This hasn't been the most fun week to be a Mountaineer fan, so i thought I'd go a little different direction with this edition of Gold Nuggets. But don't worry, we never forget our purpose and there will be some good WVU information tucked in here, but it's a great big world and we' thought we'd take a look at it.
United They Stand
There was a little story that flew slightly under the radar on Saturday and I think it's pretty close to blowing up and getting tons of attention. A few players for Georgia, Georgia Tech and Northwestern wrote "APU" on their wristbands, a reference to the little-known players group "All Players United" and a form of protest aimed at making the NCAA change the rules college student-athletes currently operate under.
As the drumbeat for dramatic change to how the NCAA does things becomes a deafening roar, college football players seem poised to take advantage of their visibility to shed some light on the rights and privaliges they turn over to the NCAA when they sign their scholarship agreements.
This is the thing that the NCAA has feared for years. And it's just beginning.
This article from The Telegraph (Macon, Ga) details how the Georgia Bulldog's offensive line participated in the "protest." It's a good read for a couple reasons (quick tip of the cap to Senator Blutarsky over at Get The Picture for posting this). First the Dawg players are very thoughtful in their comments - particularly senior tight end Arthur Lynch (who did not take part):
"They bring so many people in here to educate us about the NFL, and there's some guys who will never see the NFL. If you're a college athlete, whether it be soccer, track or basketball, the NCAA needs to fund and require representatives to go to schools, public or private in the U.S., and really educate them as to what you're actually doing when you sign your letter-of-intent," Lynch said.
"I'm signing away the same rights I basically have when I sign with an agent at the end of the season. Obviously there's differences, the compensation, this and that. But I'm signing away our name and our rights is something parents and the prospective athlete needs to understand a little bit more about. Because I was just happy to get a full ride, I wasn't really looking too much into the details about it. I just knew that when I signed that name I got to go play football and go to school for free. And I was like: Yeah, that's tight, sign me up."
Also of note was the reaction (or lack thereof) of the coaches. Here's Georgia's Mark Richt:
"We have the freedom of speech in our country, but the question is what's the most appropriate way of doing it, so that's the only thing," Richt said. "Based on what I read about, what their concerns were seemed like pretty legitimate concerns. Whatever they are trying to accomplish is being done in a respectful way, so that's all I really know."
Georgia Tech's Paul Johnson wasn't crazy about having players act independent of the team, but all but all short of gave his blessing should his entire squad joining the movement:
Johnson was critical of his players - including quarterback Vlad Lee - for not bringing the issue to the entire team and putting it up for a vote. "I think the first thing is there's probably a process that we didn't go through," Johnson said, according to the Associated Press. "In my mind what you do if the players all feel strongly about an issue, then they need to talk about it as a team and let the coaches know and it needs to be a team thing. Six guys don't represent the team, or whatever, when 80 of them don't even know what's going on and the coaches don't know what's going on. If that's the case and they want to support something, then certainly they have that right. I think you would tend to listen to what they have to say and give them the opportunity to support themselves."
That all sounds pretty accommodating to me, and don't expect to hear anything else from coaches who have to sell themselves to their players every day and then go sell themselves to future players on the recruiting trail. The coaches won't block this one bit.
Personally I think this thing will be everywhere by mid-October. The NCAA is almost universally loathed so there's really no downside, not to mention every kid in the 18-22 age bracket has that nice little 'eff the world' streak that feeds something like this perfectly. Before long Chris Fowler will be talking about it on GameDay and Skip Bayless will be saying it's terrible because that's the kind of thing he does. I just wonder who the first Mountaineer will be to join up.
The revolution will be televised - every Saturday for the next 2+ months.
Throwback to the Run
Unlike Bob Huggins, I do have a rearview mirror and like a little reminiscing from time to time. I came across an interesting little read over in the Arizona Daily Star that took me back to some fun days in Mountaineer Land. It's a retrospective on the development of the spread option, the well-known offensive fad that began over 20 years ago at little ole Division 3 Glenville State here in West By Gawd Virginia.
I know some of you still have strong feelings about Rich Rodriguez, but I'd ask you to let go of some of that bitterness for a few minutes and give this a read. Regardless of what happened, it's pretty amazing to think that the most significant offensive football development of this generation started here and WVU played a huge part in its spread (see what I did there).
If nothing else, give it a read for this little gem by WVU's own Jed Drenning (emphasis added by me):
When we ran the zone-read at Glenville, it was something that would keep defenses honest. When he had Shaun, he started adding all these quarterback twists in the run game. We had physical limitations at Glenville. Those were gone when he got to Tulane.
Losing To Win
Certainly the last 11 months haven't been what Mountaineer fans are accustomed to, but I've got some good news from the New York Times - losing is good for everybody!
Having studied recent increases in narcissism and entitlement among college students, she warns that when living rooms are filled with participation trophies, it’s part of a larger cultural message: to succeed, you just have to show up. In college, those who’ve grown up receiving endless awards do the requisite work, but don’t see the need to do it well. In the office, they still believe that attendance is all it takes to get a promotion.
In life, "you’re going to lose more often than you win, even if you’re good at something," Ms. Twenge told me. "You’ve got to get used to that to keep going."
Finally....Some Good News
Well, you made it this far, so I think you deserve a little nugget of hope. I was scrolling through the Twitterverse Friday night and came across this little gem:
For those of you unfamiliar with his work, Dave Bartoo runs cfbmatrix.com, a site that does a decent job of picking underdogs. Utilizing a variety of statistics, from historic record at home to recruiting rankings to he chooses a select number of underdogs each week and predicts them to win outright. This week he has WVU as one of only 3 of his "Tier I" upsets.
The good news is that he's gone 4-2 so far this year with his picks. The bad news is he finished 31-41 last year after a hot start. If you consider that the games he's choosing, that's really not a bad percentage. If nothing else I'd happily take a 40% chance of WVU winning on Saturday.
Maybe the takeaway from this is simply that while the recent history of WVU football doesn't give us much to be optimistic about, a wider view of things paints a picture of a team that has a puncher's chance. Maybe they rally behind the new starter and find the energy that has been lacking. Maybe they finally get an early break and use that as a springboard to the type of performance we saw in the first half of Holgorsen's tenure.
At this point I'll grasp on to anything, but I have a funny feeling about this game.
For a parting shot I'll leave you with this. Put simply, it's the most amazing obituary you will ever read. I can only pray anyone thinks enough of me when I shuffle loose this mortal coil to write something 1/10th this entertaining.
Now let's go get this win.
Freddie loved deep fried Southern food smothered in Cane Syrup, fishing at Santee Cooper Lake, Little Debbie Cakes, Two and a Half Men, beautiful women, Reeses Cups and Jim Beam. Not necessarily in that order. He hated vegetables and hypocrites. Not necessarily in that order. - See more at: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/savannah/obituary.aspx?pid=166950349#fbLoggedOut