The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

January 27, 2010

HERTZEL COLUMN: McMichael remembers WVU’s support

MORGANTOWN — The phone in the Dave McMichael residence rang at 5:30 on a cold October morning.

The assistant coach for the Connecticut Huskies wiped the sleep from his eyes and picked it up. He knew a call at that hour was never good news but he could never have expected what he heard.

“Jasper Howard is dead,” a graduate assistant told him.

McMichael remembers that moment.

“I was numb, sick,” he said. “That’s one of your kids, part of your family.”

McMichael was a coach on the offensive side of the ball, Howard a defensive player, so he didn’t know him as well as if he was his position coach, but he knew how the team felt about this spirited little guy, knew that he was among the most popular players on the team.

You can’t quantify a loss like that, nor can you really rein in your emotions.

“It was quite a week,” McMichael said.

At the time he was a former West Virginia coach, a situation that would be remedied after Doc Holliday left Bill Stewart’s staff to take the head coaching job at Marshall, leaving an opening for McMichael to take as he came home.

But then he only knew that he was heading back to West Virginia for the day, to play the strangest of football games under the saddest of circumstances.

There were so many distractions in Connecticut, so much for head coach Randy Edsall to see to.

Would they play the game? How would the team react? How could he, as head coach, offer any solace to the family?

In West Virginia, wheels were turning to. The Mountaineer nation, headed by Bill Stewart, showed the kind of compassion you would hope they would show. They were touched by the tragic shooting outside the Connecticut student union, knowing it well could have been one of their own.

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