Gold Nuggets: Gary Stills, Big 12 Explosions And ESPN Exposed

USA TODAY Sports

Join me for another edition of Gold Nuggets where we enjoy stories from Mountaineers past, try not to get burned when discussing Big 12 offenses and hold our nose as Joe Schad walks by.

Well our first edition of "Gold Nuggets" went so well that I'm back to give it another shot. First I wanted to take a quick minute and thank everybody for reading. We got a great response on Twitter and with traffic in general and I appreciated it. Maybe someone is out there listening to my ramblings after all.

For any newcomers, the Cliff's notes is that this is a quick feature where I'll share stuff I've found interesting and want to pass along with my thoughts attached. As with last week the links for everything I'm passing along are in the headings, so give it all a look. And for a quick housekeeping item I had a good suggestion to change the name to "Musket Minute" (thanks to @EersNation for that) - what do y'all think? Leave your thoughts on that - or anything else - in the comments section.

And we're off....

Some WVU Greats Remember Their Favorite Plays (from the Exponent Telegram)

Not sure about you, but I'm a huge sucker for the nostalgic looks back that read like a bunch of old players swapping tales. Is it in Chapter 1 of "Columns to Clack Out When You're Out Of Other Ideas?" Sure, but it's still a helluva lot of fun.

Thanks to Bob Hertzel for sharing this collection on Twitter from the Exponent Telegram. It's a collection of stories from old WVUers, among them Scott Gyorko, Tanner Russell and a personal favorite of mine Gary Stills. For those of you who don't remember, Stills was an emotional force of nature who frequently played on the edge of recklessness. He drilled dudes, he celebrated right to the edge of getting flagged, he sacked Chad Pennington 4 times in 1997. In short, he was awesome. I remember either hearing on the radio or reading a story about Stills and how he cracked his kneecap in the 1998 season opener against Ohio State but the coaches didn't know when it happened because he didn't come out even though it ended up keeping him from the lineup for about a month. That always seemed a bit of a stretch to me. At least until I read this:

When I was a freshman, I cracked my front tooth but I couldn’t get it fixed until my senior year. After I fixed it, I could take it in and out.

Now we’re about to open the season with Ohio State and I don’t wear a mouthpiece, but during warmups I lost the tooth.

I’m thinking, I’m not going to go out there and get caught on national television making a big play with my mouth wide open and my front tooth missing. So I put in a mouthpiece. I went to the trainer and told I wasn’t going out there without my tooth and he busted out laughing.

So the game starts and we’re playing and we’re at the 32-yard-line and I look down, and there’s my tooth. We got that whole field and there’s my tooth, right there in front of me. I bend down, pick it up, put it in my mouth, throw my mouthpiece on the sideline and go on playing.

Well, we go to the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville and we’re laying at the pool and I lost it again in the pool. Solomon Page is my roommate and I start smiling and Solomon’s got this big laugh and he hollers out, "Everybody stop! G.Stills lost his contact in the pool." So everyone’s looking for a contact.

Soon as I got drafted I went right to the dentist and got me a good tooth.

(there is nothing I can possibly add to that)

Jed Drenning's Hot Reads

Not sure how many of you guys follow Jed's work over at WVUSports.com, but his "Hot Reads" columns are great. For nerds like me he works amazing magic with numbers to pull back the veil and reveal larger trends and truths of the game. This piece is no different.

To Jed's credit, he's been singing this song about Big 12 production ever since WVU darkened the conference doorway and his opinions were born out in painful detail on the field last season. It's been a dramatic adjustment but take heart, even the BADDEST DAMN CONFERENCE IN THE LAND took their lumps against the Big 12.


For those folks, here are a few fun facts. The Big 12 sent nine teams bowling last season. When they stepped out of conference to play those bowl games, two-thirds of those nine teams held the opposition to *fewer* points than their overall season average and more than half of those teams held the opponent to *fewer* yards than they had allowed on average for the year. On the flipside, the SEC also sent nine teams to bowl games last season. The difference? When those nine defenses stepped outside their conference to play non-SEC offenses in the postseason, seven of them allowed *more* points in their bowls than they did on average for the season and seven of the nine also allowed *more* yards in their bowl games than they allowed on average for the year. In other words, unlike the Big 12 defenses - which had greater success against non-Big 12 offenses - when SEC defenses played against non-SEC offenses in the postseason they were typically less effective, not more.

No one is disputing the SEC’s place as college football’s premier league in recent years. With seven straight BCS titles, they’ve won the right on the field to make whatever claims they choose. The focus of this discussion isn't to diminish the SEC or any other league. Instead, this analysis is merely meant to provide some perspective and to illustrate the increased level of difficulty a defense is saddled with when trying to slow down the competition in the Big 12.

That's just the tip of the iceberg - there's tons of great numbers in that piece that give you an appreciation of the unparalleled depth of offensive firepower in the Big 12.

Just keep Keith Patterson away from this one.

ESPN Exposed: Schad's Sources And The Narrative Problem (Good Bull Hunting)

Let me begin by saying I want to be very specific not to paint ESPN with a broad brunch. Fact of the matter is their in-game production work is as good as it gets and their new documentary arm (30 For 30, etc.) puts out some of the most well done and engrossing sports stories - or really any stories anywhere - that I've ever seen. Nothing even comes close.That is beyond dispute and has nothing to do with what I'm discussing here.

Which brings us to their news gathering arm.

TelcoAg over at Good Bull Hunting (SB Nation's Texas A&M blog) takes an absolute scalpel to the way ESPN - and in particular Joe Schad - handled accusations of player abuse against then Texas Tech coach Mike Leach which led to Leach's subsequent dismissal. The point of the entire pieces is to laud A&M's leadership for resisting a reactionary stance similar to what we saw from the Red Raiders camp several years ago. In the process of making this case he lands some body blows to the Worldwide Leader.

As the sports world's mayfly attention span shifted to the next big thing in the wake of Leach's firing, a vast majority of folks have no idea how this thing played out once it cycled through the courts or the direct culpability people like Shad had with Leach's fall. This is as brief but still comprehensive summary as I've seen. You need to give it a look.

Some of the highlights (with a special guest appearance by Adam James' then position coach Dana Holgorsen):

In his book, Leach also points out the extent to which ESPN, and specifically Joe Schad, went to keep their narrative alive:

"There were statements out there from Adam James’s two position coaches, Dana Holgorsen and Lincoln Riley. There was a statement from the strength coach, Bennie Wylie. There were statements from three of James’s teammates—players that had been successful in the program and had witnessed Adam’s behavior, as well as mine. CBSSports.com and other media outlets chose to run those statements. ESPN, which also had them, chose not to. When one of my agents asked Joe Schad, the ESPN reporter, why they neglected to report those statements, he said he didn’t see how they were relevant to the story. But when Craig James gave Schad Adam’s cell number so he could hand the phone over to his roommate Chris Perry, a back-up lineman whom we’d suspended twice, his statement was considered relevant."

ESPN completely destroyed Mike Leach's life. As a gauge on the average sports fan's perspective, I asked my wife this morning "What do you think about Mike Leach?" to which she responded, "You mean that jerk that locked that kid in a closet?" Four years have gone by, and the image portrayed by ESPN is the one that prevails in the minds of most. After something like this where ESPN completely destroys a man's life by not using even a tiny amount of due diligence - seriously, one call to the Head Trainer would have ended it - they continue to be the leader in sports entertainment. The public continues to believe every story as it was fed to them from the beginning, and not how it ended. Just ask Auburn fans.

At a minimum you would have to think someone was fired, right? Joe Schad is still working for ESPN and Craig James stuck around for two years until leaving to run for the United States Senate. The only one who got fired was the man they smeared.

And then there's this; the money quote to end all money quotes, where Schad grabs a nice long piece of rope, fastens it around his own neck in a pretty little noose and finds the nearest tree:

People really need to wake up to the fact that ESPN is a platform available to anyone who can pitch a good story. Remember Cam Newton? I bet you forgot that Joe Schad worked that story as well. When asked about the sourcing of erroneous reporting that happened in the Cam Newton story, here is what he had to say:

"I don’t really care who’s the source in any story. I don’t care and I don’t know why people are so worked up about it. … I always struggle to understand why there’s such a quest to figure out who exactly passed along what information to who."

Pretty unreal that a journalist who has access to the loudest bullhorn in the world can't understand why the public wants to verify the credibility of the information, and has shown an utter disregard for the substantiation of claims made to him. This guy absolutely has to have pictures of John Skipper making out with Darren Rovell somewhere.

I'm not saying boycott ESPN and I'm certainly not saying THEY'RE EVIL and getting in a tizzy (although I've been known to do that before). As I said, it's a mulch-faceted entity that puts out thoughtful, insightful and superb work when it is in its sweet spot. But with all the available sources for breaking news out there you have no reason whatsoever to rely on ESPN and guys like Joe Schad for breaking news. They're a self-supporting network of shoddy hacks that long ago cast aside any aspersions of actual journalism in the name of creating a self-perpetuating echo chamber designed to maximize attention and feed their corporate media conglomerate (TV, radio, internet, rinse and repeat). That they are able to slap a label on it that first-class reporters like Bob Ley spent years building into a credible brand speaks to the depth of the problem at every level of their news gathering organization. And we haven't even talked about them bailing on Frontline's NFL concussion documentary yet.

Personally I've never followed Schad on Twitter and haven't missed a thing. Same for Skip Bayless, and the rest. You have a ton of options and all of them will give you more accurate, thoughtful breaking news coverage than ESPN. Watch their games and slug AM beers to the wonderment that is GameDay, but don't feed their breaking news beast. It seems he is beyond their control.

Thanks for reading and I'm always looking for thoughts and suggestions. Shoot me an email anytime at abpriddy@gmail.com and let me know what you think - or even better drop it in the comments section. Opinions, like ice cold coolers of beer, are more fun when they're shared.

Gameday is almost upon us....


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