Everybody wants to know what’s new in the conference realignment but I’m still occupied with WVU’s bowl loss.
I'm not sure you know much those of you outside of WVU know about the relationship the Mountaineers have with the state. The best way I can describe how important Mountaineer football is to West Virginia is with the Sago Mine Disaster. 12 miners died on January 2nd, 2006. That happened to be the same night WVU was playing Georgia in the Sugar Bowl.
The miners knew they were going to die. Their oxygen had run out and there was little hope rescuers could reach them in time. All 13 miners decided to write farewell notes to their families. In those notes they said goodbye and curiously they expressed their love of the Mountaineers and their regret they would never know the outcome of the Sugar Bowl.
That's how important football is to our state. So important that 12 men, who knew they were dying, took the time in the last moments of their lives to write of their love of the Mountaineers as they said goodbye to their families.
We in West Virginia are often misunderstood. We are often maligned, put down, judged as not good enough or just plain ignored.
You’ve heard it all before I’m sure, but hearing it again from me doesn’t make it less true.
We live and breathe Mountaineer football and in their success on the field we find pride.
West Virginia is a small state with a small population. We see our best and brightest leave the hills and valleys to find work in SEC and ACC territory.
The leave West Virginia but they never cease to be West Virginians. Often these displaced Mountaineers pass along their love of WVU to their families - some of whom may never step foot in West Virginia.
It's hard for an outsider to understand the glue that binds all West Virginians together. It's almost impossible to describe the pride we feel when the Mountaineers rush onto the gridiron and the first bars of "Country Roads" begin to play.
Losing at West Virginia is simply not acceptable. Losing in a manner that embarrasses the hard working people of West Virginia is not acceptable.
The loss against Syracuse on Saturday was unacceptable. The way WVU lost to Syracuse was intolerable. We can blame the weather and the officials, and although both were factors, we have to accept the fact WVU was never as talented as we believed.
Mountaineers play tough, physical football. We are not dominated physically. We are mentally tough, physically brutal and we never, ever, give up. Far to often the young men that wore the old gold and blue for West Virginia did not earn the right to wear the uniform.
They were not ready to play Texas Tech. They failed to rise to the challenge of Kansas State and the folded in the adversity they found at Oklahoma State.
Each and ever test the Mountaineers faced they failed.
Who is to blame? Certainly Dana Holgorsen can’t escape blame. Holgorsen’s coaching style is perhaps better suited for the professional game. He was slow to assume the mantle of leadership and authority and far to often this year he failed to adjust his coaching style to his audience.
But Holgorsen did adjust. He “got it” and stopped trying to be both a coach and a friend to the players. He made it clear that if you didn’t practice hard you wouldn’t play and he laid down to the law to those not willing to invest time and energy into preparing for games.
Holgorsen also made the touch decisions to demote Joe Deforrest and fire Deron Robert and they were made without pressure from Oliver Luck.
Yet Holgorsen’s growing pains can’t explain the lackluster play we’ve seen from the Mountaineers.
The edge, the chip that West Virginia teams of the past always played with on their shoulders was gone, and without it WVU was less than pedestrian.
Perhaps the answer has more to do with the roster Holgorsen inherited than his growing pains as a head coach or the failings of his staff.
WVU had NFL caliber talent at high profile spots but lacked the quality and depth in key areas.
Physical domination begins with line play and both WVU’s offensive and defensive lines failed to perform to Mountaineer standards.
The offensive line made key mistakes at critical times all year and with the season in the books we can make a final judgment--they were just average on their best days and poor when it counted most.
Next year the Mountaineers lose 3 starters from the line and normally losing so many would be a cause for concern but not in this case as the departing seniors were marginal at best.
There is talent on the roster to step into the open spots and improve the level of play. Marquis Lucas, Freshman Tyler Orlosky, Adam Pankey, Brandon Jackson and JuCo transfer Mark Glowinski are all highly regarded and have a higher ceiling than those they will replace.
The line returns the behemoth Quinton Spain and Pat Eger, Curtis Feight and Nick Kindler but only Spain can be considered a returning starter and he must elevate his level of play and reduce the number of mistakes to retain his job.
The offensive line is least of my worries heading into 2013. The talent is there and by the time the 2013 season kicks off they will benefit from another offseason s in the strength room and another year of conditioning.
On the defensive side of the ball the Mountaineers lose only Jorge Wright. Those returning include the talented Will Clarke and Shaq Rowell and host of promising freshman who were denied a redshirt year to grow bigger and stronger by the lack of depth on the roster.
Christian Brown, Kyle Rose and Imarjaye Albury all have talent. What they lacked this year was the strength and experience to dominate. Just like the young pups on the offensive line they will have a full offseason of strength and conditioning needed to reach their full potential before the 2013 season kicks off.
Joining the talented young linemen will be 2013 recruit De’Asian Richardson who has the talent but maybe lacks the bulk to contribute in his freshman year.
We all have to remember that both offensive and defensive linemen very rarely contribute as freshman. They lack the size and strength needed to play major college football and need the red shirt season to season.
Both lines will benefit from the increased numbers and competition roster depth provides. Far to often the recent past WVU’s linemen were safe in the knowledge that no matter what they did in practice they would play because there was no one to take their spot.
My two primary concerns for the 2013 season are linebacker and wide receiver. The WR corp is decimated by gradation and WVU has only Cody Clay and Connor Arlia returning as receivers with a host of unproven freshman and recruits.
Again the talent seems to be on the roster but the question is who will step up and become the next Tavon Austin or Stedman Bailey. My bet is that KJ Meyers and Devonte Robinson quickly establish themselves as reliable receivers and that Dustin Garrison is moved to the slot.
2013 JC recruit Kevin White is also a safe bet to contribute once he gets settled in and learns Dana’s offense. White is known more for his soft hands and his ability to make the catch in heavy traffic and add yards after the catch.
The linebacker position is troublesome for WVU and you can see that in the 7 linebacker recruits signed for the 2013 class by WVU. Of those 7 only JC transfer D’Vante Henry and 2013 commit Darrien Howard seem capable of stepping in right away and playing.
Freshman Isaiah Bruce and Junior Doug Rigg return at linebacker and Bruce has the talent to blossom into a dominate force. Bruce will benefit from a full offseason just like the rest of the freshman forced into playing significant time.
We can expect WVU to do whatever it takes to land more JC talent at linebacker in the hopes of providing needed depth and experience.
The next troublesome spot is Quarterback. I’m not as worried about the QB spot because Dana Holgorsen’s proven track record of developing QBs and the presence of Ford Childress.
Childress has the arm and mechanics to make all the throws and make them with velocity and accuracy. He has the mentality of a gunslinger and isn’t afraid to put the ball into a tight spot and let his receiver make the play but he doesn’t force many throws. He has the size and smarts to lead WVU. What he lacks is experience.
If Childress doesn’t win the job as expected WVU is in trouble.
Fortunately for both Holgorsen and Childress WVU’s running backs should be able to carry the offense while Childress matures.
Andrew Buie and Dustin Garrison both return in 2013 and both will receive significant playing time. Buie impressed in WVU’s backfield but succumbed to fatigue as the season wore on his carries pilled up. Garrison may split time between RB and the slot as his size and speed are better suited for the slot than the pounding a RB endures.
Joining Buie and Garrsion in the Mountaineer backfield will be JC transfer Dreamius Smith. Smith has the size and power that both Buie and Garrison lack and but he’s much faster than Shawne Alston. He’s not much of threat to hit the home run but he can eat up clock and yards like a smaller, faster Jerome Bettis.
My bet is that Smith’s combination of power and speed wins him the starting job with Buie getting his share of carries as a change-up.
With improved offensive line play the duo of Smith and Buie are safe bets to the feature weapons in retooled – run first – WVU offense.
WVU’s glaring weakness in 2013 was pass defense but again the youth and inexperience of 2012 should mature into a strength in 2013.
The undisputed star of WVU’s defense was freshman safety Karl “The Marxsman” Joseph. Joseph matured as the season as the season progressed and quickly became a an all-around defender and not just a big hitter.
Freshman cornerbacks Ishmael Banks, Nana Kyermeh and Terrell Chestnut all have the talent to mature into top-level defenders and when combined with Darwin Cook this unit is primed for a major improvement in 2013 especially if a top-level defensive backs coach is hired.
Is there reason to hope for the 2013 season or should we dread it?
One reason to hope is that Holgorsen is bringing in a higher level of talent overall than any Mountaineer staff before him. He needs the time to fill in the holes left by several recruiting classes that just didn’t deliver the numbers or talent WVU needs in the Big 12.
One reason for us to dread the 2013 season is the loss of Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey. You can’t just replace talent on the level of those three.
Holgorsen has shown the ability to adapt his scheme to his talent and next year, at least until Childress and the new receivers prove themselves, we can expect to see a totally different WVU offense that relies on the run to control the ball and protect the young QB.
As hard as it is to believe the strength of next year’s team maybe the defense and especially the pass defense.
If WVU can add one or two quality linebackers who can contribute early and a way to pressure the QB we could see one of the better defensive units in the Big 12.
One that may just have to carry WVU to bowl eligibility.
Nothing has changed… the waiting game continues.
I have been able to confirm via several sources that Georgia Tech and UVA have been in detailed and prolonged discussions with the Big 10.
One media source close to Georgia Tech with direct knowledge of the Yellow-jackets negotiations with the Big 10 conference believes that Georgia Tech will leave the ACC. The source, who has advised Georgia Tech on the value of Big 10 membership as compared to continued membership in the ACC, says that Tech president G.P. "Bud" Peterson understands the opportunities for increased television revenues and the potential partnerships with renowned engineering schools Illinois and Purdue outweigh the benefits of remaining in the ACC even with the ACC’s partnership with Notre Dame and the planned digital partnership with ESPN factored into the equation.
It’s clear from talking to media sources that Georgia Tech has reached the same conclusion that Maryland came to after crunching the numbers – the ACC can’t match the revenue projections of the Big 10.
My understanding, from talking to several people around the SEC and ACC, is that UVA is #16. I’ve had my doubts as sources can be wrong. Dr. Sullivan was basically fired by UVA's board this past summer and then brought back.
Dr. Sullivan's problems with the board seemed to originate from her intentions to buck tradition at UVA and modernize the university in terms of employment and tenure. So her willingness to cast aside tradition for the sake of economics certainly fits the profile of someone who would be willing to move her school from the ACC to the Big 10.
Right now I can only relay on what my sources tell me and they all say the same thing: Georgia Tech and UVA will be in the Big 10.
We know from UMD's valuation of the ACC that membership in the Big 10 (or any of the big 4) more lucrative despite the addition of Notre Dame as a partial member.
Depending on who you believe the ACC either nets $15 million or $17 million annually. Add in an additional $2 million for Notre Dame and $2 million for the Orange Bowl and the total is either $19 or $21 million.
$21 million is an interesting figure since it's just short of the what the Big 12 is reportedly paying each of its members and that's maybe the genesis of Jack Swarbrick's comments about ACC revenues being nearly equal to that of the Big 12.
However, according to WVU, the Big 12 makes about $25 million from its television contract with Fox & ESPN.
The reason the number is different than what was bandied about in the media is that the contract has incentives built in for national TV appearances on the T1 or T2 level. The Big 12's TV deal with Fox and NBC almost guarantees that Big 12 schools make the $25 million rather than the $21 million. Add in $4 million and the Big 12 is at $29 million.
Here's where the mystery comes in… recently Dennis Dodd of CBS sports wrote a story that claimed the Big 12 would feature an annual payout of $31 million per team beginning in 2014 and if we take what we know we are two million short at our arrived at $29 million.
The difference could be a Big 12 championship game. The public estimates of seen have a Big 12 championship game at $1.5 to $2 million per school. Add the $2 million and the Big 12 is at $31 million per annum.
(By the way my source at WVU tells me the Big 12 must have a championship game by 2014 if no other reason than the formula for selecting playoff teams will severely hurt the Big 12 without one.)
If we give the ACC the benefit of the doubt and accept $21 million as their per annum there is still a $10 million dollar gap between the ACC and Big 12.
$10 million per year is $150 million over the 15 year ACC contract with ESPN. Is $150 million large enough to entice schools like FSU to leave the ACC for the Big 12?
Oddly enough I have more information about GT and UVA than I do FSU and Clemson.
My friend at WVU continues to say that the Big 12 has an agreement in place with FSU to be the Big 12's 11th member with Miami or Clemson as #12.
My sources at Ohio State, Minnesota, and UMD (they each work in their respective athletic departments) say that FSU may have an agreement with the Big 10.
I'm certain that FSU doesn't meet the Big 10's academic model but I'm also certain the academic model concept may be outdated with the direction college football is moving.
Without word from Clemson all I can is guess on what the Tigers plan to do.
I am hearing from Clemson fans and for the most part they seemed concerned and maybe they should be.
The Big 12 seems to prefer the combination of FSU and Miami over FSU and Clemson. I’m not sure this is due to the Big 12 cooling on Clemson or Clemson going all in for the SEC.
If Clemson is going all in for the SEC it’s a mistake. According to the people I speak to in the SEC neither FSU or Clemson are being considered.
Clemson seems to think they have enough political clout in South Carolina to force SC to champion their bid for the SEC but I’m told such a ploy will not work because it would produce a duplication of markets and reduce revenues.
I heard a rumor yesterday that ESPN was pleading with the Big 12 to take UCONN. I can understand ESPN’s desire to have a safe landing spot for UCONN considering ESPN’s location but UCONN is much better fit for the ACC.
I haven’t had the opportunity to check with by WVU and Big 12 contacts so this is just my opinion but I can’t see UCONN having any shot at the Big 12.
ESPN playing hardball this summer when the Big 12 had FSU and Clemson on the hook and I don't see how they can go back to the Big 12 after saying they wouldn't add money to the TV contract for FSU and Clemson and ask them to take UCONN.
I can't see WVU supporting UCONN as a Big 12 member. Over at Cincinnati one of our own is the AD -- Whitt Babcock. Whitt is still close to WVU and the Mountaineers are pushing for Cincy in the Big 12 should the Big 12 expand to 16.
Expansion is all about money and the networks and conferences leave nothing to chance. The Big 12 paid an outside consultant to conduct valuations on ACC and Big East schools. Aside from WVU - which has a very high Q score backed up by national TV ratings and merchandise sales (WVU is #15) - nary a Big East school justified their addition in terms of television value.
The Big 12 wanted an 18% increase for adding FSU and Clemson (not sure how accurate that number is since I haven't done the math) and ESPN balked.
The Big 12 has different needs than the Big 10 or SEC. They need attractive inventory for Fox and ESPN -- marquee match-ups the networks can put in primetime and haul in solid overnight ratings.
FSU certainly adds that brand name that's attractive to the networks and viewers. I'm not so sure about Clemson. Clemson's designated market area (DMA) is relatively small and from what people tell me their recruiting area isn't of the caliber of Florida, Georgia, and Texas.
According to my sources a few weeks ago WVU and Kansas State were able to convince Oklahoma the Big 12 needed to go hard after FSU and Clemson.
Members who had been resistant to expansion (namely Kansas & Iowa State) read the reports about FSU reaching out to the Big 10 and voted to expand by inviting FSU and Miami (with the intention of landing Clemson later) over the objections of Texas and DeLoss Dodds.
Again my source at WVU tells me that FSU is #11 but Miami hasn't made up their mind and both want to wait until it's clear they have no other choice.
I realize that some of this sounds contradicting and confusing. It’s not clear if the Big 12 has invited FSU or Clemson or FSU and Miami. It’s possible the Big 12 will skip 12 and hit 14 and has already invited FSU, Miami, Clemson and one other.
The problem is as my sources grow the information begins to conflict and contradict.
It could be just the ever-changing nature of realignment. One day its FSU and Clemson and the next its FSU and Miami.
We have to accept that until someone is standing behind a podium and announcing a move that anything could happen.
Until then consider everything I write to be just me passing on rumors from people who should know what’s happening.
The only thing I’m 100% confident about is the ACC’s days are numbered and only Jim Delany knows when their clock strikes midnight.
Happy New year!