Stewart Mandel, writer for SI.com opened up his mailbag, and in it was a couple emails from folks in West Virginia criticizing the way WVU has played this year...and how bad things really are for the Mountaineers now that Rodriguez has left. Here are the questions, followed by Stewart's responses:
I must admit you were right about your forecasting of the West Virginia football demise. I sent you previous e-mails, in essence, stating you would be proven wrong and how much you irritated me. I was wrong and you were right -- unfortunately.
-- Ronald McKenzie, Jr., Charles Town, W.Va.
Normally, I enjoy getting these rare "you were right, I was wrong" e-mails, but not these. I may root for my game predictions to be right, or some preseason sleeper pick to come true, but trust me, I do not "root" for a coach to fail. If anything, I was cringing like the rest of the country watching Bill Stewart's clock-management debacle play out at Colorado last week, which was only magnified by Erin Andrews' description of "mass confusion" on the sideline.
But I can't say I didn't see this coming, which is why I criticized the hiring in the first place. Say what you want about the way Rich Rodriguez handled his departure, the ill will he generated in that state, etc., the fact is, he was a great coach. You don't win 11 games three straight years by accident.
Among the many anti-RichRod e-mails I received over the offseason, one common theme was that "Pat White made RichRod." Anyone who's watched White this season can see that wasn't the case. He's still a phenomenal athlete, and I don't blame him for West Virginia's struggles in the slightest. I blame the coaching staff that decided to try and reinvent what had been one of the nation's most explosive offenses. You watch the Mountaineers now, it's like they're playing in slow motion, and White is the guy caught in the middle. Is he supposed to pass more? Run more? I don't think even the coaches know.
After all Pat White has done for WVU, I hate that his career is going to end like this. I hate even more that you were right about Bill Stewart. My question is, doesn't AD Ed Pastilong deserve some criticism regarding his handling of this situation?
-- Scott, Morgantown, W. Va.
Yes, yes, a thousand times, yes. That's what I've been trying to tell you guys since January (Scroll to: "But have you ever stopped to consider that your anger is being directed at the wrong party?") Amidst the massive backlash caused by Rodriguez's departure, West Virginia fans got duped into believing the hiring of a career assistant based off one bowl game was in the best interest of the program. As I said then and I'll say again now, it was one of the most short-sighted, irresponsible decisions I've ever seen an administration make.
While it's clear that Gov. Joe Manchin turned himself into the de facto athletic director, the buck ultimately stops with Pastilong, who, in another stroke of genius that was revealed this week, signed off on a six-year contract that requires the school to pay Stewart as much as $4.125 million if it fires him. We're only three games into Stewart's tenure, so it's way too early to even start speculating about such things. The Mountaineers could still produce a decent season, and even if they don't, it would only cause the program more instability to change coaches again so quickly.
But remember that $4 million the school collected from Rodriguez? Might want to put that way for a rainy day.
Interesting. If for no other reason that Stewart Mandel is now one of a small list of sportswriters who predicted a collapse at WVU, and would be screwed by Rodriguez leaving.
Look, Pat White is a great player, but great players only stay great when they play under great systems. Rodriguez has a system that works. You can imitate it, copy it, whatever...but it only works if you have all of the right pieces in place...which obviously WVU does not (and now Michigan does).
We've spent a ton of time on this blog discussing Rich Rodriguez's departure from WVU. Nothing more needs to be said. But I thought it would be fun to look at this situation now that some football has been played...and Michigan fans (and WVU fans) can see just how important Rodriguez is...and why it was worth Michigan dishing out 2.5M for him, and why it was so necessary for West Virginia to go the full 12 rounds.