The Times West Virginian

Sports

December 27, 2012

COLUMN: Woodman seems up to challenge

FAIRMONT — Energy.

It’s something Fairmont State University athletic director Rusty Elliott believes new head football coach Jason Woodman has in spades.

“This guy has a lot of energy and knowledge and he is going to get this thing rolling in the right direction and I assure you no one is going to outwork him,” he said after Woodman was introduced as the 18th coach in FSU history last Saturday.

And that enthusiasm is what the Falcons will need from the first-time head coach as they ready for a dive into unchartered waters. Starting in the 2013-14 season, FSU will compete in the newly formed Mountain East Conference, along with eight other West Virginia Conference schools.

To compete in the new league — a 12-team group that includes such football powers as Shepherd — the Falcons will need Woodman to hit the ground running.

Not to mention ...

• Hit recruiting hard — FSU couldn’t afford to fall behind here and drag along the hiring process. That fact was likely one of the many reasons it pulled the trigger on Woodman so quickly, less than two weeks after former coach Mike Lopez was released from his contract. Woodman said Saturday he had already begun the recruiting process, though it remains to be seen which direction he’ll go — heavy on in-state players or elsewhere or try to find a balance between the two. The Falcons had 37 West Virginia players on last season’s roster.

• Hit the streets — Since the day he was hired, FSU head men’s basketball coach Jerrod Calhoun has talked about putting a face on his program, and getting players and coaches out amongst the public. Whether it’s passing out schedules at area businesses or attending local events, the Falcons have made a concerted effort to put themselves out there. The result has been a team talked about around town and generally good early-season crowds, which you’d think would continue to grow after a huge win at Charleston and the meat of the WVIAC schedule still on the docket after New Year’s.

And maybe that’s what FSU football needs more than anything — some sizzle, a jolt of excitement, a bit of buzz.

The Falcons certainly have their share of exciting players (Daniel Monroe) and hometown heroes (Trevor Malnick, among others). They have quality facilties for the most part, too, including a new high-definition scoreboard and a revamped locker room.

But something is missing.

There has to be, right? How else do you describe a 2012 home attendance that averaged fewer than 1,200 fans per game and mustered a season-high 1,359 for homecoming?

Sure, other factors were at play here. Due to the construction of the scoreboard, FSU opened last season with three straight road games and only played at Duvall-Rosier Field four times. Some game times clashed with West Virginia University. And, let’s face it, WVIAC football doesn’t exactly bring in huge crowds even in the most ideal of circumstances.

But a few more victories would help matters, as Lopez had two winning seasons during his tenure. In fact, the last time FSU made a legitimate run for a league title was more than a decade ago in 2001.

At the same time, Fairmont — and Marion County as a whole — is passionate about its sports. If someone or something is worth seeing, you’ll make the effort to seek them out. In my time here, that’s rarely been the case with FSU football ... many folks simply just don’t care.

Can Woodman change things? 

Well, he has ties to the area, being a county native, a graduate of North Marion High School and a Fairmont State alum. That’s a plus.

As is the resume, which includes setting new school records as offensive coordinator at Bowie State, his most recent gig before taking the FSU job. He’s also had stops at Florida State and LSU and drew recent praise from Tigers’ coach Les Miles. That’s a big plus, too.

Add it all up, and you have an intriguing, energetic new football coach, one who seems up to the challenge that awaits him. That’s more than enough for now.

Email Nick Cammuso at ncammuso@timeswv.com or follow him on Twitter @NickCammusoTWV.

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