We hear Bill Stewart is a player’s coach. We hear he is too close to his players, too ready to be liked to truly have control over this program. Yet, in the month and a half since he took the reigns, Stewart has dismissed as many players — three — as his predecessor might in ten times the time.
Is this because Stewart has fostered a culture of unruliness in just 47 days? Likely not. Has he inherited exactly that? A lot of signs point to yes.
Rodriguez, when he was hired, was known as a disciplinarian, a coach who didn’t shit from anyone. That was (falsely) confirmed when, in his first year, he did nothing but yell at his players. In fact, though it diminished as he got older and more experienced, Rodriguez kept yelling. He was also world-renowned for his dog house — where it seemed players went to die.
All of these things pointed to Rodriguez running a tight ship of player discipline. To a supporter, this could be confirmed by the extremely low number of players that Rodriguez dismissed or suspended from the team. Was this the case, or was Rodriguez simply winning at all costs?
Now, before we go any further, let’s be clear on one thing: Rodriguez was not a cheater. Win at all costs certainly did not extend to recruiting violations, etc. In that regard, Rodriguez ran a clean program. He also was not Rick Neuheisel. But Rodriguez’s (now very visible) ego kept him on a path of winning which did not include dismissals or suspensions. The starters played.
Look at some of the most examples:
- Chris Henry, ejected from the Rutgers game, only missed time after his antics reached a fever pitch. In fact, two games separated the Rutgers game and the Pitt game that Henry was actually suspended for.
- Adam”Pac-Man” Jones assaulted someone at Dr. John’s with a pool cue. Time missed? None.
- Adam Lehnortt, arrested for marijuana possession. Time missed? None.
- Brandon Barrett, twice ruled academically ineligible, arrested for both marijuana possession and DUI. Rodriguez’s stern reaction?
“I’m not optimistic at all that Brandon Barrett will be in a Mountaineers uniform.”
- JT Thomas and Ellis Lankster were arrested for larceny of both a television and a laptop. While they missed three games, they were immediately reinstated after it became clear that serious charges would not be filed.
- Jason Gwaltney, just like Barrett, was given numerous chances to make it on the team, even after being ruled academically ineligible 4,000 times and being arrested for obstruction of an officer.
- Phil Braxton, though never arrested, was notoriously the biggest drug dealer on campus. When they debuted the helmet with the smoke for the team’s entrance, who do you think provided the smoke?
- The 25314 was arrested for scalping tickets outside the Georgia Dome. Did he miss any time? Of course not.
Then, we come the stories of John Holmes, Ed Collington, and James Ingram, arrested earlier this month for marijuana possession with intent to distribute. A major, major crime. You think these guys just started dealing after Rodriguez left for Michigan? Probably not.
And, of course, we saved the best for last: the story of Noel Devine and Jock Sanders. Well, not just Devine and Sanders, but allegedly, also Brandon Hogan and Ed Collington. Sources within Stewart Hall (think high up) are receiving word that the type of incident cited this past weekend has been happening all season. Basically football players acting like fools because they’re football players. That’s nothing new.
The problem, however, is when you let these things keep happening. We hear HCBS’s comments about a fist fight being very different from drug distribution — and we agree wholeheartedly. But, at some point, the coaches need to put a stop to this. Rodriguez, as we’ve seen, was not the man to do this. In his short tenure (dismissing 3 players and sending Evan Rodriguez home for missing curfew at the Fiesta Bowl), it looks like Stewart IS that kind of guy.
He might have to be.