WVU football on a need-to-know basis?
MORGANTOWN - Down at Texas Tech, they've figured out how to handle this whole quarterbacks-in-transition deal. Of course, they've had a good bit of experience in recent weeks, so now it goes pretty smoothly.
At West Virginia? Well, not so much.
Tech lost the second of its three-headed quarterback monster from last season this week when Michael Brewer said that he would finish the spring semester, get his degree and go somewhere else to play his final two seasons. Brewer had actually been the No. 1 QB at Tech heading into the season, but a back injury prevented him from playing at the start of the year and freshmen Baker Mayfield and Davis Webb shared the job and kept sharing it all year.
Mayfield, a walk-on, became the Big 12's offensive freshman of the year while splitting games with Webb. Before the Red Raiders' bowl game, he too announced he was transferring out.
West Virginia also had three quarterbacks last season - although without quite the same success - but now heading into the spring, one is gone and another on the shelf for a while after shoulder surgery.
Of course, getting any measure of official information from the locked vault that is Dana Holgorsen's program is on a need-to-know basis. You, I and anyone else with an interest? We don't need to know.
It's so petty.
Oh, not everything remains secretive, of course. There are still leaks. There always are. One of those three quarterbacks, Ford Childress, is not enrolled in school for the second semester. He was apparently suspended from the team and decided his future was elsewhere. Yet until Wednesday afternoon, four days after the world pretty much knew he was gone, his name remained on the roster.
Now, before you assume that the fact that Childress' name was still listed somewhere as a participant, know that Avery Williams was not and Edward Muldrow III was. Those are cogent points because they were deleted or added just recently, Muldrow (a junior college transfer linebacker) just this week. This is not some forgotten list of data. It's updated constantly.
Yet Childress' name remained there and the official response from the school was that neither Holgorsen nor anyone else had a comment. When his name finally disappeared Wednesday afternoon, it was with no fanfare and nary an announcement.
And, truth be told, if that's the way they want to handle it, there's obviously nothing stopping them. Ditto with Clint Trickett's shoulder surgery, which he underwent this week and will likely result in his missing at least part of the spring and perhaps all of it.
Here's a team that went 4-8 last season and is drawing fewer fans each season. It's a team that has lost 14 of its last 20 games and, in doing so, has disenfranchised a sizable portion of its fan base. OK, so it's also a program and a coach that firmly believe they're on the right track despite all of that - a contention that actually might be true.
Yet when perhaps the two highest-profile members of that team - the two who were in the best position to battle for the starting quarterback job - have issues that everyone knows about (not the specifics, but the fact that there are issues), the same program that wants your support and belief in them clams up and says, in essence, take a hike.
It's need-to-know, and you don't need to know.
You know what? You're right. No one NEEDS to know. And personally, I don't care, either.
But no one NEEDS to buy tickets or support the program, either. And don't the ones that do deserve just a modicum of transparency?
Sure, Joe Paterno operated his program at Penn State with that same sort of disdain for public relations for half a century (and no, we're not talking about Jerry Sandusky and all that, although didn't the veil of secrecy there contribute to that, as well?). Paterno scoffed at anyone's need to know anything other than what he decided to trickle down to the masses, but he also operated a program that won, sold 100,000 tickets every week and operated pre-Facebook and Twitter.
We're not talking about delving into the personal life or issues of Ford Childress or anyone else here. That's not the point. We don't need to know that. You didn't vote for him. He's not accountable to you and most of what he does is none of your business.
And truth be told, some things need to stay in house, and there are a whole bunch of things about football and basketball programs across the country that are way overblown. I'm the first in line among those who abhor the microscope placed on every aspect of a team by its fans and some in the media. So often things are blown way out of proportion, be it an injury or a fight or a suspension or an arrest or the myriad other things that happen when 120 players and coaches exist together. Stuff happens. Not all of it is important. Shoot, most of the stuff people make a big deal out of is overreaction.
But whether or not a guy who might have been the starting quarterback is on the team? That's not personal information. It's just a yes or a no answer. Have enough respect for the people who, for some reason, live and die by your successes and failures to give them a simple answer.
I've learned over the years that the best way to deal with the truly significant things - and I'm guessing that questions about whether either of your top two quarterbacks are still your top two quarterbacks qualifies as such - is to get out in front of it. It's not like it's possible to deny that there were and are issues with Childress and Trickett. Refusing to get out in front of it just fosters rumors and half-truths that can do no one any good. It also nurtures the belief that there's something to hide and/or that the program is in disarray.
In the case of Childress, I can't imagine any reason to keep him on the roster other than a belief that his departure might not have been sealed or permanent. If that was the case, fine. But if it wasn't, stop being secretive and move on. Publicly. Kind of like Texas Tech did Wednesday when it issued a statement on Brewer's behalf announcing his intentions, Holgorsen should have done the same regarding Childress's status and Trickett's surgery.
And then he could move on to recruiting Brewer and not telling anyone how he plans to bypass the Big 12's within-conference transfer rules.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/dphickman1.