By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian
West Virginia has renewed its rivalry series with Virginia Tech, albeit only on a two-year basis and not until 2021, but that may be the first step in setting up a very creative way of keeping all the Mountaineers’ football rivalries intact.
Athletic Director Oliver Luck, who with Tech A.D. Jim Weaver put those games together, admits he talked just recently with Pitt about finding a way for the Backyard Brawl rivals to get together, even though WVU now resides in the Big 12 and Pitt in the ACC — and isn’t that hard to say for both schools.
Nothing near completed on this, but then the date of any games may be in the future.
Then this past week in the Harrisburg Patriot-News it was revealed that Penn State is looking to add some national appeal to its football schedule and it has been reported by Jeremy Fowler of CBSSports.com that the Mountaineers are working on a potential agreement with Penn State.
They used to play on a yearly basis, of course, with Joe Paterno’s Nittany Lions dominating, but it would be a great legacy for Luck if he could put these two back together, especially with his emphasis on local rivalries.
Here’s the deal though.
WVU already has Maryland as a local rival and an important one, a game that allows them to play games either at Maryland or a neutral field in Baltimore, which has become a key recruiting area, is easy to get to from Morgantown and easier for alumni from the Eastern part of the state.
However, playing nine Big 12 games leaves you only three non-conference games, which makes numerically impossible and a huge burden on your final record to try to play Pitt, Penn State, Maryland and Virginia Tech in the same season.
Besides, it’s crucial for a team these days to have a money game, such as this year when they face both Georgia State and William & Mary, teams that take a guarantee to give them a softer game than a conference game to work out the kinks early in the season.
But what if Luck could arrange something where WVU plays Maryland every year, a softer school every year with the third game alternating between Virginia Tech, Pitt and Penn State every two years?
Who knows, might even be able to work a network deal to carry that particular game on a yearly basis, which would make it even more valuable.
Just when you thought the NFL had moved on from the New Orleans Saints’ bounty scandal, former West Virginia linebacker Barrett Green, who had his NFL career ended by a knee injury in 2004, has sued, charging the injury was the result of another bounty program.
This one was run by the Washington Redskins, whose defensive coordinator was Gregg Williams.
Williams was the coordinator under defensive coordinator Sean Payton when the hammer was dropped on the Saints, although four of the suspensions were later lifted by former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue as part of a follow-up appeal.
According to sports law expert Gabe Feldman, the former Detroit Lions’ player filed a lawsuit against the Redskins, Williams and tight end Robert Royal.
“Redskins coaches directed their players to disregard criminal (and) civil laws, as well as NFL rules, to intentionally injure opponents,” Feldman says the suit claims.
According to Feldman, Royal is being sued for battery for delivering the low blow in 2004.
Following the revelation of the Saints’ bounty program, Williams was indefinitely suspended in 2012 for admitting his role in a “pay for performance” bounty program that was under his direction.
The NFL investigated the Redskins during their initial study of Williams’ actions but opted not to penalize the franchise for any acts during his tenure.
Green played every game after the injury through the end of the year.
Earlier this year, when WVU’s evasive slot receiver Tavon Austin was selected in the first round of the NFL draft by the St. Louis Rams and was rewarded with a multi-million-dollar contract, he expressed some worries about “a lot of cousins now” coming out of the woodwork to pick at his new personal fortune.
Many an NFL rookie from a poor background has gone through his fortune playing the big shot, but Austin was not that type.
In fact, in an interview with NFL Network’s Andrew Siciliano on “NFL Total Access,” Austin admitted he took things seriously at the NFL’s Rookie Symposium and learned how to handle that situation.
And what he learned was not to handle it himself.
“One thing I learned was just make somebody else the bad man, and that is definitely what I’m going to do as far as the money situation,” he said.
And who better to tell other people “no” than the lady who had done so with you for your whole life?
“So that definitely will be my mother,” he said. “She is definitely up for the challenge and she is ready to pretty much tell people ‘no.’”
That doesn’t mean Austin plans to hoard his money. At the symposium he learned that it can be put to good use.
“I definitely will help a lot of people, too, you know. I’m not one of those type of people who forgets where I came from and just acts like I’m better than anybody else,” he said. “But definitely there is a certain amount of times where it comes to a point where you have to say ‘no,’ and she’ll be that person that’ll be dealing with it.”
They were a success last season as WVU moved into the Big 12, so the Mountaineers are repeating two of the fans’ favorite promotions.
The WVU-Oklahoma State football game Saturday, Sept. 28, is a “Gold Rush.” All fans are encouraged to wear gold for the Big 12 Conference matchup with the Cowboys.
Later in the season fans attending the WVU-Texas game Saturday, Nov. 9, are encouraged to take part in “Stripe the Stadium” at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium for West Virginia’s matchup with the Longhorns.
Monday, when single-game tickets went on sale, 3,600 were moved by noon, with the Oklahoma State game the most popular.
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.