TUE JAN 1 3:00 PM MST
The Fiesta Bowl trophy presented to the winning team is worth $1.2 million. It is 46 inches tall and weighs 200 pounds. Four shades of marble and five colors of 18 karat gold highlight the trophy. Fifty carats of diamonds and other enamel are also included. Teams do not get to keep the trophy.
Also, West Virginia has a one-hour walk-through at the University of Pheonix Stadium. The Mountaineers will have a team function tonight before they retire. That's much more than has been done by staff member Chris Richardson, who has been in bed for 18 consecutive hours as of this update. He is not hungover, and is sans female company. He has recently moved from the bed to the couch, but insists he cannot do anything further.
TUE JAN 1 8:00 AM MST
Work crews had just three days to get University of Phoenix Stadium turned around from the Arizona Cardinals' NFL home finale to the Fiesta Bowl. Sections of the turf were replaced and paint applied to erase the Cardinals' end zone markings and the NFL hashmarks. The field was worn in the bench areas, but the playing surface looked to be in good shape.
MON DEC 31 5:00 PM MST
Schools that have tansitional coaching staffs during bowl games are 0-6 in those contests this year.
West Virginia's players have been "like angels" according to head coach Bill Stewart. There have been no disciplinary actions or problems for WVU leading up to the game.
Patrick White reads the message boards. "I don't know where some of that stuff comes from," he said. "It's like a bunch of 12-year olds sometimes."
An unconfirmed report has some of Oklahoma's players suffering from the flu. Included in those reported to have it is defensive lineman Auston English. English was at OU's media day.
The flying WV logos on Owen Schimtt's jersey are more purple than navy blue. "They must have put too much starch in them," Schmitt joked.
MON DEC 31 1:00 PM MST
Update to last night's Wild Kingdown adventure. The creatures we saw were actually javelinas.
Notes and items from media day:
Oklahoma defensive tackle DeMarcus Granger has been sent home for disciplinary actions.
Running backs coach Calvin Magee will accept a position at Michigan. Strength and conditioning coach Mike Barwis has not made up his mind - he, like other coaches, will wait to see who the new head man is at West Virginia before making his choices.
Linebacker Reed Williams plans to file papers for the NFL draft, but is doing so to check the lay of the land. He is not expected to reatin an agent, and can thus retain his collegiate eligibility.
Greg Hunter snapped two forks in half during the media day luncheon.
Each suite in the staidum was marked with a big sign listing the shcools in each conference, but the bifurcated nature of the Big East apparently threw the signmakers for a loop. The Big East sign had 12 schools on it, including the eight football schools plus DePaul, Marquette, Georgetown and St. John's were listed. Notre Dame, Providence, Seton Hall and Villanova were not listed.
MON DEC 31 8:00 AM MST
So the entire BGN crew is coming out of the media hospitality room last night when a pack of wild boars crosses our path. O.K., we know that sounds like a bad joke, but it did happen.
As we were heading for our rental car, a squat shape comes rumbling down the pathway between the villas at the Camelback Inn Resort. We all do doubletakes, and watch as four more of the animals follow, mill around, then head across the street in pursuit of who knows what.
And no, we weren't having hallucinations, because the boss man, Greg Hunter, doesn't drink. And he saw them too. apparently the grounds crew knew about them as well, because two workers in a golf cart took up the pursuit as we left the scene.
Today we are off to the University of Phoenix Stadium for our final formal access to the team, as well as lunch in the press box. We'll be back later today (remember the time difference!) with more photos and interviews.
SUN DEC 30 3:00 PM MST
West Virginia's players appear especially relaxed. The Mountaineers held their final full-contact practice session Friday, then drilled in shorts and shells Saturday and Sunday. Interim head coach Bill Stewart is making the sessions short and crisp and has even moved through periods of drills much faster than expected. That's left WVU upbeat and enthusiastic, and given the players added bonding time, an important aspect after recent events.
Keilen Dykes, Ryan Stanchek and Reed Williams made radio appearances on Saturday, with Dykes, who has said he wishes to go into radio, serving up a series of questions to Williams. The duo also commented on the car dealerships in the Scottsdale area, which include Lamborghini, Ferrari, Porsche and Aston Martin.
That followed a team outing to a local steakhouse, where players claimed Owen Schmitt consumed several cows. Schmitt said he had one 16 oz. New York Strip steak. Stanchek said he was most enjoying the beauty of the desert mountains and how clean the area was. The Scottsdale Plaza Resort is within view of Arizona's famed Camelback Mountain.
The setup is excellent for media and guests. The Blue and Gold News staff is also staying at the Scottsdale Plaza, in a villa with reasonable space and a patio looking into courtyard with views of the desert in the distance. The general Phoenix-Scottsdale-Tempe-Glendale area covers a vast amount of square mileage, though the team, and BGN staff, is in a quieter, more upscale area away from the downtowns of the four areas. The media and team can access the media hotel via a seven-miinute drive, and the access to and spacing between interviews has been excellent for both players and media. Thus far, the Fiesta Bowl gets A marks for its preperation and media gift, which was a pair of Oakley sunglasses selected from among a choice of eight. The Insight.com media get a notebook and a soft, nerf-like football. Greg Hunter grabed one anyway, and flipped a quick option-pass to Matt Keller, who secured the ball for the staff before being jokingly told by bowl officials to "take it outside, boys."
Also, the process of media being photographed and supplied with proper credentials has been quick and effortless, as, apparently, has been the movement of players to and from practice sites and events. The media room is also well-stocked for breakfast, though other meals remain to be seen. Hunter and Keller are now off to pick up Kevin Kinder and Chris Richardson, who are likely on final approach after having covered WVU's basketball game against Oklahoma Saturday night. Check back for additional updates through Jan. 3.
SUN DEC 30 1:00 AM MST
WVU has wrapped up its hitting work at practice and is now concentrating on speed, technique and polishing its timing. The mood around the team hotel is upbeat, but that doesn't always translate to the field.
SAT DEC 29 6:00 AM MST
There's almost as much focus on the search for a new head football coach as there is on the game, which might be a good thing for this West Virginia team, battered as it has been over the month of December. WVU president Mike Garrison denied a report that he had nixed an offer from a WVU booster to pay the buyout on Florida State assistant Jimbo Fisher's contract, and noted that the search continues to progress. If an announcement is not made today, it's hard to imagine that a a new coach will be named prior to the game. Making an announcement on Sunday, or on New Year's Eve/New Year's Day, would be lost in the spate of bowl games and weekend inattention of many media outlets.
On the field, WVU continues to hold shorter-than-normal practices in order to avoid burnout and mental exhaustion from the strains of the past month. From all quarters, that move has been met with resounding support. West Virginia overworked its players prior to the Gator Bowl games against Maryland and Florida State, and the reuslts on the field showed it.
FRI DEC 28 10:00 AM EST
Interesting comment from Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops concerning WVU's coaching change. He noted that "they can't change their offense in one week".
While that's true, it should also be noted that WVU has numerous plays in its offense that it used rarely, if at all in 2007. WVU's offense over its last eight games consisted almost solely of giving the ball to quarterback Patrick White and telling him to make a play. Wonder if Stoops or OU will be prepared should the Mountaineers decide to put other aspects of the offense into play?
THU DEC 27 4:00 PM EST
If there's one place Oklahoma could afford to lose defenders, it was in its secondary, and that's just what has happened with the loss of Lendy Holmes (academics) and Reggie Smith (broken toe). Since West Virginia throws the ball downfield about as often as Halley's Comet appears, that wouldn't seem to be too much of a problem.
Two thoughts, however, go against convention. Run support from the secondary has been common against West Virginia, and the subs (Darien Williams and Brian Jackson) might not be as savvy in that department as those they replace. Also, might Bill Stewart have a few changeups to deliver in WVU's offensive attack?
THU DEC 27 9:00 AM EST
After a team reassembly meeting on Wednesday evening, the first practice in Arizona is scheduled for 1:30 PM MST this afternoon. Practices are expected to follow the same pattern as they did in Morgantown under Bill Stewart -- intense, but not as long as those under Rich Rodriguez. The decision to give players extra time off before Christmas and keep prep work from becoming overbearing appears to be having a good effect on team spirits.
WED DEC 26 8:00 PM EST
Most of the team and official traveling party have arrived in Phoenix. The flight from Morgantown actually arrived early, so the full complement of media was not in attendance.
Interim head coach Bill Stewart continued in his belief that WVU will bounce back.
"The guys will play hard. We've had tremendous practices. The guys went home last Friday and we began the Sunday before that. We went right to work. They gave us a great effort. It was spirited. It was crisp. We banged around a little bit. I thought we had some very good practices."
WED DEC 26 1:00 PM EST
In the gift bag for each Mountaineer this year from the Fiesta Bowl:
Gifts are theoretically limited to a total of $500, but ESPN The Magazine evaluated the Fiesta Bowl's package north of the $800 mark.