| By John Antonik for MSNsportsNET.com|
December 28, 2005
ATLANTA – Even though this year’s Nokia Sugar Bowl will be West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez’ first he’s experienced, he is familiar with the bowl’s great tradition having coached two seasons at Tulane.
“I’ve got friends on the Sugar Bowl committee and I witnessed the Sugar Bowl when I was down here,” Rodriguez said Wednesday. “(The Sugar Bowl) has gone through a lot, obviously with the hurricane – not only was the bowl displaced, but there are thousands and thousands of people who have been displaced and many of them are friends of mine.”
Ironically, Rodriguez could very well have been one of those displaced. He was close to landing the Tulane job after the Green Wave went 12-0 and won the 1998 Liberty Bowl. Instead he wound up coaching at Clemson for two years before moving on to take the West Virginia job prior to the 2001 season.
“I kind of moved on pretty quickly,” Rodriguez said. “I know it’s kind of been rehashed a couple of times this week about my situation at Tulane and what happened when we left. I don’t think you should ever be one that dwells on things. Was I happy? No, I wasn’t happy but it didn’t keep us down for long and we went on to a great place and it worked out OK.
“I just feel for the people down there, not only the coaching staff, but also the great people of New Orleans. There are folks down there that are going through some tough times as we speak.”
Rodriguez has an affinity for New Orleans having lived there for two years and would have liked to have returned there to meet once again with old friends.
“Atlanta is a great town but I know quite a few people in the city of New Orleans and I’ve been back there a couple of times for recruiting,” he said. “When I left there after the Tulane thing I thought, well, it will be nice one day to come back here for a Sugar Bowl. We’re going to the Sugar Bowl but it’s not down there.”
Rodriguez isn’t the only one from West Virginia slightly disappointed that the game is not in New Orleans. The Mountaineers have several players from the New Orleans area on their roster including regulars Craig Wilson and Darius Reynaud.
“I teased Craig Wilson about it. I said, ‘We made it to the Sugar Bowl but unfortunately your family is still got to travel to see you,’” Rodriguez said. “I think they’re excited, period. There is probably a little disappointment that it’s not at home but it’s still the Sugar Bowl.”
Because Rodriguez has many friends still living in New Orleans, he keeps up with what is going on in the city.
“It was amazing what was under water and from what I understand, there are still major issues just getting everything up and running,” he said. “They’re talking about having (the game) back there hopefully next year which would be great. New Orleans has been a very unique and entertaining city for a long, long time. I don’t know if it will ever be the same again but it will be nice for the Sugar Bowl and all of the other events down there to come back pretty quickly.”
Following Wednesday’s practice the team went to the ESPN Zone for dinner.
“The guy that has probably come on the best in practice recently is Brandon Barrett and for the folks in West Virginia they know his name a little bit because he was the state player of the year a couple of years ago,” Rodriguez said. “We’re really proud of the way he’s practiced and he’s probably going to get his most extensive playing time in the Sugar Bowl next Monday if things continue to go as they are.”
“Our hotel has been a little crazy,” Rodriguez said. “It caught me off guard a little bit and we’ve had some issues with elevators and crowd noise.
“I knew I was going to have to work crowd noise in the game but I didn’t know I had to work on it during the mid-week at 1 am,” he chuckled. “Our guys have gotten a lot of practice with crowd noise. They’re working on it right now and we’re trying to get the situation resolved. Our players have handled everything beautifully and that’s what I’m most proud of with this team. Every little bit of adversity they’ve handled it very maturely and that’s one thing that has helped us this year.”
Wednesday, December 28, 2005
Sugar Bowl Notebook
Sugar Bowl Notebook