WVU Sports with Tom Bragg

Friday Feedback

As I sit here and wonder what happens next — and I doubt it’s anything much more “major” than what we’ve already witnessed — it occurs to me that we’re beginning to become desensitized to all of this.

For example, we learned this week that WVU was basically feeding football players with money from the 1100 Club and it hardly resonated with people. Look, I wasn’t expecting an invitation to speak with Hoppy Kercheval and, please, do not misconstrue this as sour grapes, but I happen to think the reaction was rather tepid. There is nothing criminal or bombshellish in nature to the admitted actions, but to me, at least, it’s a little weird that a multi-million dollar institution often needs to secretly dip into a football recruiting account to pay some bills. It’s not Watergate, but isn’t it more than water under the bridge?

Now, have people clearly chosen sides in this battle? Absolutely. And is this an indication that WVU’s soldiers are willing to accept some flaws as a way to disarm Rich Rodriguez? Absofreakinglutely. The concern, though, is that we cannot be shocked anymore. Face it, we’ve been hit so many times and from so many angles now that there’s a likelihod it will take something major for us to be surprised or appalled in the future. And I think that’s dangerous because the vigilance of the people is often the most significant factor in revealing and deciding issues that matter. If nothing else, that’s what’s been established the past few weeks and we cannot lose that.

As I step off the soapbox, let’s jump into the Friday Feedback. As always, comments appear as posted. In other words, I still haven’t figured out how to install a spell-check tool for your use.

X-Rayted said:

Wow, this has gotten Venus Williams ugly hasn’t it! I guess I can buy the voicemail explanation, although I find it strange that the University’s voicemail system wasn’t adequate enough for old Rich. Secondly, just when I thought I couldn’t despise this guy anymore, he started referring to himself in the third person! Are you kidding me? Roy Jones Jr. finds that ridiculous. Muhammad Ali & Terrell Owens think this guy’s ego is out of control. Who does this guy think he is? Well X-Rayted has one thing to say about this jerk that up until now, was reserved only for Brad Lewis…Boo this man, & boo him often!!

Well, we finally found someone who benefited from this, and it only took the exit of the coach who turned a bowl game hero into a villain, but Brad Lewis is off the hook! Let me ask this question: Since Rich clearly holds the title now, what West Virginia figure had been as widely and passionately hated prior to all of this? I’m going with Arch Moore.

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If once is an accident…

I got an e-mail a few days ago reminding me not to ever share the call-in numbers for coaches’ teleconferences with others who might not make good use of the occasion. Obviously, this was in response to an incident earlier this week in which prank callers invaded the SEC women’s coaches’ teleconference.

The prank callers, who were claiming to be legitimate reporters from actual media outlets, managed to get on and ask at least six questions to more than half of the league’s 12 coaches. The questions were graphic in nature and included inquiries about coaches having sexual relations with players and players’ performances based on their menstrual cycles.

“It was a little surreal,” said Wilson, who was moderating the call between the media and the head coaches.

“The very first question that was asked, honestly, I thought this was some crazy media person who was trying to ask a question and didn’t know quite how to ask it,” she said.

Tom Collen, the Arkansas coach who was asked the first faux question, also seemed to think something similar because he responded to it as if it were a legitimate question.

Well, the Big East had its men’s coaches’ teleconference Thursday and, of course, it happened again. Marquette’s Tom Crean was up first and he was victimized a few minutes in by a rather juvenile question not fit for print — not even here!

“I don’t know what you’re talking about…” a puzzled Crean said.

The caller hung up and the moderator, associate commissioner for communication John Paquette, moved on. The next caller was legitimate and asked Crean how he was doing.

“I’m a little stunned by the last call. It just dawned on me. John, that’s got to be the first prank call in Big East history. I’m part of history, so that’s good,” Crean said.

We can only assume it was a first. It was not the last…

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Mike Carey would like some bobbleheads, please

Poor Mike Carey. Coaching one of the best women’s basketball teams in the country and it’s barely a ripple in Morgantown because of the mud slung around the football program — and remember, of course, the women would normally be overshadowed by the men’s program. Carey can’t control the former, but would like to see his university address the latter. So he took to the newspaper this week and made his case, only to see his well-intended plea for more marketing support get completely and unfortunately blanketed by the latest football finger-pointing.

“My biggest frustration is that we go on the road all these places, and we see what other schools are doing to promote women’s basketball,” Carey said. “Our people do very little to promote us.

“I thought and I was hoping that once we got nationally ranked, things would change, but it’s no better, no bigger.

“I just believe with some promotion we could get better crowds and get more interest going.”

Carey said he just wasn’t referring to the crowds that have watched WVU in recent seasons at places like UConn, Tennessee, Notre Dame and LSU.

“A lot of places that don’t have programs as good as ours make it special,” he said. “It’s an event, not just a game. Promotional things a lot of these places for women’s basketball are much, much farther along than we are.”

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Warning: Sarcasm

In truth, everyone needs to step back, take a deep breath and ask themselves if it is perhaps time to move on. The answer should be ‘YES!’ Begin the process with a laugh and a different perspective on this whole sordid affair.

MORGANTOWN – West Virginians are warning that the failure of a coming Rich Rodriguez peace conference, convened by the US, could undermine chances of a two-state solution and may threaten a return to the state’s trademark violence against upholstery and Rodriguez-related paraphernalia.

Michigan athletic director Bill Martin reiterated after talks with defense secretary Robert Gates in Ann Arbor Monday that the conference, scheduled for Annapolis, Maryland, next week, would focus on core issues – such as ending the alleged bounty on Rodriguez’s so-called “shreddin’ hand” should he ever re-enter the Mountain State – rather than detailed negotiations, fuelling fears that the talks could carry unacceptably high risks.

Busy day…

…and here’s one reason why. That rumor, apparently, is put to rest.

So, too, is another. Joe Alexander’s MRI Monday night revealed no serious damage to his groin, but Coach Bob Huggins said Alexander needs rest and assumes the team’s top rebounder and second-leading scorer will not play tomorrow night against Marshall. Freshman John Flowers said he expects to start, though Huggins said Wellington Smith is an option. The lineup depends on matchups.

If I hadn’t witnessed it with my own two eyes, I wouldn’t have believed it, but it happened and I have proof — and I understand how bizarre that concept is amidst our current events.

Anyhow, I zipped through news this morning to catch up with what happened overnight when I went to the Google News site I borderline obsess about. I typed in a popular term, or so I thought, and the result was startling. This has to be some type of error, but I did save the screen shot to prove I’m not (terribly) crazy.

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Lines of the night

Line from the box score: This was not Darris Nichols’ best shooting night this year, this month or this week.

Darris Nichols 37 4 10 3 8 4 4 2 4 6 3 1 3 2 0 15

However, the game changed when late in the first half he decided to assert himself offensively. He missed two shots, then made two and suddenly WVU was on an 8-0 run to take a 26-25 lead into halftime when, in truth, the Mountaineers had no business leading. It was their worst shooting performance in a half this season (8-for-27, 29.6 percent) and the second-lowest point total in a half this season. Nichols was critical in the second half, when WVU, convinced it could not be worn down and would instead pick the Bulls apart, decided to run its offense in the last 15 or so seconds on the shot clock — and execute it. Leave it to Nichols, who for good or bad is the player whose lead the team follows.

Line from the interviews: Joe Mazzulla probably deserves both. He was … well, he played the best game Sunday. He talked an even better game afterward. On a team of sometimes startlingly blunt players, Mazzulla is open after wins and losses, provided someone asks to speak with him. Obviously, he was asked to talk Sunday about the David duty he did to USF’s Goliath, Kentrell Gransberry.

“He was laughing at me because he weighs 100 more pounds than me. I was laughing at him because he couldn’t get the ball with a 6-2 guy guarding him.”

Friday Feedback

Well, let’s begin with the 112 phone calls and the apparent resolution to that intrigue — voicemail. The confirmation came from the University of Michigan. In records I was provided, WVU redacted all phone numbers, meaning the number dialed was blacked out and not visible. Had it been visible, I would have called it, just like I did with numbers that belonged to UM recruits. People should understand that. Should.

Voicemail was the hunch from the start, just because the volume of the calls, and I looked into this right away. However, I couldn’t have received less help from people you think would be able to help and even had one person tell me voicemail wasn’t possible because Morgantown is so far from Peterstown. In all honesty, that, too, was also my hunch. 

But let’s also look how and where this started: 13 words from the 24th paragraph of a story about a larger issue, one Rodriguez does not deny.

On Dec. 15, Rodriguez made seven calls to Peterstown, Monroe County, a place he called 112 times during November and December, often in succession, and also made calls to Boston, Toledo and Phoenix, where his agent works. On Dec. 16, he repeated the cycle with calls to each location. This time, the call to Phoenix lasted 29 minutes.

Somewhere out there, the story is quoted as labeling the calls “suspicious”  — that word never came from my story or the blog, where I used words innuendo, puzzling and intrigue, all of which I think are accurate. For some reason, the thing ballooned into something much bigger, no doubt because people would like to think the worst of Rodriguez, and I think it deserved some discussion, hence the posting yesterday. 

Let’s jump into the Friday Feedback and begin with a quote apropos of everything this week…

glibglub said:

Is it me or have we stepped through the proverbial looking glass?

So true…

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About the 112 calls…

Let the latest innuendo roll as many seem suspicious of the 112 calls placed by Rich Rodriguez to Peterstown in his final two months on campus. A lot of the phones calls are to faraway cities — Phoenix, Boston, Toledo, to name a few — but it’s easy to make logical connections to Rodriguez.

Peterstown is puzzling, though. I’ve gotten a bunch of calls and e-mails wondering about the identity or the person/people. I do not have the number. Every number was blacked out except for the calls made to and received from the state of Michigan. Why? I have no clue.

Anyhow, I remembered this morning that Rich Rodriguez asked former WVU defensive back Steve Newberry to be an honorary captain for the Mississippi State game this season and that Newberry, who was Rodriguez’s teammate for two years in the early 1980s, is from and still lives in Peterstown. So I called Newberry and asked the obvious.

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I’m not entirely sure how, but Jim Carty of the Ann Arbor News managed to strike a nerve with a lot of people with what he’s written on his blog this week. I mean this as no offense to Jim, with whom I’ve worked in the past, but based on e-mail and even phone calls people seem to really dislike him and what he’s written.

Of course, the same can be said of me and my apparent agreement with a certain choice of words used by a national radio host yesterday — though I contend I never used the words and only “agreed” with them as I went along with the analogy he was trying to make.

Anyway, Jim did voice the thoughts of many WVU fans Wednesday night with his rather poignant blog posting.

The first – and best – action the new coach could take is calling a press conference to announce he’s paying West Virginia the $4 million buyout that was in the contract he signed.

It’s the right thing to do.

You signed the contract. Live with it.

Yes, maybe you could pay some lawyers to weasel out of part of it, but Rodriguez needs to be about 100 miles from anything that involves weaseling right now.

He should pay the buyout, publicly admit he made some mistakes in the last month or so, apologize to West Virginia and its fans, and promise that the whole experience will cause him to be above question on these matters in the future.