In December of 2007 The West Virginia Mountaineers were one win away from appearing in only their second national championship in school history when two unthinkable things happened. First, the Mountaineers lost the one game to 28 point underdog and arch rival Pitt 13-9. Second, shortly after the loss to Pitt head coach Rich Rodriguez announced he was leaving WVU for “the big house” and the Michigan Wolverines. Pat White, Steve Slaton, Owen Schmitt, and all of “Mountaineer Nation” were devastated and felt betrayed by Rich Rod’s (Rodriguez’s nickname) departure.
If Rich Rod fleeing Morgantown placed a small cloud over the state then Bill Stewart’s hire (primarily because of lobbying by Pat White and the Mountaineers 48-28 beat down of Oklahoma in the 2008 Fiesta Bowl) was the sun that moved that cloud west to Ann Arbor. Stew (Stewart’s nickname) seemed like a trustworthy, loyal, down to earth, genuinely nice guy (everything the recently departed Rodriguez was not in Mountaineer fan’s eyes). I think we all know what happens next. Rodriguez moves to Ann Arbor, stinks up the joint, and in the process brings NCAA heat on the Wolverine program the likes of which some say has never been seen in Ann Arbor (exceeding amount of time allotted for football activities, exceeding the number of permissible coaches when non-coaching sport-specific staff members engaged in on and off field activities etc..).
Well, as things would have it that NCAA heat would eventually turn back east and toward the very WVU program that Rich Rod left. Of course, most in West Virginia figured the issues with the NCAA stemmed from the Rich Rod era but what took yours truly and quite a few others by surprise is when the NCAA announced that some of the same violations that took place during Rich Rod’s tenure also occured on Stew’s watch (add having the wrong type of personnel participating in and watching summer workouts to the UM list above and viola! Twin violations for both football programs and coaches).
Wow! Can we say welcome back cloud that we thought only followed Rich Rod (word is that he did some dirt down at Clemson before he was hired at WVU). So, now there will be a few months before WVU will meet with the NCAA committe and find out if there will be any sort of punishment. From what various media outlets are saying around the state, punishment, if any, will more than likely be a period of probation in which WVU could possibly not be allowed to participate in post season play.
All things considered, things could have been worse than they currently are in Morgantown. If there is a ray of hope bursting through that cloud over Milan Puskar Stadium, it’s that the Mountaineers were picked to finish tied for 2ndwith Cincinnatti in the Big East preseason media poll behind Pitt. With a solid defensive unit and key returners on offense, Noel Devine and Jock Sanders to name two, a Big East crown is not out of reach for WVU. If I may paraphrase legendary coach Vince Lombardi, winning isn’t everything, but its the only thing that will move this current cloud out of Morgantown.
About the Author
Written by Jason Lee
Born and raised in Charleston, West Virginia, I've been a sports fan probably since I was about 9 years old! A 2002 graduate of Mount Union College (Alliance, OH), I've had the opportunity to cover some great high school football on the radio in both Ohio (working with WHBC in Canton) and in West Virginia (I currently work with Bristol Broadcasting in Charleston). I also keep an on-line journal/blogs on my own website.