience and have the opportunity to be a trending topic. It could work, as Twitter would make sure the game is given a steady feed to allow for a pleasant viewing experience and fan interaction in real time.

Conference USA saw TV revenue take a big hit over the last year. Last summer, Conference USA’s television revenue reportedly dropped to just $2.8 million for the entire conference following realignment changes. Finding a home on a streaming platform now would be key for the conference’s future stability.

Alabama DC Jeremy Pruitt named son after former Tide linebackers Reuben Foster and Ryan Anderson

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It is not at all uncommon for children born in the state of Alabama to be named after Alabama football legends, but it is not every day you see a child of an Alabama coach receives a name inspired by former Alabama football players.

Defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt announced the birth of his new son, Flynt Anderson-Foster Pruitt, on Twitter. Alabama fans will likely already know the connection to the new child’s name, as used the last names of two former Alabama football players to create the middle name of Anderson-Foster; Ryan Anderson and Reuben Foster.

Maybe this is more common than I’m aware of, but regardless of how often a coach names a child after former players, this is a testament to the relationship the Pruitt family established with both former Alabama linebackers. And now there will be a bond for years to come between the coach and his family and Anderson and Foster.

Helmet sticker to Al.com.

Wisconsin’s season tickets for 100th anniversary of Camp Randall are a thing of beauty

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The Wisconsin Badgers are gearing up for their 100th season playing home football game sin Camp Randall Stadium. As part of the season-long celebration, Wisconsin put some brilliant artistic detail into their season tickets for the 2017 season.

Each ticket to a home Wisconsin game is designed like a retro-style program. These are beautifully done and mimic the style of a program cover from decades past. I’m particularly fond of the program cover for the Purdue game, which features Wisconsin’s Bucky floating in space with a ship with the Purdue logo nearby. Is that a space train? The Band Day program for the game against Florida Atlantic also looks fantastic.

These tickets will surely be must-have collectibles for Wisconsin fans. If Wisconsin wants to make a few extra bucks, then blowing up these images and selling them as posters may be a good decision as well. And I wouldn’t put it past Wisconsin to suit up in a retro-style uniform for at least home game this season in Madison.