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Mountaineers' football program should read over NCAA Manual

By Jack Bogaczyk

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Maybe this would be an opportune time for some of the good folks in West Virginia University athletics - and in the Puskar Center's football offices in particular - to pad their resumes.

After all, when you're already on the NCAA Committee on Infractions docket for five major violations and one secondary boo-boo, how do you open football practice with another clueless move?

Yes, this one should be filed under, "You can't make this up."

At its first preseason workout Saturday at Mountaineer Field, WVU players wore more than their jerseys, shorts, jocks, socks, shoes and helmets. Some players were clad in light shoulder pads (or "vests" or "spider pads," as they are known).

This is an NCAA violation - and more than a few other schools noticed it, via the Internet and still photos of the session.

The rule may seem trifling, and it may not seem to do much in the way of protecting players from injury, but it's an NCAA rule (17.9.2.3d), on Page 264 of the 444-page NCAA Division I Manual:

During the first two days of the acclimatization period, helmets shall be the only piece of protective equipment student-athletes may wear. During the third and fourth days of the acclimatization period, helmets and shoulder pads shall be the only pieces of protective equipment student-athletes may wear. During the final day of the five-day period and on any days thereafter, student-athletes may practice in full pads.

I'm wondering what part of that subsection the WVU football operation doesn't grasp. Even in the oft-arcane and voluminous NCAA rulebook, this one's pretty clear ... although Clemson was under probe last August for the same deal and Missouri was shown by Show Me State media wearing light pads last week.

Well, look at it this way: When West Virginia goes before the NCAA Committee on Infractions for the previous Notice of Allegations and pleads ignorance, at least this latest gaffe will bolster that defense.

The rule is somewhat silly, yes, but it's a rule. Is an ankle guard protection? What about an elbow pad? A protective cup?

At this point, do you consider if new WVU Athletic Director Oliver Luck wonders what he got himself into? The former Mountaineer quarterback obviously realizes he isn't working with Rhodes Scholar candidates, one of which he was.

You have to wonder, considering the previous charges - mostly about too many "non-coaching sport-specific staff members (who provide) advice and/or corrections to football student-athletes pertaining to technique and plays" - why WVU didn't have compliance staffers on site for the first drills Saturday, making sure everything was by the book.

None were in attendance. Then, at this point, I'm wondering whether anyone involved in WVU football knows what "the book" says.

Or, considering what had transpired in the previous two days, WVU Coach Bill Stewart should have sat down with his staff and operations people the night before the first workout and reviewed everything - everything - about that they were going to do, to make sure all i's were dotted and t's were crossed.

Stewart has coached in college football since 1977 at Salem. He's been a major college assistant at eight schools - including Marshall and WVU - and the head coach at VMI and West Virginia for more than five seasons combined.

Yes, the rules have changed over the years, but he has to know them. It's part of his job. He also has plenty of veterans on his staff - nine full-time assistants paid a combined $1.925 million - who should know what's allowed and chime in.

Mike Kerin, WVU's assistant AD for football operations, has been in the Puskar Center for 30 years, through Don Nehlen, Rich Rodriguez and Stewart. Surely he's seen enough good and bad to know what's what.

West Virginia has no excuse whatsoever for not knowing the rule. The Big East Conference went before the NCAA and proposed a change to the rule in 2007. The petition was turned down in 2008.

Did WVU miss the memo?

After some probing and stonewalling Tuesday morning and early afternoon, WVU finally did the right thing and quit padding its answers.

"We are aware that some players were wearing vests during the first two practice days," said Michael Fragale, WVU's assistant athletic director for communications. "We are exploring further, will declare a secondary infraction, and document it through the appropriate process."

Maybe the people who should do some further exploring are Luck and WVU President Jim Clements.

Maybe the WVU athletics compliance staff should study what they're supposed to know. At least one compliance staffer was said to be at practice Sunday - when the Mountaineers were garbed in violation similar to Saturday.

So, thanks to spider pads, the NCAA web for West Virginia becomes more entangled.

Contact Sports Editor Jack Bogaczyk at jackb@dailymail.com or 304-348-7949.


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