www.charlestondailymail.com WVU Sports http://www.charlestondailymail.com Daily Mail feed en-us Copyright 2014, Charleston Newspapers, Charleston, WV Newspapers WVU FOOTBALL: Defense a focal point as preseason camp begins http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140730/DM03/140739887 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140730/DM03/140739887 Wed, 30 Jul 2014 21:08:07 -0400 By Mike Casazza MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - There are so many things West Virginia's football program cannot hide from as the start of preseason practice Thursday signals the beginning of another season, one that has the attention of a state decidedly desperate for the sort of superior experience promised upon changing conferences.

Many of the issues are menacing, beginning with the schedule. The man leading the Mountaineers into it in 30 days from now, coach Dana Holgorsen, called it "one of the hardest, if not the hardest" in the country. It begins, of course, with Alabama, and then features 2013 FCS finalist Towson, a Maryland team that shut out WVU last September and then preseason conference favorite Oklahoma, the same Sooners team that beat the Crimson Tide by two touchdowns in the Sugar Bowl six months ago.

All of that happens before the Mountaineers can catch their breath with the benefit of an open week, though there is some sort of serendipity since the Sooners have the same scheduling situation - and it should be mentioned they play Louisiana Tech, Tulsa and Tennessee before WVU.

The case could also be made that this is the least-anticipated season in a decade and maybe longer. Season ticket sales are the lowest since 2004 and WVU was picked eighth in the Big 12 preseason poll. WVU was lower than fourth once and never worse than sixth in the Big East's preseason predictions from 2002-11. Of course, WVU was also predicted eighth last season, but there was something still shiny and new about the Big 12, and the league had not yet proven capable of bringing the program to its knees.

The inescapable truth is WVU is 6-12 in Big 12 play and has lost 14 of 20 games overall.

Having said all of that, some of the things the Mountaineers just cannot avoid are also good. After three seasons trying to get there, the roster is replenished, and all across the depth chart are players with experience in starting spots backed up by other players with experience. On both sides of the ball, players the Mountaineers were once made to rely on have either developed or been moved aside by an infusion of talent.

There are a handful of quarterbacks and a swarm of running backs, and injuries at both spots have dented Holgorsen's best designs each of the past two seasons. The Mountaineers might only start one or two players who weren't with the team in the spring, a significant difference from last season, when the Mountaineers leaned on starters who hit campus over the summer.

"The style of ball that exists in the Big 12, although it's a very exciting style of play, you're going to end up taking more snaps," Holgorsen said. "So when guys get tired, you better be able to replace those guys with guys that go in and perform at a very high level. I think we're at that point right now. We have 55 guys on our team that have played Big 12 football. So that just means that there are guys that have played that are experienced and should continue to get better each and every year."

And then there's the notion that a proud program with a winning tradition and without consecutive losing seasons since 1978-79 is due for a turnaround. Three of the 14 losses the past two seasons were in overtime, one when a winning two-point conversion pass appeared to hit the ground in the end zone. One regulation loss to Oklahoma came on a fourth-down touchdown pass with seconds remaining and another came on the road on a day the special teams gave the Sooners 10 points and the defense allowed a pair of field-goal drives in a 16-7 loss. Just last season, WVU lost three games when it had a fourth quarter lead and one when it had a third quarter lead.

Ever since Texas sailed a snap over the quarterback's head on WVU's goal line and then missed a field goal to key WVU's road win in 2012 and the 5-0 start and top-five national ranking, very few breaks have gone the Mountaineers' way. Iowa State lost a fumble going into WVU's end zone late in a Cyclones' home loss in 2013 and TCU did the same at home to help the Mountaineers last season, but that's about it. There are others, but not many and not ones big enough to assist, never mind overcome, WVU's other issues.

Lording over all of that is the obvious, the greatest separator standing between the struggles WVU has experienced the past two seasons and the successes it still seeks. The Mountaineers have been betrayed by bad defense. Curing that is the top priority as preseason camp gets started.

To do so, Holgorsen has a new defensive coordinator, the fourth in his four seasons. This time, it's Tony Gibson, who's never had the position at the Football Bowl Subdivision level and who has never coached linebackers at any level in his career. It's not a startling statement to say the dialogue of the season will be dictated by the job Gibson does with his defense.

"You better be able to improve defensively and stop some people," Holgorsen said, "if you want to win some games."

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To change the fate of the Mountaineers, Gibson is making changes amid the changes happening around him.

Being elevated to coordinator for the first time is a nuance and not a negative, something he's wanted and ultimately earned after 14 years at three FBS schools. Being in control of the linebackers after working with cornerbacks and safeties his entire career is more benefit than bane.

"One thing that I figured out after spring ball and going through the summer is that as long as I can help it, I'll never go back to coaching the secondary after coaching linebackers," Gibson said. "I really like it. You're in the heat of it and you get a feel for both sides of it with the run and the pass and how everything works in the front and in the back end. I think being the coordinator, you have to be there. I'm not sure you can do it from the secondary."

Gibson is joined in the middle of it all with fellow first-timer Damon Cogdell, the former WVU linebacker and famed coach of Florida's Miramar High, but also beginning his first season as a college coach. Behind them is Joe DeForest, who is back with the safeties, which is where he started as the coordinator in 2012 before he was demoted to special teams late that season, when he was replaced by then-linebackers coach Keith Patterson, who is now the coordinator at Arizona State.

In front of them is Tom Bradley, who's first season with WVU as the defensive line coach comes after two seasons out of the game and in the media and, more famously, 33 years at Penn State.

Gibson, perhaps more renowned for his recruiting than his coaching through the years, said Bradley was the team's greatest offseason acquisition, which is no small designation since FCS All-American Shaquille Riddick might jump in and start at defensive end and freshman Dravon Henry was said by Holgorsen to be the favorite to start at free safety. Neither has even practiced yet.

Getting Bradley wasn't easy, nor was it the team's first attempt to have him join a former rival.

"The first thing Dana asked me once Keith left and we talked about making me coordinator was, 'Can you give me some names for guys you'd like to talk to?'" Gibson said. "The first guy I brought up was Tom."

Gibson first admired Bradley from a distance and then enjoyed a growing friendship as they crossed paths on the recruiting circuit. Holgorsen had reason to be suspicious because, Gibson said, WVU had tried before to hire Bradley, but Gibson gave Holgorsen reason to believe the head coach and athletic director Oliver Luck could finish a conversation Gibson would start.

"Dana had known about him and had talked to him before, but then we all got together a couple times and were on the phone with him and selling him on West Virginia and what it means, what he can bring, how valuable we thought he was and those kinds of things, and I think he started to give it some serious consideration," Gibson said. "From there, Dana and Oliver both did a great job getting the thing done."

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The statistics and the national rankings suggest otherwise, but the Mountaineers are not a lost cause on defense. True, the statistics and national rankings are near the bottom of the FBS and, yes, the 2012 version was the worst in school history and last season's defense was only marginally better.

But it's not fair to say WVU wasn't improving last season. After five games and an upset at home against Oklahoma State in which the defense allowed 2.8 yards per rush on 40 attempts, stopped 14 of 20 third downs, forced 10 punts and five three-and-outs, scored on an interception return and set up a field goal with a fumble recovery, the Mountaineers seemed to have a solid defense under Patterson's watch. WVU was ranked No. 37 in total defense, No. 31 in passing defense and No. 36 in scoring defense.

Then Baylor happened.

Confidence was destroyed and then depth endured a similar fate with a rash of injuries. The bottom fell out and the Mountaineers sunk toward the bottom of the nation again.

Gibson has a starting point for fixing that.

"I don't like giving up big plays, and obviously nobody does, but that's been the problem here the last couple of years," he said. "It's crazy to look at it, but if we can limit the number of big plays, we're going to be right back in the thick of it again."

In the past two seasons WVU has allowed 84 passing plays of at least 25 yards and 32 running plays of at least 20 yards. Both are the highest totals in the Big 12.

Gibson believes he can help by enabling his players to line up faster and make sure they're in the right play. WVU will have left and right cornerbacks instead of field and boundary cornerbacks. No longer will a field cornerback have to hustle to the wide side of the field between snaps, unless WVU decides one game to lock a cornerback on a specific receiver wherever he goes.

That's one of a few positional changes that haven't received much attention. WVU will use left and right defensive ends. Brandon Golson, who started all 12 games at Buck linebacker last season and had seven tackles for a loss and four sacks. He's now a Will linebacker, which is an outside position opposite the Sam linebacker. The Will plays the weakside of the formation and the Sam plays the strong side and they can easily flip in a small space before a snap. Between them in the box is the Mike, or middle, linebacker.

The outside has changed without the Buck and with the positioning of the hybrid defensive back/linebacker Spur on the open side and a Bandit safety on the other side. They're basically the same. Behind them is a free safety keeping a top on things, though the Spur and Bandit have to be able to drop and cover.

It all sounds similar to the 3-3-5 odd stack Gibson taught here with former defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel. One of Casteel's better performers through the years was Anthony Leonard, a linebacker from 2007-10. To little fanfare, though for obvious benefit, Leonard was hired in the offseason as a defensive graduate assistant. He'd been the defensive line coach at West Virginia Wesleyan, where Gibson's son, Cody, in an offensive lineman.

"We watch cuts-ups with the players and Anthony is the one in the cut-ups," Gibson said. "The kids see him doing it up there and understand he knows what he's doing when he's talking to them."

What will further expedite the learning and ideally improve the performance is lightening the responsibilities. Gibson pictures an odd front with multiple looks and coverages, but he promised a defense that's less complicated and easier to process.

"We're not going run 15 different coverages and 15 different blitzes and 15 different fronts," he said. "I think there's a point where you do too much and you can never get good at anything. So that's my goal: Let's keep it simple, but not so simple that everyone we're playing understands it. It'll let them play faster and play at a high level."

WVU ATHLETICS: Secondary violations extremely common with thorough NCAA rules http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140729/DM03/140729181 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140729/DM03/140729181 Tue, 29 Jul 2014 21:52:34 -0400 By Mike Casazza MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - On July 25, 2013, Lacey Gibson, West Virginia University's associate athletic director for compliance, had a meeting with Tomi Oliverio, the director of operations for the women's basketball team. Together they'd review the recruiting materials the Mountaineers were using and sending to prospective student-athletes.

This is normal inside the WVU Coliseum and around the athletic department, and this time it produced an abnormality. Gibson recognized that a previously approved envelope used for mailings was 10 inches wide and 13 inches tall. That's a secondary violation of an NCAA rule that allows schools to use envelopes that are 9 inches wide and 12 inches tall. The margin of error between good and bad is literally that small, though WVU does not accept such mistakes and actually has procedures in place to prevent one like that.

Recruiting materials are regularly reviewed, and in its self-report to the NCAA last July, WVU said the "impermissible envelope had been reviewed previously by the compliance office but the contents were through email and therefore the size was not evident through the initial review."

It was one of 24 violations WVU addressed across 11 sports from Jan. 1, 2013 to March 21, 2014. Records were obtained by the Charleston Daily Mail through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The NCAA defines a secondary violation to be something "isolated or inadvertant (sic) in nature, (that) provides or is intended to provide only a minimal recruiting, competitive or other advantage and does not include any significant recruiting inducement or extra benefit." 

Upwards of 4,000 violations are self-reported to the NCAA every year, and there are occasions when the NCAA will consider the commission of multiple secondary violations to be a major violation. Two dozen errors might seem like a lot, especially at a school that's been on probation twice in recent years for major NCAA violations, and that's fine with WVU athletic director Oliver Luck.

He recalled a meeting shortly after he was hired in 2010 with an outside consultant who had helped WVU with NCAA governance issues in the past. Luck was trying to gain a better understanding of compliance operations and oversight and set aside a few hours to that one particular conversation.

"The most interesting thing I learned, which was completely counterintuitive to me at least, was that you're expected to file a lot of secondary violations," he said. "If you file none, that puts up a red flag for the NCAA. They know you can't be perfect.

"It was difficult for me to understand that concept. I said to the consultant, 'Really?' He said, 'Oh yes, every school needs to be turning in these secondary violations.'"

WVU's compliance recordkeeping attributed most of the violations to innocent mistakes by coaches, student-athletes, recruits, a recruit's family member or even a member of the athletic department. With only a few exceptions, the offender couldn't have known a violation was being committed.

The women's cross country team, for example, let a runner practice 10 times last fall before she'd been cleared by the NCAA's Eligibility Center. The runner previously attended a compliance meeting designed to complete the review of her eligibility. The compliance office didn't know about the meeting, so when the runner left, there was no way for compliance to know she had an unresolved eligibility issue.

The runner was forced to sit out 19 practices, and WVU instituted a more thorough way to track eligibility proceedings.

Almost all issues are cured by rules education, a necessary evil because there are so many rules to observe and so many ways to innocently step out of bounds. The meetings, whether proactive or punitive, are valuable to help WVU police itself, sometimes after the fact. Women's soccer coach Nikki Izzo-Brown realized during routine rules awareness meetings in March 2013 that she'd committed a secondary violation a month earlier.

She'd emailed a soccer club head coach and extended a scholarship offer to a player on Feb. 25, 2013. A bylaw prohibits a written offer before Aug. 1 of a prospect's senior year. Brown knew the player was a sophomore but, according to a letter to the NCAA, "wasn't aware of the rule until the rules education meeting."

Schools are allowed to verbally extend a scholarship offer before that Aug. 1 date.

"The key question is, 'Is all of it necessary?'" Luck said "Are we wasting time and resources because of a tweet or a phone call on the wrong day or a meal that was provided inappropriately? That's really a legitimate question. With all the resources we have, does it make sense to spend all that energy and money doing all of that oversight stuff?"

Sometimes rules and violations seem silly, but adhering to procedures across the board does matter. The volleyball program used the same illegal - though previously approved - envelopes and was thus guilty of a secondary violation. Those were the only violations committed by women's basketball and volleyball during the 15-month period. Some sports were more active while men's basketball, men's soccer, wrestling, women's track and women's tennis committed none.

Though the violations were minor and resulted in no substantial punishments for the teams or the university, WVU prohibited coaches from commenting for this story. Keli Cunningham, the executive senior athletic director in charge of governance and compliance, declined comment, though she and her staff are widely credited for running what's considered by Luck to be a successful operation.

"Keli and her staff have done an amazing job since they all got here," Luck said of the Petersburg native who was his first athletic department hire in August 2010.

"She's very talented, and we've emphasized it. We've talked to the coaches and the staffs about, 'Hey, we've got to follow all the rules.' Some may be silly and some may make sense, but we've emphasized it to make sure we walk the straight and narrow pay. By and large, I think our coaches have done that. Maybe they've made a couple mistakes, but very often it's ignorance and just making an honest mistake."

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Football is perhaps the most prone to secondary violations because of all the potential faults in the activities of up to 105 players, the visibility and potential manipulation of star players and the breadth of recruiting activities and legislation. WVU's football program was guilty of four secondary violations that involved seven active student-athletes and one prospective student-athlete who later joined the program.

The misgivings were minimal. One player had to pay restitution to a charity after accepting $42 for selling back a textbook he received as part of his scholarship after dropping a class. WVU educated the bookstore staff and issued handouts to serve as reminders.

In 2011 and 2012, WVU approved the use of images of football players for schedule advertisements in a local newspaper. When the school and the newspaper worked on the 2013 edition, WVU discovered the poster contained two commercial advertisements.

It reviewed the prior two posters and saw both used commercial advertisements, which is a violation. WVU previously believed the posters contained WVU advertisements, which is permissible. The 2013 version was nixed, but WVU educated the newspaper and its marketing staff on rules for the improper use of a player's name or image.

On Sept. 10, a student-athlete who was at a different college before enrolling Aug. 1 was being interviewed during the weekly media appointment and unknowingly admitted to violating the NCAA bylaw for advertisements and promotions after becoming a student-athlete. The description of the undisclosed action was noticed by an assistant sports information director, who reported it to Gibson. WVU performed rules education a day later, ruled the player ineligible and requested the NCAA expedite a ruling. The outcome is not included in WVU's paperwork.

Most egregious was the product of Twitter. On Dec. 9, 2013, running back Rushel Shell, a transfer from Pitt who sat out last season, used his account to encourage fans to follow and congratulate Dravon Henry, who committed to WVU earlier that day.

Shell promised his "lil bro/new teammate" would "make big plays" starting in 2014. Both are from Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, so it wasn't odd to see Shell excited about another Pittsburgh product joining the Mountaineers. It was forbidden, though, by a NCAA bylaw that prohibits coaches and players from commenting on unsigned recruits.

WVU, which redacted names in the self-report, but confirmed at the time it was reporting the action, said in its self-report that the unnamed offender "incorrectly believed that the parameters of Bylaw would not apply due to a pre-existing relationship."

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Baseball was also active in violations, but once again never maliciously and sometimes imperceptibly. Included was one of the more meaningful mistakes WVU committed, but one the Mountaineers didn't know about before an anonymous tip.

On May 22, 2013, the eve of the Big 12 tournament, someone called a "local media outlet" and suggested coach Randy Mazey's first team scheduled more regular-season games than the NCAA allowed. The news outlet contacted WVU and the compliance staff decided the Mountaineers scheduled 57 games, one more than the maximum allowed. The compliance office previously approved a 56-game schedule Mazey built and submitted on Oct. 5, 2013.

The difference came from a game played Oct. 21 against Potomac State College, one the baseball program considered to be an exhibition. PSC, though, is a member of the National Junior College Athletic Association, meaning the game counted toward the 56 allowed. The compliance office reported it had "no knowledge of the competition" because it was not listed on the schedule Mazey submitted. "As a result," WVU wrote to the NCAA, "the need to cancel a game was not identified."

WVU followed the general two-for-one principle for self-imposed penalties for secondary violations and allowed Mazey to schedule 54 games for the 2014 season. WVU ended up playing 51 because of cancellations as a result of inclement weather. The Mountaineers narrowly missed their first NCAA tournament appearance since 1996.

While that mistake was about one game, the baseball program committed another secondary violation because it missed a deadline by one day. On June 29, 2012, three weeks after Mazey was hired, the school's financial aid office sent a player with two seasons of eligibility remaining a letter telling him his scholarship would be renewed. The player was supposed to receive a letter informing him the scholarship would not be renewed.

Mazey called the player July 1 to clarify the error, and the financial aid office sent the proper letter a day later. A NCAA bylaw says players have to receive the definitive letter by July 1. WVU didn't discover the violation until March 22, 2013, when the player, who transferred, appealed for a waiver to be immediately eligible at his new school and detailed what happened at WVU.

The player made sure to note, though, that Mazey offered the player a chance to sign the initial renewal letter, if he chose.

In all, the baseball program was the subject of eight secondary violations, which is not to say it was guilty of eight.

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WVU's compliance office contested half of the eight violations in questions. It self-reported the scheduling mistake, the missed deadline and a separate financial aid error, plus one secondary violation for summer athletic activities. That was one of three alleged errors about practicing in the summer. WVU combatted two of the three and also fought a pair of alleged observation violations.

The NCAA's enforcement staff initially inquired about three practices during the summer and prior to Sept. 1, 2012, as well as a pair of "assessment activities" at a local high school and on campus. WVU was able to confirm one summer activity in July 2012 with Mazey, his two assistants and seven pitchers "to discuss arm care and to demonstrate various training techniques to support injury prevention," according to a letter to the NCAA.

The meeting lasted 25 minutes and WVU stressed that at "no point during the demonstration were the student-athletes instructed to pitch or engage in activities at the observation of the coaching staff." Mazey and his assistants each wrote letters saying it was not a practice - most pitchers didn't even bring a glove - and was intended to help pitchers take care of their arms during a time the team was without trainers and strength and conditioning staff to help the team.

WVU nevertheless said that "although the activity was not intended to be a typical practice, the action by the coaching staff to assemble the student-athletes" was contrary to a pair of bylaws.

WVU also contested the claim the staff separately had a player on campus and a prospective student-athlete at his high school perform physical activities to prove their ability. Assistant coach Derek Matlock said he and Mazey did observe for 15 minutes during that summer a pitcher recovering from injury to see if he was on schedule with a throwing and recovery program. Mazey said they were watching a previously planned bullpen session and their presence was again meant to ensure his pitchers were healthy without supervision.

Mazey also denied engaging a prospect on a high school campus, saying he didn't know who the player in question was and stating at the time he had "never set foot on a high school campus in the state of West Virginia."

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The majority of secondary violations across the country occur in recruiting. Eleven of WVU's secondary violations, including the big envelopes, Shell's tweet, Izzo-Brown's written offer and the alleged baseball interaction at a high school, were considered to happen in recruiting. Included was another of the most flagrant overall offenses the Mountaineers committed.

In March 2012, WVU discovered a violation from two years earlier. On Feb. 20, 2011, a rifle recruit was unable to make a flight home because of inclement weather. Coach Jon Hammond received approval from the compliance office to extend the official visit two days. Harley King, the compliance director, "failed to file the report with the conference office," WVU wrote in a self-report. The Mountaineers were guilty of violating the bylaw for exceptions to the 48-hour period for extenuating circumstances on official visits. King was issued a letter of admonishment.

On May 29, 2013 assistant gymnastics coach Travis Doak received an email from a prospect who said she was interested in WVU. Doak replied, according to WVU, "because he mistakenly believed she was a high school junior." The NCAA has dates for permissible contact for various sports based on junior years. Doak realized he'd made a mistake two days later and reported his error.

WVU defended him and wrote "Doak didn't send an email out of interest" and instead responded to her initial message. Further, the Mountaineers said they weren't recruiting the prospect and had no plans to do so, but agreed to refrain from communicating with her until Sept. 13 if they changed their minds.

Last September, assistant rowing coach Stacy VanOrder reported she had emailed back and forth with an international prospect before Sept. 1 of the prospect's junior year. However, a glitch in software the team uses to assist international recruiting didn't list the prospects graduation date. VanOrder "inadvertently assumed" the prospect was a junior, but turned herself in when the exchanged with the prospect revealed she was a sophomore.

WVU administered more rules education and decided to keep the rowing staff from communicating with the prospect for two weeks after the permissible date the following year.

Later that month, the women's swim team played host to a prospect on an official visit over a 48-hour period from Sept. 27-29. On Sept. 26, the prospect's father had a meal and the $34.02 charge was put on the bill for the hotel stay. WVU paid the bill as part of the recruiting visit, even though the prospect wasn't considered to be visiting on the day of the meal. WVU said its staff knew it was impermissible and that the "isolated issue that resulted from an error" wasn't due to a lack of understanding of the rules.

This past January, a men's swim team recruit took an unofficial visit. The men's basketball team played host to Oklahoma State and assistant coach Damion Dennis gave the prospect, who was accompanied by his parents and brother, four free tickets to the game. The NCAA bylaw for official visits allows a school to hand out three free tickets. The mistake, discovered in an audit two weeks later, saw the prospect ruled ineligible and made to pay $32 to a charity. On Feb. 8, he made a $60 donation to Ronald McDonald House Charities.

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymailwv.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/wvu. Follow him on Twitter at @mikecasazza.

WVU FOOTBALL: Charges dropped against Mountaineers' Smallwood http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140729/DM03/140729216 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140729/DM03/140729216 Tue, 29 Jul 2014 17:59:04 -0400

from staff reports

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Charges of witness intimidation in a Delaware murder case were dropped Tuesday against West Virginia University running back Wendell Smallwood, clearing his way to begin fall practice Thursday with the team.

Zakee Lloyd pleaded guilty Tuesday morning to second-degree murder in the April 2012 death of Manuel Oliveras, reported the News Journal in Wilmington, Del. Smallwood, 20, had faced up to two years in prison if convicted on the intimidation charges.

Sources told the Daily Mail on Tuesday that Smallwood would be held from all team activities until that trial's conclusion, when his status would be reevaluated. WVU said Tuesday that Smallwood will in camp Thursday.

Prosecutors had a recording of Smallwood and Lloyd discussing how to get a witness against Lloyd to change her story, but according to the News Journal, the prosecutors said there was no evidence of Smallwood's involvement in the murder and no evidence that threats actually were made against the woman.

Prosecution spokesman Jason Miller said in a statement that Smallwood had been fully cooperative and was set to testify against Lloyd, calling Smallwood's cooperation "instrumental to the state in securing (Tuesday's) conviction."

Smallwood, a 5-foot-11, 200-pound sophomore, is the Mountaineers' second-leading returning rusher and averaged 5.7 yards per carry last season. He also gained 132 yards on 11 catches and finished ninth in the Big 12 in kick returns, averaging 18.0 yards a return.

Judge denies request to void WVU, IMG contract http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140726/DM01/140729404 DM01 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140726/DM01/140729404 Sat, 26 Jul 2014 20:26:57 -0400 By Jared Hunt A state judge has denied a West Virginia Radio Corp. request to throw out the media rights contract between West Virginia University and its multimedia partner IMG College.

Business Court Division Judge Thomas Evans issued the ruling Thursday, which clears the way for WVU's athletic department to continue working with IMG and its partners to broadcast and promote WVU sporting events.

For more than a year, West Virginia Radio, owned by Morgantown businessman John Raese, has been in a protracted legal battle with the university over its handling of outsourcing the athletic department's multimedia rights.

West Virginia Radio, which had for decades worked with WVU's Mountaineer Sports Network to broadcast football and basketball games on radio, was an early but unsuccessful bidder for those rights.

The university's initial bidding process was scrapped after Raese raised objections regarding the involvement of WVU Board of Governors members Drew Payne and David Alvarez, who have financial ties with Bray Cary's West Virginia Media, which planned to partner with IMG should it be awarded the contract.

After a second round of bids - in which West Virginia Radio Corp. did not participate - the school last July awarded a contract to North Carolina-based IMG College to manage its multimedia properties, including management of local radio and television game broadcasts and coaches shows; publications including media guides and schedules; digital platforms, such as social media and websites; corporate sponsorships; at-event promotions and game day hospitality; stadium and venue signage; and advertising in university-owned and leased athletic facilities.

The contract guaranteed IMG would pay the school a minimum of $86.5 million over a 12-year period.

The radio company then filed a civil lawsuit against the school, IMG College, West Virginia Media, WVU Athletic Director Oliver Luck, Payne, Alvarez and others, which was eventually transferred to the state's Business Court Division.

In February, West Virginia Radio filed a motion for summary judgment in the case, asking a judge to void WVU's contract with IMG due to claims school officials violated state procurement laws.

Evans heard arguments on the matter in May and issued his ruling last week.

Evans denied West Virginia Radio's request to void the contract over alleged violations of state procurement laws because, the judge ruled, those laws don't apply to this particular bid process.

State law states any purchases by a state agency in excess of $25,000 must go through a competitive bidding process. If violations occur in the bidding process, the law says any subsequent contract can rendered void.

However, Evans said WVU wasn't buying anything with its multimedia rights contract; rather, the contract was designed to generate money for the school.

"With a revenue-generating contract, WVU (Board of Governors) is not 'purchasing' goods or services," Evans wrote in his decision. "No money is paid by WVU to IMG for the services that are subject to the (media rights agreement)."

Evans also said it was clear the statute didn't apply in this case because it specifies purchases must be awarded to "the lowest responsible bidder."

"A revenue-generating contract is ordinarily awarded to the 'highest' responsible bidder," Evans said in his ruling. "The statue does not state that revenue-generating contracts are an exception to the 'lowest responsible bidder' standard. Revenue-generating contracts are not mentioned in the statute."

Evans' ruling lines up with a similar finding last April from state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who, after investigating the matter following Raese's initial round of complaints, determined WVU did not need to bid out the media rights contract because it was revenue-generating.

WVU does have its own internal procurement rules regarding revenue-generating contracts that were drawn up using state law as a basis. While those internal rules could have been violated in the IMG bidding process, Evans said the rules can't be used as a basis to void the contract under the law because "rules cannot enlarge statutory enactments."

This is not the first time West Virginia Radio has lost in an attempt to block WVU's contract with IMG. Last August, the judge denied a request for an injunction that would have stopped WVU from partnering with IMG a week before the start of last year's football season.

Though Evans has thrown out West Virginia Radio's request for summary judgment to void the WVU-IMG contract, it is not the end of the case.

He ruled the allegations made regarding improper activity by parties at WVU, including Alvarez and Payne, were issues to be dealt with at a trial.

Contact writer Jared Hunt at business@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-4836.

WVU WRESTLING: Assistant coach to compete in World Team Trials http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140723/DM03/140729597 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140723/DM03/140729597 Wed, 23 Jul 2014 22:55:25 -0400

from staff reports

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - West Virginia University wrestling assistant coach Nick Marable will compete in the 2014 United States World Team Trials this week in Fargo, N.D., for a chance to represent Team USA at the 2014 World Wrestling Championships.

WVU head coach Sammie Henson will accompany Marable, who is representing Sunkist Kids Wrestling Club at the competition.

The trials will take place, Thursday, at the Fargodome with the Men's Freestyle Challenge Tournament starting at 9:30 a.m., followed by the Men's Freestyle Finals at 3:15 p.m.

Qualifiers will compete in the challenge tournament with the winner advancing to the Final Wrestle-Off to face Marable, who earned an automatic berth after winning the U.S. Open earlier this year. The finals will follow a best-of-three format.

The 2014 World Wrestling Championships will take place September 8-14 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

WVU FOOTBALL: Mountaineers to face N.C. State in home and home series http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140723/DM03/140729686 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140723/DM03/140729686 Wed, 23 Jul 2014 16:00:53 -0400


MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - West Virginia University Director of Athletics Oliver Luck has announced that the Mountaineers will play a home-and-home series with Atlantic Coast Conference member North Carolina State.

The Mountaineers are scheduled to play N.C. State in Raleigh on Sept. 15, 2018, and then face the Wolfpack at Milan Puskar Stadium on Sept. 14, 2019.

"I am excited about this series, because it gives our football program and our fans an outstanding home-and-home series with a team from the ACC," Luck said. "WVU has a lot of alumni living in North Carolina, especially in the triangle region, so it gives our fans a game that is close. We have had a competitive games over the years with NC State, and this is a chance to restart the series."

The teams are guaranteed $300,000 for each game, according to the contract agreed to by the teams. The penalty for canceling either contest will cost the breaching party $1 million.

As for the home-and-home series with the Wolfpack, the visiting team will be allocated up to 3,000 tickets for sale to its fans and will retain no more than 500 unsold tickets from the original allotment two weeks prior to game day. Additionally, the visiting school will be allotted 500 complimentary tickets. Dates for the games have not been determined.

WVU also plans to announce a non-conference opponent for the 2016 season in the near future.

The two teams have played each other 10 times, including three bowl games, with the first meeting in 1914 and the last time in the 2010 Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando, Fla. The Wolfpack earned a 23-7 victory in that game, marking the final game at N.C. State for quarterback Russell Wilson and Bill Stewart's last game as coach of the Mountaineers. The series it tied at five.

The announcement comes one day after WVU revealed that it will face Tennessee in Charlotte, N.C., in 2018, giving the Mountaineers two visits to North Carolina in three weeks that season. WVU and Tennessee each will receive $2.5 million for their season-opening meeting that year.

West Virginia opens its 2014 season against Alabama in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Aug. 30 at 3:30 p.m. The game will be televised on ABC.

WVU BASEBALL: Fleming forgoes senior season after signing with Yankees http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140722/DM03/140729722 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140722/DM03/140729722 Tue, 22 Jul 2014 22:42:37 -0400

from staff reports

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - West Virginia University second baseman Billy Fleming will forgo his senior season after signing a professional contract with the New York Yankees. Fleming went undrafted in June's Major League Baseball Amateur Draft.

Last season, Fleming earned All-Big 12 First Team and ABCA/Rawlings All-East Region First Team honors, after finishing second in the Big 12 with a .351 batting average. The Churchville, Pa., native added eight doubles, one triple, two home runs and 30 RBI. He also became the second Mountaineer to hit for the cycle, doing so versus Kansas on May 11.

Fleming completes his WVU career with a .322 batting average, 25 doubles, three triples, two home runs and 75 RBI. He becomes the seventh member of the 2014 WVU baseball team to sign professionally.

WVU FOOTBALL: Regular season still important http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140722/DM03/140729724 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140722/DM03/140729724 Tue, 22 Jul 2014 22:17:04 -0400 By Mike Casazza

DALLAS - Bill Hancock is the executive director of the College Football Playoff and he has a particularly pointed opinion about the four-team tournament that will crown a national champion for the next 12 years.

He doesn't think it's the most important part of the season.

"Our regular season is a treasure," he said. "It is the best in sports, and college football's identity is Saturdays. Its identity is not this postseason tournament. We have to protect our regular season."

Hancock said Tuesday at the Big 12's annual media days here that the four-team format is locked in for the first 12 years and is "not going to expand" to add length to the postseason and diminish and jeopardize what happens before it.

"I don't think a four-team tournament erodes it, but there is a threshold beyond which playoff size would erode the regular season," said Hancock, formerly the head of the Bowl Championship Series, which was replaced after 16 years by the playoff. "You don't want to play too many games. You just can't cross that threshold. Four doesn't."

This city is a hub for playoff activity this year. The first championship game will be played at Jones AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys. The playoff is headquartered in an office in Las Colinas, not far from the stadium, and the selection committee members will travel here six times for meetings to shape and reveal a top-25 ranking that will be revealed weekly beginning Oct. 28.

WVU athletic director is Oliver Luck is one of 13 members on the committee and Hancock said their weekly work is essential to creating excitement for the playoff, but also for the regular season he seeks to sustain.

"We wanted it to be the equivalent of the BCS standings," he said. "The reason we're doing that is because the BCS standings were very good for the regular season and we didn't want to see that go away."

Hancock said the BCS standings, whether agreeable or combustible, served a surprising purpose. All the BCS was supposed to do was put the two top-ranked teams against one another in a title game, but the road there as mapped out by the weekly standings created what Hancock called an "unintended consequence" to boost the interest and the intensity in the regular season.

Hancock wants to keep that rolling. He embraces the inevitable "hot stove, corner drug store debate," but he also wanted to avoid surprises.

"We didn't want to drop four teams out of the sky onto fans," he said. "We want there to be some transparency and to let them know what the committee was thinking."

To find the best four teams at the end, the committee members will consider four criteria: head-to-head results, results against common opponents, strength of schedule and conference championships.

The final two are vital for the Big 12, the only one of the five high-visibility conferences that has members play every team in a regular season, but also the only one without a conference championship game. The conference is rallying around those qualities and ushered in the "One True Champion" motto here this week.

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said he's not concerned about the distinctions, but said the league "is not oblivious," either. He believes the round-robin style will resonate with committee members when teams in other leagues can avoid certain conference foes. He noted the Big 12 champion has been decided on the final day the past five seasons and the loser of a conference championship game is "damaged goods" for bowl games, which would include the playoff semifinals.

The Big 12 had three teams lose the conference title games when a win would have pushed the team into the national title game.

"They will look very carefully at other leagues," Bowlsby said. "When you're 7‑1 and another league is 7-1, it's not going to be 7‑1 as a standalone number.  It's 7‑1 based on who you played and who you beat and also who you didn't play. So I like our path to the championship very much. And that really is sum and substance of why we are promoting the difference between how we determine a champion and how other leagues determine their champions."

It's a variable the Big 12 has to deal with for the coming years. Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said at the Atlantic Coast Conference media days Monday it's "ridiculous" every league doesn't have a title game. South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier told ESPN Tuesday he didn't think it mattered because the Big 12 plays the round robin schedule.

The Big 12 and the ACC have petitioned the NCAA to change the rules for conference championship games. Presently, a league has to have at least two divisions with six teams in each to stage such a game. Bowlsby said the Big 12 advocates change in the event it later decides to take the top two teams from its lone division and pair them in a title game.

"From our perspective, we don't care," Hancock said. "We just take the champions the conference gives us. Conferences through the years have been helped by having championship games and have been hurt by having championship games. The Big 12 was helped some years and hurt some other years. It's a conference decision and we stay on the sideline. They give us the teams they give us.

"Having said that, you can make a case for a championship game because it gives two teams another game against a quality opponent and a chance to enhance the quality of schedule. But I just don't see it as being a big factor for the committee one way or the other."

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymailwv.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com. Follow him on Twitter at @mikecasazza.

WVU FOOTBALL: Mountaineers to play Tennessee in 2018 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140722/DM03/140729725 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140722/DM03/140729725 Tue, 22 Jul 2014 22:14:51 -0400 By Mike Casazza

DALLAS - West Virginia and Tennessee will each make at least $2.5 million for their season-opening game in 2018, and excitement among the fans could deliver an additional $700,000.

The matchup, officially under the control of the Charlotte Sports Foundation that operates the Belk Bowl and the ACC's championship game, was announced Tuesday. The Charleston Daily Mail obtained the game contract from WVU through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Charlotte Sports Events, the company organizing the game at Bank of America Stadium, in Charlotte, N.C., guarantees both teams $2.5 million and offers $400,000 if ticket sales surpass 66,000, another $100,000 if ticket sales top 70,000 and another $200,000 if all 72,500 tickets are sold.

The Mountaineers have never played the Volunteers, who are coached by former WVU assistant Butch Jones. The game will be played Sept. 1, 2018, and the home team will be decided by Feb. 1, 2018.

WVU opens this season against Alabama in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff game and plays Maryland two weeks later. It now has non-conference games in the coming years scheduled against Tennessee, Maryland (2015, 2020-21) BYU (2016), Virginia Tech (2017, 2021-22) and Penn State (2023-24). A source said Tuesday that WVU is working to finalize a home-and-home series with North Carolina State for 2018-19 that would see the Mountaineers play host to the Wolfpack in 2019. WVU also plans to announce a non-conference opponent for the 2016 season in the near future.

"This matchup against Tennessee is very attractive, featuring a quality opponent from a highly visible conference at a NFL Stadium," WVU athletic director Oliver Luck said. "We have a lot of fans and alumni living in the Charlotte area, and this is another outstanding game in close proximity that our fans can travel to easily. We never have played Tennessee before in football and both states are similar in makeup, so it's time for us to meet on the football field."

The home team will have the exclusive right to televise or distribute the game and the home team's conference keeps the revenue. The home team also has the first choice for jersey color, though the contract allows the visiting team to wear its dark home jersey.

The home team has to provide a chain crew, a clock operator, replay equipment, a press box announcer and a public address announcer and is responsible for press box operations. The officials are to be from a neutral conference, "preferably from the Big Ten."

Both schools agreed to buy 12,500 tickets from CSE and can sell those to their fans. Up to 500 tickets are allotted to each marching band. The schools will also work together to each set aside 2,000 for students. Student tickets that are unsold on June 1, 2018, will go to the school's general allotment.

CSE will provide both teams 90 parking passes and two suites with seating for up to 12 people, though the schools are responsible for any food and beverage tabs in the suite. CSE will also make sure WVU and Tennessee each "have one end zone on the field painted in a way that resembles one end zone at their respective home football games."

If CSE cancels the game before Sept. 1, 2017, it pays both schools $250,000 in liquidated damages. If the company breaches the contract after that date, the fee doubles. Similarly, if either team cancels before Sept. 1, 2017, it owes both the other school and CSE $250,000. The total doubles for a later breach.

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymailwv.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/wvu. Follow him on Twitter at @mikecasazza.

WVU FOOTBALL: Holgorson: No rolling through the Big 12 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140722/DM03/140729726 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140722/DM03/140729726 Tue, 22 Jul 2014 22:11:51 -0400 By Mike Casazza

DALLAS - By the end Tuesday, Dana Holgorsen had mastered the response to the question most often asked of the West Virginia head coach: Have the Mountaineers adjusted to life in the Big 12?

"I've answered this probably 70 times today," he said at the conclusion of the conference's two-day media-days extravaganza. "There are more snaps in the Big 12. Each and every one of the teams is competitive. The coaching is off-the-charts good at each and every one of the schools. When you play in a situation like that, it's going to be competitive."

Holgorsen was 10-3 and won the Orange Bowl in his first season at WVU, which was the school's last season in the Big East. He's 11-14 overall and 6-12 in Big 12 games since the Mountaineers entered the conference in July 2012. Last season's 4-8 record was the worst since two coaches and 12 seasons earlier.

"Well, the days of rolling through the Big East and being able to play in a BCS game are long gone," Holgorsen said. "We're not thinking about that anymore. Although that was fun and that was a huge moment for West Virginia University, it's a whole different ballgame right now. And one of the things that has happened in the Big 12 over the last two years is we have not been dominant in the Big 12, obviously." 

Holgorsen took time here to explain some of the struggles, like the hassle of having two injured quarterbacks in one season after never losing a quarterback to injury before in his career or the pratfalls of a decimated defense that had to rely on first-year players. He pointed out overtime losses and defeats that came after leading in the third or fourth quarter.

He reminded the audience he has a healthy quarterback and 55 players who have played in the Big 12. He even tiptoed around a comparison to Baylor, which was a middling team in the middle of the 2012 season, but one that was in the process of stocking and developing its defense. The Bears won the conference last season and are now a team at which others aim.

"You're going to lose guys to injuries, you're going to lose guys to the style of play that happens, which is a lot of snaps," Holgorsen said. "You've got to be able to plug people in who can play at a high level. If you can't, you're going to get beat. That's the situation we were in the last two years and I hope we've got the guys now who perform at a high level when it's their time to go in and play."

n n n

THE MOUNTAINEERS brought three players to represent the team, but no one who could talk about the way things were when the team was winning regularly.

That doesn't mean WVU isn't aware of what's missing, as well as what is still attainable.

"There are a lot of question marks coming off a 4-8 season and being picked eighth in the (preseason) Big 12 (poll) and there's not a lot of certainty about anybody coming in after last season," said punter Nick O'Toole, who was joined by fellow second-year players Daryl Worley and Kevin White.

"All we can do is have a chip on our shoulder, and for the three of us here, we've been through a 4-8 season and we haven't been here for an Orange Bowl season, but we've seen that and we think about that and that's what really drives us. 'OK, yeah, we had that 4-8 season, but we'll build off that because we have top-tier athletes who have won an Orange Bowl. That's what we need to come back to.'"

n n n

O'TOOLE, BY THE WAY, has shaved his head and shed his once-long locks.

"It was dead," he said. "It was gross. I had to just bite the bullet and cut it off."

He maintains a well-kept mustache, though one with a twist. Actually, one with two literal twists.

O'Toole, famously dubbed "Boomstache" last season for his facial hair and sky-high kicks, has grown a handlebar mustache, which made him a main attraction Tuesday. He said he didn't mind being "comic relief."

"I had to do something different," he said. "I couldn't just stick with the same thing, so I grew it out a little bit and gave the Rollie Fingers to it. I'm telling everybody the mustache is coming back."

n n n

HOLGORSEN BRAGGED a little about the depth his offense enjoys at running back, as he's prone to do, and managed to include two small surprises within one quote. For starters, senior Dreamius Smith is now the one "in the forefront" as WVU looks to replace the production of Charles Sims.

"He had the same amount of yards per carry as Charles did but just didn't get the touches because Charles was a little ahead of them," Holgorsen said. 

He explained the value in having Dustin Garrison and Andrew Buie, who have each led the team in rushing for an entire season, as well as Pitt transfer Rushel Shell, but he never mentioned Wendell Smallwood. He was arrested last week and charged with a felony count of witness intimidation. He has not been punished.

Holgorsen was asked about the omission and said he could only defer to a statement earlier this week and repeated he couldn't comment on an ongoing situation.

n n n

SHELTON GIBSON was perhaps WVU's most touted offensive recruit last year, but ended up sitting out the season, presumably as a partial qualifier. He had to be away from the team for the fall and spring semesters, but Holgorsen said Gibson, a 6-foot Cleveland product, was approved for participation in May. He remained on scholarship during his absence and has four years left to play four seasons.

"He came out with a 3.0 (GPA) and is healthy and learning what to do," he said. "He's going to wind up at wideout and he's going to continue to get better and better.

"Definitely, he'll contribute this year."

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymailwv.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/wvu. Follow him on Twitter at @mikecasazza.

Mike Casazza: Big 12's Bowlsby paints bleak picture of the future http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140721/DM03/140729830 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140721/DM03/140729830 Mon, 21 Jul 2014 21:32:18 -0400 DALLAS - As the sun rose and began to burn away the morning fog that loitered over much of the Metroplex on Monday morning, those first rays reminded you this was the dawn of a new campaign.

"It's hard to believe," Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said, "it's time to get after it again."

All the signs were there as his conference descended upon the Omni downtown for its annual media days. There were shiny media guides splashed across tables and massive player murals on walls and windows. The Big 12's new logo was everywhere you looked inside and outside the hotel. Mascots goofed around with sportswriters and with one another and followed the matriarchal lead of cheerleaders who served as the scantily clad chaperons.

This was fun, and it was impossible not to get swept up in the excitement. If you resisted, the chipper annual Mary Kay Seminar was right next door again to add some color to your cheeks.

"Welcome to football season," Bowlsby said, pretty much popping the cork for the folks who crack open cans and sizzle sausages in the parking lots, who tap on keyboards and live on coffee during the fall.

And then it went downhill, quickly, sharply, depressingly for anyone in attendance or watching at home on Fox Sports.

"If you like intercollegiate athletics and what it is, you're going to hate what it is going forward," Bowlsby said. "There are a lot of changes coming."

This two-day event is devoted to football, and football spins the globe in the NCAA, so much so that the NCAA agreed this summer to surrender the unprecedented power to self-govern to 65 schools in the five major conferences. Those 65 schools, you should already know, are football schools, and they now know themselves as members of the high-visibility leagues.

Bowlsby's conversation, though, was about much more than football, and it wasn't limited to sports, which made sense, because those "Armageddon scenarios" he foresees aren't on the way because of sports. The Big 12 and other leagues are involved in seven class action lawsuits. Former UCLA basketball star Ed O'Bannon is in court against the NCAA and an eventual ruling by a federal judge could forever and irreversibly alter the definition of the student-athlete and the relationship he or she has with colleges and universities.

The result will likely be permissive legislation, new rules that allow schools to do more for their players than ever before, if they choose to do so. This is about student-athlete oriented support programs like providing the full cost of attendance, health insurance to address issues acquired during the college years, unlimited meals and scholarship opportunities to complete degrees after leaving college in the pursuit of a professional playing career.

The Big 12 supports and would provide the full cost of attendance because, as Bowlsby said, it costs more to go to school than the room, books, board, tuition and fees a scholarship covers. He said schools have estimated between at least $1 million and upwards of $2 million for the addition of unlimited meals. They haven't even started to discuss the transitional health care and lifetime scholarship opportunities, but trust those are big numbers.

We're talking about millions of dollars a year, a tab that can stretch and exceed budgets even in the presence of those big checks the major conferences cut for their members every year.

"I think all of that in the end will cause programs to be eliminated," Bowlsby said. "I think you'll see men's Olympic sports go away as a result of the new funding challenges that are coming down the pike.  I think there may be tension among and between sports on campus and institutions that have different resources. 

"I think it's really unknown at this point what the outcomes will be, but generally speaking I think those are things you should watch for.  I really do believe that it will be very difficult to run the kind of breadth of program that hundreds of thousands of student‑athletes currently enjoy if we begin diverting significant amounts of money to other purposes."

Football isn't going anywhere. Men's basketball is safe and the same goes for women's hoops. But beyond that - and understanding there may be some exceptions there at places where, say, hockey is bigger than football or basketball no longer makes much sense - the target is fixed. And that frustrates and maybe frightens Bowlsby.

"There's no way (dropping sports) will be equal among men and women," he said. "It'll hit men's sports first and there will be a trickle-down to the growth and the number of female sports as well, but it would be men's Olympic sports first."

Bowlsby was full of other rain clouds - "It's not an understatement to say that cheating pays presently." - and thunder claps - "(NCAA rules) Enforcement is broken." Things like that, or even lightning bolts with a lower profile like transfer issues and irregularities or agents invading campuses, served to scare away the sunshine.

There then could be no mistaking that rumble whispering in the distance. Change, he promised, is coming and it's going to make people unhappy, mostly because it'll limit the people and the possibilities that make so many happy.

"I'm very concerned for our Olympic sports, but I'm concerned for colleges, too," he said. "Universities and colleges are places for opportunity, and if 200,000 or 300,000 opportunities go away, that's going to affect colleges.

"One thing that's sort of lost in all of this is that on almost every campus the highest percentage of first-generation college students is found in the athletic population. It's an extraordinary source of opportunity, and not just football and basketball opportunities. It's a lot of kids whose families haven't gone to college, but they have a chance to do it because of sports, and we shouldn't want that to go away."

Big 12 Media Days: TCU feels settled entering third year in league http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140721/DM03/140729831 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140721/DM03/140729831 Mon, 21 Jul 2014 21:29:56 -0400 By Mike Casazza DALLAS - West Virginia's football team gets its turn today at the second and final day of the annual Big 12 media days. The Mountaineers were nevertheless part of the conversation Monday.

(Click here for live blog of media days discussions.)

This is the third trip here for WVU and TCU.

"They've both been great new members," commissioner Bob Bowlsby said. "I think they've each in their own way had some challenges getting up to speed."

Both football programs have 11-14 records overall with 6-12 marks in Big 12 play. The Horned Frogs, who played four Big 12 home games the first two seasons and finally have five this season, were picked seventh in the media's preseason poll. They were 127 points ahead of eighth-place WVU.

"TCU is in a far better place than it ever had been if we hadn't changed conferences - you get a chance to have a true champion, financially, media-wise, nationally, everything that goes along with it," coach Gary Patterson said. "As a coach you wouldn't want it any different. Did my job get tougher?  Yes, no doubt about it. 

"This being my third time, I'm a lot more comfortable coming into this setting. You understand who you have to play. You know the staffs, you know the players. There's not going to be any surprises. Everyone's going to have good players. For us, our kids are excited. They understand the talent level."  

Both schools are also growing to meet the Big 12's standards. The Horned Frogs completed a $164 million rebuild at its football stadium before the start of the 2012 season, but will add sand volleyball as a varsity sport for the 2015 season. The Mountaineers are adding men's golf for 2015 and have committed $106 million to various facility projects. A new baseball stadium is scheduled to open in the spring.

Sand volleyball will be TCU's 21st sport and men's golf will be WVU's 18th. Big 12 membership requires at least 16 sports and at least six from a set of 10 men's and 13 women's sports. Sand volleyball is not on the list for women's sports, but the addition makes TCU Title IX compliant.

TCU has won no regular-season conference titles and one conference tournament title (baseball). WVU has won three regular-season titles (two for women's soccer, one for women's basketball) and one conference tournament title (women's soccer).

"We have big programs. They tend to be very broad-based and that has been our tradition and we're competitive in a whole bunch of different things at the national level," Bowlsby said. "The competition (the Mountaineers) came out of in the Big East was not quite as broad-based or as rigorous in some non-premier sports, and probably the same is true with TCU (from the Mountain West Conference). They've had to step up a little bit."

Bowlsby said he was not aware of any further upgrades and additions required of WVU.

n n n

OKLAHOMA STATE'S Tyreek Hill, a transfer from Garden City (Kan.) Community College, is the league's preseason newcomer of the year. The vaunted speedster is part running back and part receiver, and the way the Cowboys will use him was compared to how WVU coach Dana Holgorsen used Tavon Austin and Charles Sims the previous two years and how he used Joseph Randle at Oklahoma State.

"I think those examples you used would fit what we're looking for," coach Mike Gundy said. "It could change each week. One area that our coaches have done a good job with over the last few years is trying to put our players in position due to a matchup that gives them the best chance of success, and we're hoping that Tyreek gives us the ability to use him as an inside runner or put him on the outside and use his speed in the receiving game. 

Hill, from Pearson, Georgia, won the 100 and 200 meters and the broad jump state championships as a high school senior. That season, he ran the 100 in 10.19 seconds, which matched the fastest time in the country that year. He also ran the 200 that season in 20.14 seconds, which would have been the fastest time in the nation among college sprinters in 2013 and also placed him sixth at the 2012 London Olympics.

It was also his fourth race of the day. 

"We're learning more about him each day as we go through August and see what he brings to the table and how much he can handle mentally," Gundy said. "We'll know more. So I'm not sure that we have a polished and finished blueprint, but we do have a pretty good idea of how we want to use him this season."

n n n

BAYLOR HAD never been picked higher than fourth in the annual preseason poll, and that happened just once in 1996, the conference's first season. The Bears, who won the league championship last season, were picked second behind Oklahoma this season and led the preseason all-conference team with seven players.

Fittingly, Baylor's Art Briles went first among the five head coach press conferences Monday. Briles called it batting leadoff and wasn't completely at ease with that role.

"We're not going to try to bunt or get a single. I promise you that. We're swinging for the fence," he said. "So maybe they should have put us fourth because that's just the way we approach the game."

Briles brought swagger and bravado last year as well when he said the expectation for first-time starting quarterback Bryce Petty was to set all the Baylor passing records. Petty, the 2013 offensive player of the year and this season's preseason offensive player of the year, set 17 school records and eight career records last season, but he wasn't a Heisman Trophy finalist. That, too, irked Briles, who coached 2011 winner Robert Griffin III.

"I'm a little upset about the way it all transpired last year," Briles said. "I certainly felt like he should have been in New York without question. I mean, your first-year starter you win 11 football games, win the Big 12 Championship for the first time in school history, throw for 4,200 yards, 33 TDs, three picks, and you sit at home in December?

"Do those numbers again this year, he'll be in New York. Might win it. But that's the whole deal. His perception, his image is different than a year ago because he had nothing. Now he's got substance, he's got something people can believe."

n n n

KANSAS COACH Charlie Weis earned some notoriety last season when he said he asked recruits to consider that "pile of crap" on the field and ask themselves if they were good enough to play for the Jayhawks. He was more cautious this year.

"Can you put a number on wins or what would be a successful season this year in year three?" he was asked.

"Yes, I can," he said. "But you won't?"

"No, I won't."

There was some laughter and then an explanation. "I agree with you that your team's expectations must be clearly defined, but we haven't done a thing in the two years I've been here," Weis said. "We won one game two years ago, we won three games last year, we won one game in the conference, we haven't won a game on the road. For me to get up here and say these are what my expectations are for you, I'm just not very smart. But our team very clearly knows what our expectations are.  There's no hiding it."

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymailwv.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/wvu. Follow him on Twitter at @mikecasazza.

WVU FOOTBALL: Coach 'aware' of Smallwood charges http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140720/DM03/140729935 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140720/DM03/140729935 Sun, 20 Jul 2014 19:33:49 -0400 By Mike Casazza DALLAS - Six days after one of his key offensive players was arrested for allegedly intimidating a witness to a murder case, West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said Sunday that he couldn't really say much about the situation.

"We are fully aware of all proceedings involving Wendell Smallwood and will continue to monitor the situation. To protect the integrity of the criminal proceedings in Delaware, including the state's case against the unrelated defendant, we cannot comment further at this time," Holgorsen said in a statement released through the athletic department.

Smallwood, 20, was arrested by the WVU Police Department at the request of the Delaware state attorney general's office and the Wilmington Police Department, both of which were on campus Monday to first interview and ultimately arrest Smallwood. Smallwood remained in the North Central Regional Jail in Doddridge County without bond until his extradition paperwork was processed and he was returned Thursday to Wilmington, Delaware.

He was arraigned Friday by Justice of the Peace Court 20 and released on a secured $40,000 bond before returning to West Virginia. He's charged with an act of intimidation, a class G felony punishable by up to two years in prison.

"Additional information will be available at the conclusion of all proceedings," Holgorsen wrote. "As a team, we will continue to prepare for the 2014 football season and look forward to the start of camp on July 31."

Authorities allege Smallwood, a 5-foot-11, 200-pound sophomore positioned for a significant role as a running back and receiver this season, made repeated attempts to have a witness to a 2012 murder recant a statement that implicated Smallwood's acquaintance, who is charged with first-degree murder.

The alleged acts happened in March and May of 2013. Smallwood enrolled at WVU in January 2013.

Court documents say Smallwood was recorded on at least four prison phone calls last year that support the police department's claim Smallwood "called to try to get a witness to come and make a false statement to police recanting previous statements." The conversations with an unnamed inmate believed to be Zakee Lloyd, who is facing trial for a 2012 murder, were recorded after authorities learned a witnesses' life had been threatened.

The recordings, apparently in reference to a woman who is a state witness, reveal Smallwood saying he "almost got her beat up." Two months later, the inmate asked Smallwood if anything had developed with the witness. Smallwood said she had changed her phone number, but that he found out where she was working and that someone was looking for her.

"Tell her to go to the police station and tell her we never see her," the inmate said on the recording.

"I'm going to tell her she's going to have to go, man," Smallwood is recorded replying.

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymailwv.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blog.charlestondailymail.com/wvu. Follow him on Twitter at @mikecasazza.

WVU FOOTBALL: Mountaineers picked eighth in preseason Big 12 poll http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140717/DM03/140719427 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140717/DM03/140719427 Thu, 17 Jul 2014 11:52:14 -0400 By Mike Casazza For the second time in as many seasons, West Virginia was picked eighth in the Big 12 media's preseason poll released by the conference Thursday. WVU was almost a unanimous pick for eighth place. Fifty-six of the 57 voters had the Mountaineers eighth on their ballot and one had them ninth.

WVU's lowest spot in its final 10 Big East preseason polls was sixth. That only happened once and that was four fewer times than the Mountaineers were picked to win the conference.

Coming off a 4-8 season with just a 6-12 record in conference play the past two seasons, WVU was behind TCU and ahead of Iowa State and Kansas. On Wednesday, the media voted only safety Karl Joseph to the 26-person preseason all-conference team.

The school's third season as a Big 12 member begins Aug. 30 in Atlanta's Georgia Dome against Alabama in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game. The Crimson Tide Thursday was picked to win the Southeastern Conference and had nine players make the preseason all-conference team.

Oklahoma, WVU's opponent in the fourth week of the season and in the conference-opener for the second straight season, was picked to win the league. The Sooners, who have a record eight Big 12 championships, were first on 47 of 56 ballots. Defending conference champion Baylor, with preseason offensive player of the year Bryce Petty, was first on the remaining nine ballots and placed second.

Kansas State edged Texas by just one point for third place. They were followed by Oklahoma State, the only team without a preseason all-conference player, Texas Tech and TCU. Kansas State and TCU were separated by just 80 points, but the Horned Frogs were 127 points ahead of the Mountaineers.

WVU and TCU both joined the Big 12 for the 2012 season. They've split head-to-head games the past two seasons with each winning in the other team's home stadium. They have identical overall and conference records since joining the league, but TCU, with preseason defensive player of the year Devonte Fields and two other preseason all-conference players, is widely considered to be primed for a better season.

WVU was 49 points better than Iowa State, which was 58 points better than Kansas.

WVU hires another lobbyist http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140716/DM01/140719552 DM01 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140716/DM01/140719552 Wed, 16 Jul 2014 00:01:00 -0400 By Dave Boucher West Virginia University has hired a staffer for U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin as a lobbyist, bringing its cadre to seven and pushing costs above $640,000 annually.

Travis Mollohan will join the state's largest university as director of state, corporate and community relations Aug. 5, WVU said in a news release Tuesday

"If WVU is to be the kind of institution West Virginians expect it to be, it will need to be actively engaged in ongoing conversations with policymakers at all levels," said Bill Hutchens, WVU's vice president for corporate and legal affairs and general counsel, in the news release.

"Travis will be integrally involved in making sure these conversations happen so that WVU can hear their community's needs, and they can hear how WVU can help meet those needs."

Hutchens did not respond to a request for further comment.

WVU spokesman John Bolt said Mollohan will earn $101,000 in the position, but he couldn't elaborate on his duties.

A 2005 graduate of WVU, Mollohan most recently served as Manchin's director of constituent services in Charleston. The senator said Mollohan would "always be a part of the Manchin family" in a news release announcing his departure.

"I am very excited and deeply humbled by the opportunity to serve my incredible alma mater," Mollohan said in the news release from the university.

"WVU has made such a positive impact on the citizens and communities of the Mountain State, and I will do my part to continue the important work of our state's flagship university and help take it to the next level."

Mollohan will work out of Morgantown and report to Sarah Smith, who WVU hired at a starting salary of $140,000 in December as an "associate vice president for state and corporate relations." Based in Charleston, Smith coordinated WVU's state-level lobbying efforts and provided guidance to the three contract lobbyists working for WVU.

All three well-known lobbyists - Paul Hardesty, Larry Puccio and John Cavicini - had $40,000 contracts through the school's nonprofit affiliate WVU Research Corp. Cavicini and Puccio confirmed Tuesday that they recently received contract renewals for the current year. Hardesty did not respond to a request for comment.

WVU also employs two lobbyists at the federal level.

Mary Bowman, director of federal research relations, earned a little more than $120,000 from WVU in 2013, according to the state auditor's office. Richard French, director of external and federal relations, earned nearly $161,000 in 2013, according to the state auditor's office.

Contact writer Dave Boucher at 304-348-4843 or david.boucher@dailymailwv.com. Follow him at www.Twitter.com/Dave_Boucher1.

WVU BASKETBALL: Staten comes full circle at LeBron camp http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140715/DM03/140719547 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140715/DM03/140719547 Tue, 15 Jul 2014 22:03:41 -0400 By Mike Casazza MORGANTOWN, W.Va - Before Juwan Staten was one of 30 college players invited to last week's LeBron James Skills Academy, he was one of 80 high school players invited to the event in 2010.

When Staten looked around at the participants in Las Vegas, he realized he was the only player to attend both. He understood it said a lot about his career and his ongoing quest after four years, an unhappy freshman season at his hometown University of Dayton, a season on the sideline after transferring to West Virginia, a sophomore season below his expectations and a spectacular comeback as a junior.

"I just looked at it as another blessing," the Mountaineers' senior point guard said. "So many people went to that camp when I was in high school. Some of them have done big things and are in the NBA and some have fallen by the wayside. I felt pretty good about being on the right track and headed in the right direction."

It should go without saying that Staten knows how to play basketball. He wouldn't have been invited twice if that wasn't the case. He wouldn't have been the second person to lead the Big 12 in scoring and assists, wouldn't have been the first WVU player to rack up 500 points, 150 rebounds and 100 assists in a season, wouldn't have been first-team all-conference and on the all-defensive team if that wasn't the case.

There's only so much Staten could learn about how to play the game in four days of drills, workouts and pickup games last week that he didn't already know.

There was plenty he could take from the experience, though, as he looked around at his college peers, his famous counselors and, of course, the superstar in the middle of it all. LeBron James is very much a part of the event and not someone who merely lends his name to it and does little else. He inserts himself into the action on and off the court.

There was a dinner the first night that featured a question-and-answer session with James. The participants were free to ask James questions, and Staten said they realized they had an opportunity to hear things they always wanted to hear. They didn't ask about the playoffs or teammates or opponents or things normally aimed at James.

"It was just stuff everyone wonders about, but nobody knows about because nobody is close enough to answer," Staten said. "That insight, that perspective, how he handles and carries himself, those things were positive for me to be around."

The best lessons, though, came from the things James didn't say and didn't do. As the camp was happening, James was in the middle of his free agent frenzy that commandeered headlines for 10 days and ended with him returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Staten watched closely and said James never showed any sign he was susceptible to the spotlight.

"I watched everything," Staten said. "I watched how he handled the media, how he handled all the attention he was getting. I watched his facial expressions. I looked for anything I could pick up on to help me in my situation."

Staten's situation is the leader of a team that's missed the NCAA tournament in back-to-back seasons and has a .500 record over the past three seasons. He'll also be running the offense and keying the defensive effort for a team that lost its second-, third- and fifth-leading scorers earlier than expected in the offseason and welcomes three junior college transfers, two high school freshmen and two players who were ineligible and sat out last season.

"It's definitely harder," Staten said. "You have to start all over again. It's a whole new process again, and it starts off the court, not on it."

Staten understands he'll be the one getting all the attention from all directions.

"I noticed that he's been through it so much that it doesn't really faze him," Staten said. "He's used to it. He's used to being stared at every time he goes somewhere. He's used to being asked questions and being bombarded, but he carries himself like a professional. He answers every question the right way. He smiles and shakes hands with people. He's real personable. Those are all things I picked up on."

The event gave Staten and the others a chance to put what they'd learned to the test. They were in Las Vegas, dropped amid the casinos and restaurants and night clubs and assorted diversions. The NBA's Summer League was happening and the players had friends and former teammates playing and pulling them away from the reason they were out there.

Staten found that to be an interesting coincidence and considered the "magnitude of the distractions" to be part of the process.

"Bringing you to a place like that and making us conduct our business was like the ultimate test," he said. "You don't know your surroundings. You don't know a lot of people around there. The summer league games are going on and the media is everywhere. There's a lot of buzz about it all and that was a little bit more pressure on us, too.

"It made us realize those are the types of situations we're going to be around pretty much every day if we're lucky enough to get to that level, so we need to be able to manage that stuff."

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymailwv.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/wvu. Follow him on Twitter at @mikecasazza.

WVU FOOTBALL: Smallwood will be charged with a felony, could face up to two years in prison http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140715/DM03/140719548 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140715/DM03/140719548 Tue, 15 Jul 2014 22:01:10 -0400 By Mike Casazza MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - West Virginia running back Wendell Smallwood will face a felony charge for allegedly intimidating a witness in an ongoing murder case when he's extradited to his home state, a spokesperson at the Delaware state attorney general's office told the Charleston Daily Mail on Tuesday.

Smallwood, 20, was arrested by the WVU Police Department on Monday as a fugitive from justice. Smallwood was wanted in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, where he'll be charged with an act of intimidation, a class G felony punishable by up to two years in prison.

Wilmington's News Journal reported Monday night that Smallwood made repeated attempts to have a witness to a 2012 murder recant a statement that implicated Smallwood's friend, who is charged with first-degree murder.

Smallwood was still being held in the North Central Regional Jail in Doddridge County on Tuesday evening without bail. Delaware's attorney general's office said it is against its policy not to reveal details of a prisoner's extradition and could offer no more details on Smallwood's case because it is still active.

According to WVU police chief Bob Roberts, representatives from the Wilmington Police Department and the Delaware attorney general's office arrived in Morgantown on Monday and told WVU police they needed to speak to Smallwood. The WVU football office assisted in contacting Smallwood and the 5-foot-11, 200-pound sophomore agreed to meet with the law enforcement officials.

Roberts said they interviewed Smallwood and then made the arrest. Smallwood signed extradition papers so that he could be returned to Delaware and formally charged. He faces the lesser of two possible felony charges for intimidating a witness. An aggressive act of intimidation is a more severe felony with a longer prison sentence.

A Wilmington Police Department spokesperson told the News Journal that Smallwood "called to try to get a witness to come and make a false statement to police recanting previous statements." The alleged calls happened in March and May of 2013. Smallwood enrolled at WVU in January 2013.

WVU coach Dana Holgorsen told the Daily Mail on Monday he was aware of the arrest and monitoring the situation.

"We are looking into the matter and will take action at the appropriate time," he said.

Witness intimidation has grown to be a significant problem in Delaware and complicated matters for authorities trying to prosecute and convict. Delaware lawmakers passed a bill in May that strengthened penalties for witness intimidation. The law reclassifies an "act of Intimidation" as a Class D felony and a penalty of up to eight years in prison, and an "Aggravated Act of Intimidation" as a Class B felony and a penalty of two to 25 years in prison.

Smallwood cannot be charged, tried or punished under the new law because the alleged offenses happened before it was passed, the state attorney general's spokesperson said.

Smallwood was groomed throughout his freshman season as the successor to Charles Sims and his versatile role in the Mountaineers offense. He carried 39 times for 221 yards and a touchdown and caught 11 passes for 132 yards and also led the team with 30 kickoff returns for 529 yards.

After spring football, where Smallwood consistently earned rave reviews and was once said to be the team's best inside receiver, he was listed as the second running back on a crowded depth chart and as a kickoff returner.

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymailwv.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/wvu. Follow him on Twitter at @mikecasazza.

WVU FOOTBALL: Mountaineers get $2.5M guarantee for FedEx Field matchup vs. Hokies in 2017 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140715/DM03/140719598 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140715/DM03/140719598 Tue, 15 Jul 2014 15:13:50 -0400 By Mike Casazza MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - West Virginia has added a game to the revived series against Virginia Tech.

The two schools announced Tuesday they will open the 2017 season against one another at FedEx Field, home of the NFL's Washington Redskins. Last July, the Mountaineers and Hokies agreed to a home-and-home series with the 2021 game in Morgantown and the 2022 game in Blacksburg, Virginia.

The two teams, which last played in October 2005, will now meet again Sept. 2, 2017, according to the official game contract. WVU is also scheduled to play East Carolina at home that season and is looking for another home non-conference game because there are only four Big 12 home games that season.

The game contract states WFI Stadium, Inc., the business arm of the Redskins and FedEx Field, will pay WVU a guaranteed sum of $2.5 million for playing the game. The Mountaineers are also eligible for up to $250,000 in ticket sales incentives.

WVU received a $2.3 million guarantee and about $3,800 from a ticket incentive that was actually capped at $200,000 for playing James Madison University at FedEx in 2012, a game that was organized by Russ Potts Promotions. As part of that agreement, WVU added $200,000 to the guarantee for agreeing to play BYU at FedEx in 2016. The Mountaineers will receive $2.45 million for that game with a ticket incentive that also has a $200,000 cap.

The Virginia Tech game, though, will pay WVU $125,000 if ticket sales reach between 62,500 and 69,000. If the ticket sales surpass 69,000, WVU receives an additional $125,000.

WVU will have to handle some financial responsibilities, though, which is a different arrangement than it had for the JMU game, when the school didn't have to sell tickets. For the Virginia Tech game, the Mountaineers must buy 20,000 tickets from WFI at a "minimum average ticket price" of $80 per ticket. The contract says WVU can sell the tickets and keep the revenue "with such revenue to be deducted from" the $2.5 million guarantee.

Additionally, WVU must cover all "costs or provisions of any services in connection with WVU travel, transportation, lodging, meals, parties, logistics, or any other related expense." The arrangement was the same for the JMU game.

The Mountaineers also receive six complementary suites for which they cannot sell tickets and 900 complementary tickets to cover player and coach requests, plus the marching band.

The Hokies have financial duties, too. They'll be the home team for the game and will cover the cost for the officiating crew. WVU and Virginia Tech agreed to use Big Ten officials. However, Virginia Tech, as the home team, retained the rights to telecast the game.

WFI inserted provisions to make the game a special occasion, including a request that both schools make "reasonable efforts not to play" one another in a 2016 bowl game. The Big 12 and Virginia Tech's Atlantic Coast Conference have a bowl partnership with the Russell Athletic Bowl from 2014-19. It pits the ACC's first selection after the College Football Playoff series with the Big 12's second selection.

Additionally, if Virginia Tech or WFI cancel the game, the party breaching the contract will reimburse WVU for all expenses accrued preparing for the game, plus a $1 million buyout for liquidated damages. If WFI or WVU are guilty of the breach, the offending party will reimburse the Hokies the same and pay a $1.25 million buyout for liquidated damages.

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymailwv.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/wvu. Follow him on Twitter at @mikecasazza.

UPDATE (1:07 p.m.): WVU football player Smallwood arrested by University PD http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140714/DM03/140719641 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140714/DM03/140719641 Mon, 14 Jul 2014 22:00:41 -0400


MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - West Virginia running back Wendell Smallwood was arrested by the University Police Department on Monday as a fugitive from justice. Smallwood was wanted in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, for allegedly intimidating a witness in a murder case.

Wilmington's News Journal reported Monday that Smallwood, 20, will be charged for repeated attempts to have a witness to a 2012 murder recant a statement that implicated Smallwood's friend, who is charged with first-degree murder.

Smallwood was still being held in the North Central Regional Jail in Doddridge County on Tuesday morning without bail and awaiting extradition to Delaware.

According to WVU police chief Bob Roberts, representatives from the Wilmington Police Department and the State Attorney General Office arrived in Morgantown and told WVU police they needed to speak to Smallwood. The WVU football office assisted in contacting Smallwood and Smallwood, a 5-foot-11, 200-pound sophomore, agreed to meet with the law enforcement officials.

Roberts said they interviewed Smallwood and then made the arrest. Smallwood then signed extradition papers so that he could be returned to Delaware and formally charged.

A Wilmington Police Department spokesperson told the News Journal that Smallwood "called to try to get a witness to come and make a false statement to police recanting previous statements." The alleged calls happened in March and May of 2013. Smallwood enrolled at WVU in January 2013.

Messages left with the Wilmington police and the attorney general's office were not immediately returned.

WVU coach Dana Holgorsen told the Charleston Daily Mail on Monday he was aware of the arrest and monitoring the situation.

"We are looking into the matter and will take action at the appropriate time," he said.

Delaware lawmakers passed a bill in May that strengthened penalties for witness intimidation, an act that had become a major obstacle to prosecute and convict in major cases. The law reclassifies an "Act of Intimidation" as a Class D felony and a penalty of up to eight years in prison, and an "Aggravated Act of Intimidation" as a Class B felony and a penalty of two to 25 years in prison.

Smallwood was groomed throughout his freshman season as the successor to Charles Sims and his versatile role in the Mountaineers offense. He carried 39 times for 221 yards and a touchdown and caught 11 passes for 132 yards and also led the team with 30 kickoff returns for 529 yards.

After spring football, where Smallwood consistently earned rave reviews and was once said to be the team's best inside receiver, he was listed as the second running back on a crowded depth chart and as a kickoff returner.

Mike Casazza: No preseason hype for WVU, but that's OK http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140714/DM03/140719672 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140714/DM03/140719672 Mon, 14 Jul 2014 18:03:09 -0400 MORGANTOWN - In a state with few sports diversions through the summer months, where the natives can be mad about football in both the best and worst ways imaginable, any news about the spinning pigskin is gobbled up in West Virginia like a fumble in the end zone.

But maybe there is summer sanity now, just one more change among the many that has washed over the masses the past two years.

Where the preseason magazines popping up on the convenience store racks were like the dawn of a new season, it's more like the first rays of an obnoxious sun the morning after a night of bad decisions.

Where media days served as the dinner bell for the forthcoming football feast, it feels now like a call to get ready for bed, or at least rest your weary head and pull up the covers.

And all of that is fine for Dana Holgorsen.

"Keep writing the headlines about how bad we're going to be, keep writing the stories about how we're not going to be any good," the West Virginia University football coach said last month. "That's fine. I like where we are."

Intended or not, there's a double meaning to "where we are" for the fourth-year coach and his Mountaineers.

Where they are, as far as the process that started three summers ago, is a place where the roster is more balanced than ever before with a proper mix of experience, talent and potential. They'll finally award all 85 scholarships and they'll have far more than half in the hands of players who have been in a Big 12 game. It's taken Holgorsen and a revolving cast of assistant coaches a lot of time and grief to get there.

And, of course, where they are, as far as perceptions go, is at the bottom of the Big 12, and they'll be reminded of that again this week. The Big 12 media's preseason poll comes out Wednesday morning.

WVU can expect to again be slotted toward the bottom in the 10-team list. The media's preseason all-conference team comes out a day later and the Mountaineers hope to have two names among the 26 players and three award-winners listed.

It took Holgorsen and his cohorts far too little time to descend to that depth, the sort of things WVU didn't see in its final 10 seasons in the Big 12. This reality is the starting point for getting out of the bad part of town and rejoining the aristocracy of the conference it knew so well early in the 2012 season. Those who say preseason predictions don't matter are mostly accurate - mind you, this comes from a member of the voting media - but they fail to consider how much appearances matter to coaches and recruits and administrators and television partners and the people who mostly have no choice but to pay attention. At WVU, the things used to matter because they were so kind. Now they matter because they're kind of mean.

From 2002-11, WVU never placed lower than sixth in the preseason Big East poll. It was picked to win the league in 2004, 2006-08 and 2011. The Mountaineers could be counted upon to either dot or dominate the preseason all-conference team.

It should go without saying the Big 12 is a very new, very different place, WVU was granted a favorable first impression. Fresh off throttling Clemson in the Orange Bowl in their final act in the Big East, the Mountaineers were picked to finish second in their first preseason Big 12 poll in 2012 and trailed only blue-blooded Oklahoma.

Three names were on the preseason all-conference team. The quarterback, Geno Smith, was the offensive player of the year before ever playing a game against any of the league's defenses. The star receiver, Tavon Austin, was named an all-Big 12 receiver and the punt returner even though he wasn't WVU's punt returner at the end of the previous season.

The Mountaineers followed that preseason peak with the slide from 5-0 to 7-6 and then seeing no players on the 2013 preseason all-conference team and falling all the way to eighth in the preseason poll. It was startling when you consider the sum of their standings in their final six preseason Big East Polls was eight.

What happens now? Safety Karl Joseph and left guard Quinton Spain, who have both made preseason watch lists for annual awards given to nation's best defensive players and linemen, could be all-conference picks, though there's competition at both spots.

WVU figures to be no higher than eighth again and might be ninth, depending on how much weight voters gave to Iowa State's head-to-head win and what they think of Cyclones starting quarterback Grant Rohach as opposed to WVU's Clint Trickett. Kansas is a lock for last place, even though the Jayhawks topped the Mountaineers last season, something else voters are also sure to remember.

Placing is important, but point totals matter, too. Last year, WVU was 25 points away from seventh place and 30 away from ninth. The coming preseason poll should have three tiers. The first should see Oklahoma above Baylor in a somewhat close ballot. The next should be an interesting order of Oklahoma State battling for its footing near the top amid competition from crafty Kansas State, transitioning Texas, rising TCU and curious Texas Tech.

That leaves WVU, Iowa State and Kansas, and there are reasons to believe WVU can be eighth with room to spare, but also with a cushion between it and seventh place because voting in the middle should be so mixed.

It's nothing to be fired up about when it's the middle of July and 46 days remain before the start of the season, but that's the life the Mountaineers have made for themselves in their new world and one they seek to change as they try move the clouds and let the sun shine on a new and different season.