The Richardson File

The media only saw four total hours of WVU's fall camp over the past couple of weeks. The kicker is that nobody seemed to have a problem with that.

I still remember the moment when our jobs here at BlueGoldNews.com changed. It was late July of last summer (2005) and Mountaineer head coach Rich Rodriguez was doing one of his two preseason conference calls. He had been asked a question about something (I can't recall what) and began with his usual style of giving a straight answer. At the end of answering the question he began to go a little off track, and summed up his response by vaguely stating that they would be "limiting" what the media could do as far as practice coverage.

There was a slight pause, followed by Rodriguez asking if there were any other questions.

"Could you be just a little more specific?" asked one of the writers on the conference call.

Rodriguez then went into more detail, and as it was he said there would only be a few open windows for the media to watch practice during the 2005 fall camp.

"RODRIGUEZ BARS MEDIA FROM PRACTICE" read the headline of one West Virginia newspaper the next day. Dominion Post sports editor Bob Hertzel wrote a column addressing the matter the next day, saying that up until that point Rodriguez and the media had always had a good working relationship. Would it continue? That was the million dollar question.

Throughout the season, Rodriguez maintained a rather positive relationship with the media, and to his credit was as accessible as he'd been in previous years. The only difference was that we hadn't been allowed to watch practice prior to the season. Thus we had to take his word about how practice was going, thus his young team wouldn't have their heads inflated or deflated by what folks such as myself were saying about their skills.

We all know what happened next. The Mountaineers marched to an 11-1 season, culminating with a win over SEC champion Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. I'm not calling Rodriguez superstitious, but after that type of success there was little doubt that again we would only be able to see practice in one hour windows. He would hopefully keep the spring practices open as normal, but surely he would close fall camp yet again.

When the practice schedule for fall camp was released it was noted that practice would again (as expected) be closed unless otherwise noted. As it turned out, only four hours of total practice time would be viewable for the press. That was even considerably less than what we had seen last summer, especially when you take into account that we weren't allowed to watch any of the three scrimmages (last year we were admitted to at least one.) Through it all though, nobody seemed to care. I'm not sure why exactly that is, but Friday's final open hour was lightly attended by the media. Only four scribes in all were present - and two of those were Blue & Gold News staffers.

It's kind of funny how a year ago, Hertzel and others (including myself) were wondering if Rodriguez would fall out of favor with the press by drawing a line in the sand. In fact, the opposite has happened. In the spring, national writers like Pat Forde and Bruce Feldman of ESPN.com were here. So was Dennis Dodd, who writes for CBSSportsline.com and is also the current president of the Football Writers Association of America.

This fall there have been writers from national publications, as well as newspapers such as the Boston Globe. One writer reportedly came all the way from Los Angeles to interview Rodriguez. Mountaineer players have graced the cover of several national magazines, including this week's Sports Illustrated College Football Preview. Junior running back Owen Schmitt has a noticeable presence in this week's ESPN the Magazine (Schmitt does not address the rumor that when Owen Schmitt works out the machine gets stronger.)

Simply put, the success of last season has brought the Mountaineers more media attention than anyone could have imagined a year ago. Ironically, it all started with Rodriguez looking for just the opposite.


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