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Monday, October 24, 2005

Campus Connection

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – I know the only poll West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez cares about is the final one, but did you realize that his football team has been nationally ranked in 22 of the last 30 polls dating back to Nov. 16, 2003?

West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez' Mountaineers have been in 22 of the last 30 Top 25 polls dating back to 2003.
All-Pro Photography/Dale Sparks

The only polls his football teams have been shut out from during the past three years were the final polls in 2003 and 2004, and the first six of this year.

Rodriguez is closing in on two of the school’s longest sustained periods of success enjoyed by former Mountaineer coach Don Nehlen from 1982-83 and 1988-90.

Nehlen’s Mountaineer teams were in 29 of 30 Top 20 polls from Sept. 13, 1982 to Jan. 3, 1983, and in 34 straight polls from preseason 1988 to Sept. 3, 1990. Nehlen’s teams were also nationally ranked in 30 of 46 weeks from Sept. 23, 1996 to Dec. 6, 1998.

The late Art “Pappy” Lewis directed the Mountaineers to 31 of 38 poll appearances from preseason 1953 to Oct. 8, 1956. Lewis broke a drought of 150 straight weeks without being nationally ranked when his 1953 team was ranked 17th to begin the season.

Jim Carlen broke the second longest drought in the polls when his last WVU team in '69 appeared at No. 18 on Sept. 29, snapping a streak of 137 straight weeks without being ranked. Keep in mind, though, rankings through most of the 1960s only took into consideration the nation’s top 10 teams.

Here is the list of WVU coaches and the weeks their teams were nationally ranked since 1936 when rankings began:

  • Don Nehlen (1980-2000): 122 weeks
  • Art Lewis (1950-59): 33 weeks
  • Rich Rodriguez (2001-05): 26 weeks
  • Bobby Bowden (1970-75): 16 weeks
  • Jim Carlen (1966-69): 7 weeks
  • Frank Cignetti (1975-79): 1 week

    And now once around the block:

  • Be sure to tune in to ESPN2 this Wednesday evening at 6:30 pm to watch the Stephen A. Smith show ‘Quite Frankly.’ WVU basketball coach John Beilein is one of four Big East coaches planning to stick around New York City Wednesday afternoon to take part in the show’s taping.

    Beilein and WVU’s five seniors Patrick Beilein, J.D. Collins, Mike Gansey, Joe Herber and Kevin Pittsnogle will be in New York to take part the Big East's basketball media day Wednesday morning.

    Fans that have CSTV can watch the Big East media day proceedings as part of CSTV’s Full Court Press basketball coverage, which begins at 11 am.

  • It looks like Pitt has moved into a three-way tie with West Virginia and Rutgers for first place in the Big East Conference football standings, if both Pittsburgh newspapers are to be believed.
  • I know the Panthers are excited about the last three weeks having won against Cincinnati, South Florida and Syracuse to even their record to 4-4, but Pitt still has three games left against Louisville, Connecticut and West Virginia. And two of those three ballgames aren’t at Heinz Field.
  • After last Saturday’s win at Connecticut, the stakes are now considerably higher for Rutgers this weekend facing a pretty good Navy team that comes into Rutgers Stadium with a 4-2 record. If the 5-2 Knights can get past the Midshipmen, Rutgers will become bowl eligible for the first time since it went to the Garden State Bowl in 1978 -- back when they were still looking for Jimmy Hoffa underneath Giants Stadium.
  • Real quick, West Virginia fans pick your favorite sports commentator from this list: Mark May, Mike Bianchi, Mark May, Mike Bianchi and Mark May.

    I must qualify this by writing that Mike Bianchi is a columnist for the Orlando Sentinel who recently took a few swings at the Big East’s spot at the Bowl Championship Series table. He’s neither a fan of the Big East nor its schools.

    And of course May is the guy that was last seen in Morgantown picking up all those pennies thrown at him by deranged West Virginia fans at Old Mountaineer Field.

  • Because this is the state of college football, I guess we’ve got to pay attention to what the Mountain West Conference is doing these days. The Mountain West is one of those conferences making the most noise about getting a piece of the BCS action. So, here is the first of our periodic Mountain West Conference updates:
  • No. 20 TCU, 7-1
  • Colorado State, 4-3
  • New Mexico, 5-3,
  • BYU, 3-4
  • Wyoming, 4-4
  • Utah, 4-4
  • San Diego State, 3-5
  • Air Force, 3-5
  • UNLV, 2-6

    Last week’s results:

  • Notre Dame 49, BYU 23
  • TCU 48, Air Force 10
  • New Mexico 47, San Diego State 24
  • Colorado State 39, Wyoming 31
  • Utah 42, UNLV 32

    Go get ‘em boys!

  • Connect these dots: West Virginia beat Louisville 46-44, which beat North Carolina 69-14, which beat Virginia 7-5, which beat Florida State 26-21, which beat No. 5-ranked Miami 10-7.

    By the way, that 3-3 North Carolina team that lost by 55 at Louisville a few weeks ago is currently tied with Miami for second place in the ACC Coastal Division with a 2-1 league record.

  • After watching Syracuse quarterback Marvin Graves bounce a football off of Tommy Orr’s head and seeing a Syracuse coach throw a punch at a West Virginia player that triggered a bench-clearing brawl, leading to three key WVU defensive players being ejected (Syracuse had an obscure offensive lineman that wasn’t even listed in the program thrown out of the game) and costing the school a bowl bid in 1992, I never thought I’d ever live to see the day when someone else accused the Big East of playing favorites with West Virginia.

    But in BIG BLOCK TYPE in the Tampa Tribune on Oct. 21 were the words ‘BIG EAST SIDES WITH WEST VIRGINIA’ following the conference's decision to postpone the Mountaineers’ game at South Florida last Saturday. A Tampa scribe wrote that ‘conspiracy theorists’ (i.e. himself) were claiming several factors led to the game’s postponement, including WVU’s draining triple-overtime win over Louisville, the fact that quarterback Adam Bednarik was doubtful for the USF game, and the possibly that the conference’s only ranked team could get knocked off on the road.

    It looks like some folks in Tampa have still got an awful lot to learn about this league.

  • I read a story in last week’s Dominion-Post about the unavailability of state funds to proceed with some of the badly needed highway projects that have been proposed for Monongahela County.

    I’ve got an easy solution: Why not just borrow Pennsylvania’s cement mixer for a couple of months -- I’m sure they wouldn’t mind.

  • Coach Nikki Izzo-Brown’s nationally ranked women’s soccer program has gotten a lot of ink for their success the last five years (and deservedly so), but Mike Seabolt’s men’s soccer program has also done a commendable job the last two seasons as well. The Mountaineers are currently 10-5-2 and have already qualified for the Big East tournament for the second straight year – a school first. In his last two years, Seabolt has produced a 22-12-3 record playing in one of the nation’s top soccer conferences.

    The Mountaineers were ranked fifth in last week’s NSCAA Mid-Atlantic regional rankings.

  • According to the Keyser Mineral Daily News, former WVU kicker Chuck Kinder was a guest speaker at the Mineral County Chamber of Commerce recognizing the area’s outstanding businesses. Kinder is retired after a 25-year career in the U.S. Army where he served as a personnel psychologist. He later served six years as General Manager of the Charleston Civic Center, overseeing the construction of the $18 million facility.

    Kinder lettered on Coach Gene Corum’s Mountaineer football teams in 1963, 1965 and Jim Carlen’s 1966 team. Kinder is the only player in WVU history to wear the uniform number 100, which commemorated the 100th anniversary of the state of West Virginia in 1963.

  • Former West Virginia assistant coach Desmond Robinson recently paid a tall tribute to Don Nehlen. Now an assistant coach on Greg Robinson’s Syracuse staff and a former Pitt letterman, Robinson said Nehlen made the biggest impression on him as a coach.

    “Don had a big influence on me,” Robinson told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “I really respect him. It was his demeanor, his attention to detail, his intensity. He was someone who coached you on and off the field.”

    Nehlen will be officially inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in December.

  • Ex-West Virginia University defensive tackle Ben Lynch recently signed with the Tampa Bay Storm of the Arena Football League. The 6-foot-4-inch, 300-pound Lynch was an all-Big East performer last year for the Mountaineers.
  • By the way, has anyone watched the two World Series games so far? I say the Yankees win it in five. Or will it be the Red Sox? Or is it the Cardinals? One thing I know for sure, it’s not going to be the Braves.

    As the late columnist Jim Murray used to say, I guess I fooled them again.

    Have a great week!

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