WVU Sports with Tom Bragg


Before I throw an idea out to you, a reminder that I’m allegedly heading to Dallas today to see an improved, an improving TCU play host to West Virginia. That opens play for both teams in what’s going to be a Big 12 that’s better than what introduced itself to the Mountaineers last season.

The Horned Frogs are healthy (Amric Fields is back and he’s pretty good) and talented (best recruiting class and best single recruit in school history) and they have one of the league’s more improved players (Kyan Anderson).

But we have a most interesting sideline battle Saturday.

In the black pullover, Bob Huggins, whose resume you know quite well, from postseason successes and failures to pro players and loyal players who remain true to their coach, from his penchant for Jimmy Johns to his disdain for retrospection.

And it’s the latter that makes the duet with TCU’s quick-hitting Trent Johnson so intriguing.

Trent Johnson’s four seasons as Stanford’s coach included 80 wins, three NCAA Tournaments, one Sweet Sixteen and a lot of time spent talking to Bill Walsh.

The former Cardinal and San Francisco 49ers coach would listen and share and Johnson was one of the fortunate ones to be in his company.

“One thing he said that stuck with me was you can tell the job a head coach and his staff did when you look in the rear view mirror,” Johnson said. “When you look in the rear view in Nevada, it continued to escalate after I left. When you look in the rear view at Stanford, the cupboard was not bare. When you look in the rear view at LSU, they’re doing OK.”

What if Huggins and Johnson discussed this dichotomy before the game? Would the Daniel-Meyer Coliseum just disappear into a vacuum of philosophy? Could anyone be spared?

It’s just the latest “what if?” to strike me lately. Six years and one day ago, this happened:


I was watching the Fiesta Bowl Wednesday night, and though my rear view mirror exists, it doesn’t get a lot of work. But when I saw UCF come out of the visiting team’s locker room and walk down that damn tunnel toward the field and a victory probably no one thought was possible, whoosh, the memories cascaded from upon high.

That damn tunnel was a place I’ll always remember because it was the site of a wild celebration for players and coaches who wouldn’t wait to get back inside the locker room. It was also the de facto runway for so many of the actors and actions that would ultimately affect the decision made that night.  A university president, a governor, boosters, prominent graduates, Board of Governor members, so on and so forth. That was their red carpet for the drama that would eventually unfold.

This is not about that, I promise, but I did spend some time wondering, naturally, how different things might have been if a difference decision was made that night. But then I saw Charlie Taaffe’s offense run wild and I remembered he was supposed to be Bill Stewart’s offensive coordinator until the Hamilton Tiger-Cats strong-armed him into staying. That did happen. Taaffe had visited Stewart, not to get a pepperoni roll recipe, and an agreement had been struck. WVU was doing a background check and then the Ti-Cats threw a fit.

Instead, Jeff Mullen happened, and though he might become a very good coach, and might be on his way right now as the offensive coordinator at Charlotte (with Bruce Tall as the defensive coordinator!), it was not to be back in 2008. I thought it became clear he was not yet prepared for the job. Taaffe would have been, of course, and I think he would have been a lot more creative and willing than was Mullen, which means many other things could have been different.

Anyhow, since a new year is about looking back and about happenings from the past affecting your awareness in the present and the future, I wonder this: What are some of the other most compelling “What if …” scenarios from the past few years of WVU sports?