Typically, West Virginia has three weeks of camp, followed by two academic weeks prior to the first game. This year, because of a later kickoff on Sept. 5, combined with an academic calendar which begins Aug. 17, the Mountaineers had just two weeks of camp prior to classes. That means the team still has what the players, coaches and staff consider one more week of camp-like practices prior to its week of game-week practice prep, followed by the initial game week itself.
And this year, that final weekend before camp is fraught with the kind of issues coaches don’t embrace, typically the Saturday evening following a Saturday scrimmage combined with a Sunday off and the FallFest celebration. This time, FallFest is slated for Sunday afternoon and into that evening as opposed to the first day of classes on Monday – the first such year for such a change since the celebration was started in 1995. Whether the move, designed by the administration to limit the party atmosphere, will work is questionable, seeing as how the schedule would appear to set up as allowing a longer timeframe, though finishing earlier on Sunday evening.
“Stay out of High Street tonight,” defensive coordinator Tony Gibson said. “We still have a lot of work to do. We are not close to being game ready at this point. Usually we have three weeks of camp before school starts, so we are cut a little bit short. We still have another week in our minds as coaches. It’s always scary no matter when you break camp, there’s that temptation to go out and be like every other college student and our guys can’t do that.”
When Don Nehlen was the head coach, WVU would absolutely grind the players the last scrimmage day in an effort to wear them out. “We tried that,” Gibson said. “But 18- to 22-year-old boys are going to be boys. Hopefully they make the right decisions. But we have a lot more mature team right now.”
WVU RBs coach JaJuan Seider on player responsibility
Gibson said the staff would release the team and allow them to enjoy FallFest on Sunday, but make a point after practice today to reiterate that players avoid the partying situations this evening. WVU’s coaching staff has kept in place the curfew that existed during fall camp, but those reins will be lessened into next week as the staff gives the players more leeway after the official close of camp. In addition, the players will get the same basic speech head coach Dana Holgorsen gives every year, which typically begins and ends with the basics of not breaking any laws, and if you’re not of legal age, to not consume alcohol.
“If it’s not legal, don’t do it,” Holgorsen said last year. “If you’re not 21, don’t drink. Be smart, and make smart decisions.”
West Virginia’s players will join more than 5,000 freshmen, bringing the overall enrollment to more than 31,000 for the university, 29,000-plus of which are in Morgantown. There were 22,563 undergraduates last year.
“Coach Holgorsen has talked about that, us coming back and school starting,” assistant head coach Lonnie Galloway said. “You’re getting used to being back into a routine with school and days off and getting used to that. It should help us get them fresh not having just camp, camp, camp. But you have all the other students coming into town and they have been at camp the last two weeks. We have a pretty veteran group of guys, and hopefully they do the things they are supposed to. We will see. Camp’s not over. The only thing that happened is they started school.”
Running backs coach JaJuan Seider, along with assistant defensive line coach Damon Cogdell, played at West Virginia in the mid to late 1990s. Both experienced the Grant Avenue block parties, as well as the High Street experiences, when camp broke. And both understand that players will have to make individual choices, and all one can do is give them the background and information needed to guide them in the correct direction.
“At some point you talk about it, because you’re always going to have to talk about making the right decision, but this is college,” said Seider, who quarterbacked the Mountaineers behind Marc Bulger from 1996-98. “You have to treat these guys like young adults. You want them to be able to socialize, but you also want to make sure you are taking the steps to educate them so they don’t put themselves in a situation where they’ve worked so hard to get to this point and they screw it up.”