MORGANTOWN — Public relations-wise, the NCAA has never been very savvy.
If it weren’t for March Madness and positive traditions built at individual member schools throughout the years, it probably would have been eaten alive in this changing world in which a whole new culture is being built around the economics of college sports.
No matter what you look at in the games today, you see it through green-colored glasses that give everything the shape of a dollar sign.
Everything is spinning out of control, from skyrocketing coaches’ salaries and ticket prices to gaudy facilities. The games are ruled not by the NCAA but another four-letter acronym that called ESPN.
Game times have become helter-skelter, dictated not by the fan base but, instead, by those television people who have created a situation where there are more bowl games than eligible teams and with no more meaning than a sandlot game down at the local park.
Rules have been tampered with in an effort to create a show, not a competition, and the COVID pandemic has made athletic life often as uncertain as the real world we try to use as an escape from such problems.
Conference expansion has changed the landscape and surely will — in the next few years — cause a total transformation in the games as the power conferences take charge of their own fate, having totally different parameters within which they exist than the Group of 5 and the lower levels.
Toss in the death of amateurism among the athletes with the invention of NIL laws that allow athletes to be paid — not by the schools themselves, but by the boosters and community businessmen who previously were considered a threat to college sports.
In the midst of all this, as the courts — not the ones upon which they played basketball, volleyball or tennis, but in which laws are adjudicated — became more involved the NCAA brought into existence the transfer portal, which has turned the whole idea of college sports being an activity within the educational structure into a joke.
It is something that must be addressed by the power structure before the Alabamas, Ohio States and Georgias of the world grab complete control of the game and those who play it best.
Little has caused more ill will than this “I’m going to take my ball and go somewhere else to play” attitude of players than the portal and while the structure within the sport that has developed is certainly deserving of the most blame, the players themselves have stepped across the line of sanity themselves.
Schools like West Virginia have seen the flow go both ways, but combined with college players’ ability to leave early for professional opportunities they have crumbled both the idea of loyalty to the schools that recruited them and nurtured them through the early years and the attachment fans have for their players.
We do all this as a prelude to the re-introduction of Emmitt Matthews Jr. to WVU fans.
Matthews was always a special kid while here, highly intelligent, well-spoken, friendly and talented, although for whatever reason he never reached the heights that many felt he could.
He had come to Morgantown from the state of Washington, about as far away as you can get without needing a passport to enter West Virginia. He was a welcome addition to our landscape, but after last season he opted to enter the portal and leave for back home, transferring to the University of Washington.
We bring him up because he, at least, did it the right way.
There was no leaving the team in mid-season, no badmouthing, no negativity at all.
If all others — and we aren’t singling out his former teammate Oscar Tshiebwe here, although his name surely will seep into your consciousness at this point as he dominates the SEC while at Kentucky — handled matters as he has, the image of sports and popularity might not be reaching the lows it is.
We bring this up now because Matthews recently went on social media with a very interesting approach on how to move from one school to another without leaving behind a bad taste and bitter memories.
“Any WVU fans that live in WA want to come to the game Saturday? Let me know!” he tweeted just before WVU was to play at Kansas last week.
Now it’s true that there aren’t a great many Mountaineers fan out there in Pullman or Seattle, which, by the way, is country as beautiful and awe-inspiring as our own “Almost Heaven,” but he got quite a run out of the gesture.
His offer received 630 likes, 38 retweets and judging from the replies was greeted with appreciation from those West Virginians who know a class act when they see one.
“Yooo Emmitt!!!!! Used to live in WV for six years but now live like 20 minutes from Seattle. Would love to go Saturday,” was one reply.
“DM me so we can get the ball rolling,” Matthews responded.
“This is so nice of you to ask. I wish we could watch more your games here. You’re having a great year. We miss you and are always cheering for you from Almost Heaven,” read another.
“WISHIN WE COULD BRUH BUT WE GOTS A DATE IN THE phog outhouse w/the prairie chickens,’ said another.
“We still love and miss you here, Emmitt! Wish we could see you play there. God bless you and please come visit Mountaineer Nation sometime soon,” was another response.
“Visiting family in Kirkland ... WVU grad. Well be there Saturday to support The Dooskie!”
!!!” First and foremost, I truly miss having you in blue and gold! Secondly, I hope you’re enjoying your time ‘home.’ I’m in Everett and before season end, my two boys and I will be out to see you and the Huskies.”
You get the point.
Two things to take from this. One is that exclamation points are cheap and the other is that you don’t have to make enemies by transferring.
There are reasons to transfer — real reasons other than “I’m not starting, Mommy, so I’m going to go somewhere else.”
And you can do it in a positive way.
Now, if we can just get Jordan McCabe to make the offer in Las Vegas, I’m on my way myself.
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