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Dave Hickman: A cooking show with a dash of Herb

MORGANTOWN — Cleaning out a crowded notebook and a cluttered mind:

Living in a house with a wife and two preteen daughters, as I do, tends to seriously restrict what one is able to watch on television. Quite simply, save the time I happen to be alone, my choices are generally limited to the Disney Channel, a bit of Nickelodeon and The Food Network.

The latter means I’ve somehow become an expert on the cooking show “Chopped.’’ For the uninitiated, four chefs, usually of somewhat similar abilities but wholly diverse backgrounds, compete for a panel of judges. In each of three rounds they are each given the same basket of some of the most disparate ingredients imaginable and must first concoct an appetizer, a main course and a dessert. In each round, a loser is eliminated, or chopped.

I bring this up because in the three or four years we’ve been watching this, Julie has never recognized a contestant, but I have. A few years ago an ex-Glenville State football player under Rich Rodriguez, Ronnie Vincent, was fodder for the judges.

Tonight, another Rodriguez connection makes an appearance. Remember Herb Hand?

That’s right, the former West Virginia assistant coach and recruiting coordinator will be on tonight’s show at 10 p.m., a Father’s Day week episode. That’s another thing about “Chopped.’’ They love having the occasional theme show.

Hand taped the episode last fall and was sworn to secrecy about the results. I ran into him on a flight from Nashville to Pittsburgh a few months ago and we ended up torturing the poor woman in the middle seat between us for more than two hours. He didn’t tell me the outcome, but I got the feeling the deck was stacked against him.

“It was supposed to be these four dads. I figured, ‘OK, me and a bunch of other guys who just cook because we like to,’ ” Hand said. “Believe me, you talk about being out of your element. I was.’’

Apparently the other three dads all had rather vast culinary backgrounds and varying heart-grabbing back stories (that’s another thing you’ll learn about “Chopped,’’ everyone has some sympathetic take of woe). Hand is just a college football coach who once damn near died when he tried to stifle a sneeze at a salad bar.

Anyway, should be fun. Hand is now an assistant at Penn State, where James Franklin is the new head coach. Both were at Vanderbilt when the show was taped, so don’t be surprised if his resume hasn’t been fully updated.

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Every year at about this time I immerse myself for a week or so in what we call GEISA, the Gazette Excellence In Sports Awards. It’s something I started 18 years ago here and have never bothered to pass along to anyone else, not that anyone would take it.

The GEISA is our attempt at high school all-sports standings in West Virginia. A lot of conferences (high school and college) do something similar, and there are all-sports rankings nationally in college, too. I just thought it would be fun to apply a formula to high schools in the state and see where it ended up.

I’ve been surprised sometimes, not just by the winners but by the trends. The three main ones: 1) Parochial schools dominate Class A, having won all 18 years, Charleston Catholic and Wheeling Central have combined for 17 of the 18); 2) Bridgeport and Winfield are without question the big dogs in Class AA when they aren’t bouncing up a class (as Winfield is now and Bridgeport was for eight straight years); and Parkersburg and George Washington won 11 of 13 at one point in Class AAA.

That last one surprised me just a bit because in the first five years we were doing this thing there were five different Class AAA winners. And then Parkersburg won seven of eight and GW four in a row. I’d rather have the variety of five in five years, but hey, it is what it is.

And just to be clear here, the winners of these things are sometimes decided by the slimmest of margins. Shoot, in some cases one error in one baseball game or an errant pass in a basketball regional semifinal might be the difference in a close race. It’s not all that scientific or decisive, but then is that any different than what sometimes decides a state title in an individual sport?

I bring this up because Morgantown won the Class AAA GEISA title this year for the first time, beating Parkersburg by a half point, 55-54 1/2. And in a way, we could have scored the thing differently and it would have turned into a tie. Without going into a lot of detail, it has to do with the tie-breaker formula for team ties in the state tennis tournament. Had we broken all of the ties, the GEISA scoring would have been different. We broke only the ones that the SSAC broke, which were for second place and the runner-up trophies in boys and girls Class AAA. Parkersburg was involved in both and lost both tie-breakers.

Had we not broken any of the ties (even for second place), Parkersburg would have won the GEISA title. But we followed what the SSAC did, because for better or worse that’s what we’ve always based our scores on. In that scenario, Morgantown won by that half point. And had we gone ahead and broken all of the ties (there would have been five in AAA boys and girls), the GEISA race between Morgantown and Parkersburg would have ended up tied.

We chose to break only the ties the SSAC broke and Morgantown won. Breaking none of the ties wasn’t an option, so Parkersburg could not have won the GEISA title outright. And had we broken all of the ties and the GEISA score ended in a tie, Morgantown still would have been declared the winner. That’s because after Winfield and Bridgeport tied in Class AA in 2003, we instituted a tie-breaker of our own in the event we ever had another deadlock. The team with the most sport championships (and then the most seconds, third, etc., if necessary) will be declared the winner.

Morgantown won two championships and Parkersburg one. So our winner would have been the same.

And now you know.

Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or or follow him at

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