The Times West Virginian

Bob Herzel

January 13, 2008

COLUMN: Replacing Barwis key hire for WVU

MORGANTOWN — This is not sour grapes and, no, it does not come after an evening spend with some aged Kentucky sour mash.

It is not meant to belittle the effect of the defection of West Virginia football coach Rich Rodriguez to Michigan, but if I were to tell you that his departure may not be the most difficult for the school’s athletic department to withstand you may think that I spent a little too much time this week in Kentucky with my old friend Jack Daniels.

Yet that may be the case. As much as Rodriguez was the architect of the revival of WVU football, converting it into a national power, there was someone on his staff who may have laid the foundation not only for the football renaissance but for the rise of the school’s other sports programs.

That person was Mike Barwis, who served as the director of strength and conditioning at the school, which meant that he supervised the entire Mountaineer strength program.

Lured away by Rodriguez and Michigan with a chance to be the highest-paid strength and conditioning coach in the nation, Barwis’ absence and that of his staff could create a far wider void than just on the football team.

Let us first understand that in the field of athletics in this modern era, it is the strength coach who becomes closest to the athletes. In truth, he spends far more time with them than does the head coach, who has duties recruiting and raising funds in the off-season while Barwis is running them up law school hill or devising other devilish programs that are meant to build both physical and mental strength.

But Barwis always finds time to reach each player on a personal level. He is a brother to some, father to other, priest to those who need some spiritual guidance and warden, if necessary.

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Bob Herzel
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