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W.Va. State football: Monroe needed to take team into new league

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The West Virginia State University football team is 1-2 -- one victory better than many predicted the Yellow Jackets to be.

Saved by a win in the season opener at home against Johnson C. Smith, the Yellow Jackets went on the road against Football Championship Subdivision teams North Carolina A&T and Elon.

While those trips earned them $70,000 ($40,000 for Elon), it did nothing for the program's won-loss record.

Coach Earl Monroe hopes it pays off in the form of preparation for his team's final sojourn into the West Virginia Conference.

On Saturday, State hosts Concord in the first of eight consecutive weeks against WVC foes.

What happens during the next two months will not only say a lot about the football program, it could determine the job security of Monroe.

 Just how much importance is put on winning and losing in the WVC depends on who you talk to.

Despite the WVC being a basketball conference - yes, its success comes on the hardwood, not outdoors - football drives enrollment. If a football team wins, more high school players want to go and their friends, girlfriends and relatives often follow.

That starts with an upwards of 100 players in the program. Like it or not, 15 basketball players aren't helping bring in a large number of students who will pay for their education no matter how much the team wins.

Don't underestimate the value of a football team's success, even at the Division II level. Alderson-Broaddus gets it. The Battlers added football as a club sport this year, ready to join as a full-time program in 2013.

What is particularly interesting is the addition of a new president at State, who, evidently, is very interested in athletics, at least much more than former president Dr. Hazo Carter.

No kidding, right?

Either way, Dr. Brian O. Hemphill brings a progressive point of view into the fold at State.

For the program's sake, that could include new training facilities, new locker rooms and a turfed field, as well as more than the 13 equivalencies the football team is using to field a team.

You can't squeeze blood from a turnip, but it takes money to make money.

The issue isn't whether or not State gets the chance to improve its football fortunes with a few more bucks thrown into the coffers. Consistent success is impossible without more scholarship money.

This issue, from where I stand, is whether Monroe will get to try his hand at winning with a hand worth betting on, instead of one that screams fold.

 When the longtime assistant was given the head-coaching job in 2006, the Yellow Jackets won 20 games in three seasons. Since then, they've won one quarter of that total (5-28), which included a winless season in 2010.

Sure, that falls on Monroe and his staff, but so does 7-3 seasons in 2007 and '08 when State's resources were a little closer to the WVC pack.

In 2008, State even earned a prized 24-21 road win over the University of Charleston, which - private or not - has much more resources than the Institute program.

Maybe Monroe isn't the best at getting something for nothing. There's little question he could spread the green a little better, but that doesn't take away the fact that the team is falling behind the pack in the financial department.

At the conclusion of this season, the WVC will fold and nine of its schools will help start a new era in West Virginia Division II athletics - the Mountain East Conference.

The league includes "like-minded institutions." That has become the catchphrase of the schools creating the Mountain East.

If you look at the pocketbooks, State is anything but "like-minded" when it comes to financial progressivism.

It looks like that's going to change.

Coach Bryan Poore's men's basketball program has enjoyed success with little finances, as has the volleyball team, the baseball team and the women's tennis team - which, by the way, is the only WVC women's tennis program to earn a berth in the NCAA Tournament five consecutive years.

Administratively, Monroe's strong suit is not putting up with "knuckleheads," -- his word, not mine -- which every football program has.

Strategically, his strength is defense.

And, there are few coaches better to deal with from a sportswriter's perspective. Call me selfish, but I'd like to keep the guy around for that reason alone.

Still, there are so many more reasons to keep him on the State sidelines - at least for a while longer.

Can he win at State? He's proved he can.

Will he again? Let's find out.

Contact Assistant Sports Editor Rich Stevens at or 304-348-4837.


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