By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian
This corner of the newspaper world was supposed to be filled with good news today, a renewal of the Backyard Brawl in New York City’s Pinstripe Bowl, but that fell through when Syracuse accepted a bid to play there.
The bowl game, of course, wraps up this disappointing season, which probably should be considered good news if it weren’t for the fact that you have to look ahead to life in the future in the West Virginia football program, and that doesn’t look particularly promising.
Nobody on any level loses players like quarterback Geno Smith and slot receiver Tavon Austin and replaces them with the same level of player, for they are once-in-a-lifetime players. At least, though, you could plan for their departure, for you know they have to leave when their eligibility is complete.
Equally as big a loss next year to the offense that carried WVU to whatever it accomplished this year will be Stedman Bailey, a junior who probably is the nation’s best pure wide receiver.
True, he has a year left, but in reality, short of some personal records, he really has no reason to return next year ... the quarterback that he grew up with and has played with since childhood being gone, Austin also being gone to take the attention of defenders away from him, and even J.D. Woods exiting with his ability to make key catches.
Bailey is a certain first-round pick in the NFL, should he declare for the draft, and there isn’t a man alive this side of Andrew Luck who would turn down a sure thing like that and gamble on playing another year of college football.
Bailey all but said he was exiting in the aftermath of the ridiculously easy 59-10 victory over Kansas on Saturday in the regular season finale.
“If the money calls, you gotta go,” he said.
At the same time he says that, he maintains he’s not 100 percent certain.
“I have to talk to my family and see how that works out,” he said.
Hard to imagine that conversation.
STEDMAN: Mom, I’m thinking of passing up about $11 million to go back to school, get my degree and play with a new quarterback and new offensive line another year.
STEDMAN’S MOM: Are you out of your mind, son?
Bailey said he was spending his spare time looking at some of the national records he had a shot of breaking, some he said were in reach.
Certainly anyone who can catch 106 passes for 1,501 yards and a national league 23 touchdowns would believe he could do such things, but you know what, it won’t be Geno Smith throwing to him and, more important, he won’t be paid to do it.
Still, he isn’t saying definitively that he’s gone.
“It’s something I have to think further about. I’m not sure what my future is now,” he said.
Even Geno Smith backs off when it comes to offering advice to Bailey.
“Let him decide,” the quarterback said. “He’s his own man. He’s a big boy now. He can do his own thing.”