Big Lead Sports Bar


How to Salvage West Virginia’s Broken Heart?

by The Backyard Scrawler

OK, so there should be a story breaking any moment now that a soiled West Virginia state flag was found in the vacated bathroom stall frequented by Rich Rodriguez at Mountaineer Field.

Then next week perhaps we’ll hear how the governor and WVU’s athletic director paid cheerleaders to host a Roman orgy during a recruiting weekend. Can we get another “gate”-suffixed scandal? I call fives on Caligula-gate.

That’s where it’s headed.

Two headlines that appeared in newspapers this week were “WVU reputation damaged?” and “Whole sordid affair makes WVU look bad” with subsequent accounts of allegations, finger-pointing, paper-shredding and, until this week, race-card-playing.

Both articles about Rodriguez leaving his job as WVU’s football coach for Michigan referred to this beaten-like-a-horse story as a “messy divorce.” Then’s Stewart Mandel accuses West Virginia of acting like “a psychotic ex-girlfriend.” A few blogs had fun with the hire of Bill Stewart to replace Rod as “marrying a one-night stand” the morning after Stewart won the Fiesta Bowl.

Then West Virginia’s crotchety version of Beano Cook weighs in with his we-were-better-off-60-years-ago rant on sports. (By the way, Mickey, kudos to your lead in this article … very Yogi Berra-esque, although unintentional.)

Mountaineer fans right now are Jon Favreau in the movie Swingers, sitting in their stuffy apartments, drinking orange juice (we’ll call it kool-aid), and sulking over their ex.

If attracting a good football coach like Rod –– and keeping him –– is really like a relationship with a woman, then maybe WVU could use a few pointers. Yeah, money will keep a woman around for awhile: Rather than go to Alabama last year, West Virginia donors –– not the athletic department, mind you –– anteed up to keep Rod in what they thought was permanent wedlock.

West Virginia first attracted this supermodel-of-a-coach basically because they grew up together. Then WVU gave the coach comfort with more money and facility upgrades. But the seduction of a glamour coaching position was something WVU couldn’t offer.

These are the same steps of the Mystery Model: 1.) Attraction, 2.) Comfort, 3.) Seduction. Yeah, Mystery, as in the furry-hatted Pick-Up Artist from that VH-1 reality show. Come to think of it, West Virginia did everything it could: “the cat theory,” “peacocking,” “neg hits” and all the routines of a master pickup artist.

West Virginia, the winningest college football program that has never won a national championship, simply couldn’t “close.”

In the end, their supermodel wanted to chase the prestige of a Big Ten program with their $100 million athletic budgets. West Virginia, poisoned by its own success, simply couldn’t afford to keep Rod’s flame burning because it had too much pride and not enough money.

What about WVU acting like a psychotic ex-girlfriend running a smear campaign? All of that comes from West Virginia media pandering to their fans’ frustrations (think about how Pittsburgh media hawk everything Steelers-related). Need proof? Here are two 700-word articles about YouTube finds: a car commercial and a Chris Crocker spoof. Another Charleston paper also broke “Shred-gate.”

Today, for example, we are privy to text-messages exchanged between to the Rodriguez’s and Stewart’s adolescent daughter and son.

So, yeah, Mountaineer fans are pretty jilted over this. At least they can cry on sympathist/moral compass Mitch Albom’s shoulder. He may be a Michigan guy but he understands.

For a long time the Mountaineers –– alluding to Swingers again –– were so money they didn’t even know it. But with Rodriguez came arrogance; the kind of arrogance that would make you ask your boss for the incentives in your contract before beating Pitt.

At least with a homespun, aw-shucks type of coach in Bill Stewart, who like Don Nehlen before him, will use his integrity to continue perfecting West Virginia’s knack for bringing the maximum amount of success without winning a national title.

And at least the Mountaineers, with what dignity is left, can go back to hating Pitt again.
UPDATE: Also on Wednesday afternoon there were reports that WVU athletics officials used donated funds designated for football recruiting to pay other football-related bills in the months leading up to Rod’s resignation. The Backyard Scrawler believes this takes place at most schools, but this drew the ire of the control-freak coach who wants to change the culture of an athletic department from West Virginia ($42 million budget) to that of Ohio State ($109 million) overnight.

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