The Big 12 sent out its schedule for this year’s media days in the Ford Center at The Star, the Dallas Cowboys’ 500,000-plus-square-foot indoor practice facility that also seats 12,000.
This year’s event will take place Monday-Tuesday, July 17-18.
Tuesday’s major media presentations include Big 12 coordinator of officials Walt Anderson and Matthew Sign, chief operating officer for the National Football Foundation. The College Football Playoff will also have a representative at Tuesday’s session to field questions about this year’s playoff.
West Virginia begins practicing for its season-opening game against Virginia Tech on Sunday, July 30.
The Mountaineers and Hokies will meet for the first time since 2005 at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland, on Sunday, Sept. 3. The prime-time game will be televised nationally on ABC.
By the way, I am hearing West Virginia has less than 2,000 tickets remaining out of its 17,000 allotment for the opener against the Hokies.
As for general ticket sales, I am hearing the ticket office had a very strong day on Thursday by moving more than 5,000 single-game tickets, mostly for the East Carolina, Texas Tech and Texas contests.
Mini sales were also stronger than the first day of sales last year with more than 550 sold before the end of business on Thursday - the most popular being the Blue package (Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and Texas).
Nearly 65 percent of the tickets sold on Thursday were online through WVUGAME.com.
And now, on to some summer notes …
Harrisburg's Carl "Kid" Beck was the talk of the state in 1920 playing for the West Virginia Mountaineers. WVU Athletic Communications photo.
I saw this question posed on social media a few weeks back regarding some of the highest-rated football recruits West Virginia has ever signed.
Certainly Florida transfer Will Grier
, a former national high school player of the year, has to be part of the discussion, as well as five-star recruits Jason Gwaltney of Long Island, New York, and Robert Alexander of South Charleston.
Both running backs entertained a long list of suitors before eventually choosing West Virginia.
Before them, perhaps the biggest recruit ever corralled by a West Virginia football coach happened in 1920 when Harrisburg Tech’s Carl “Kid” Beck somehow ended up in Morgantown.
Beck was the best player on the best high school football team in the country in 1919. His Central Pennsylvania prep team won its 12 games that season by a combined score of 701-0 with Beck scoring 34 touchdowns himself. He was captain of the Tech basketball team and was also a champion hurdler, jumper and weight man in track, his jumps and throws bettering the marks set by Jim Thorpe in the 1912 Olympic Games.
Some even took to calling Beck a “white Jim Thorpe” because of his open-field running style and general elusiveness on the gridiron.
Every college serious about playing football in 1920 wanted Kid Beck, including Pitt’s Pop Warner and Lafayette’s Jock Sutherland. At one time or another, each school thought it had Beck - and Lafayette actually did briefly when it “stole” the Kid right out from under the Mountaineers’ noses during their summer training camp in Mountain Lake Park, Maryland.
Two days after his arrival, a pair of Sutherland’s assistant coaches visited Beck and convinced him to leave camp and enroll at Lafayette the next day. Beck and his Harrisburg High teammate, Tony Wilsbach, were whisked away in the middle of the night without anyone hearing them leave.
Captain Howard Lentz, a resident of coach Mont McIntire’s hometown of New Martinsville, pounded on McIntire’s door at daybreak when the team noticed Beck’s and Wilsbach’s beds were empty.
“Coach, coach, our boy’s is gone,” Lentz said excitedly, his poor grammar ignored for the moment.
Immediately, McIntire dispatched assistant coach Ward Lanham to Easton, Pennsylvania, to try and retrieve their two prized recruits. Athletic director Harry Stansbury, relating the story 43 years later to Pittsburgh Press sports editor Chester Smith, can’t recall the specifics to how Lanham was able to pry Beck away from Jock Sutherland’s grasp, but he did admit that the football budget might have taken a little bit of a hit when Lanham returned with the star halfback.
As for Wilsbach, there was nothing left for Lanham to give him so he didn’t return to WVU’s training camp.
Right away, the handsome blond-haired, blue-eyed athlete became the No. 1 topic of conversation everywhere in the state.
“Getting to the individuals,” the Clarksburg Exponent wrote in 1920, “the first man to be discussed in the West Virginia camp would be the first to be discussed in any camp, Beck, the Harrisburg Tech phenom. Words of an average writer fail to do this subject justice and after wrestling with the question a while I’ll say that he looks like a million dollars would look to me. If he stays at West Virginia he would do much to fill (Ira) Rodgers’ shoes.
“In the first place he weighs 178 pounds stripped, has the agility of a wildcat, the strength of a bull ape with the speed of an antelope. That description lacks one quality to make a football player and he has it - a football heart.”
There's more, “I saw him run only signal practice where the goal line 40 or a 100 yards away wasn’t the objective,” he continued, “but I say that he could run as fast as any 178-pounder I had ever seen in a football suit before. I saw him grab forward passes with the same ease and almost uncanny certainty of Bob Higgins and I observed that he was more familiar with the finer points of the game as a freshman than many of the great gridiron men who were playing their last game.”
And this, “He would work five hours a day at the Mountain Lake training camp and come off the field turning handsprings or walking on his hands. He is never tired and likes to practice, which (e)nsures the certainty of his being familiar with the details of the plays.
“Outside of his other accomplishments and general finish he can kick, pass and tackle like a Bengal tiger. If he takes all that stuff with him into college games with any school this season something is going to break, and barring injuries, marriage or an earthquake, gentlemen, there is certainly an All-American. No, they did not overplay him in advance publicity, they underplayed him.”
Unfortunately for West Virginia, the Kid didn’t love his schoolwork as much as he did his football and he flunked out after just one season playing for the Mountaineers in 1920.
Beck did resurface to play briefly at Vermont, and also played a little bit of pro football before returning to his native Harrisburg, where he lived and worked until his death in 1963.
Those who saw Carl Beck play at WVU believe he could have been one of the all-time great college football players had he remained in school.
Keep in mind, this only includes institutions required by federal law to report financial figures and does not include private schools or institutions exempt from reporting its finances, so this is by no means an all-inclusive listing.
Randy Mazey hit one out of the park earlier this week when he announced that former Tennessee coach Dave Serrano will be joining his coaching staff as pitching coach, replacing Derek Matlock, who was recently named head baseball coach at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.
Mazey’s success in bringing Serrano aboard has caused a stir in the sport because of Serrano’s two College World Series appearances with UC Irvine and Cal-Fullerton, his reputation as a first-rate pitching coach and his extensive recruiting contacts throughout the country.
While Serrano was at Tennessee, his Volunteer recruiting classes were consistently ranked in the top 20 and a number of his players went on to play Major League Baseball, including 11 first-rounders at all of his coaching stops.
The word is Serrano turned down assistant coaching offers from Arizona State and Alabama to work for Mazey at WVU.
Serrano was named Baseball America’s coach of the year in 2007.
I know Jedd Gyorko is not playing in this year’s Major League All-Star Game, but his midseason stats certainly warrant a roster spot. The fifth-year player is hitting .304 with 12 home runs and 42 RBI as the St. Louis Cardinals near the all-star break.
Jedd was four-for-six during the Miami series, missing one game during the series because of leg cramps. He has also been bothered a sore hand, so the break coming up will be valuable for Gyorko before he starts the second half of the season.
Longtime former Don Nehlen aide Dave McMichael has finally hung up his coaching whistle for good after 42 years working the sidelines, most recently at Kent State where he was special teams coordinator and tight ends coach on Paul Haynes’ staff.
McMichael actually served two stints at WVU - 19 years for Nehlen ending in 2000, and one year for Bill Stewart in 2010.
The low-keyed assistant wasn’t a self-promoter, but Nehlen always thought highly of McMichael as an offensive strategist and good fundamental coach who worked with WVU’s tackles and tight ends. McMichael was also an underrated recruiter whose forays into Long Island, New York, landed several key players, including consensus All-American linebacker Canute Curtis, running back Amos Zereoue and slot receiver Rahsaan Vanterpool.
McMichael also spent time at Bowling Green, Muskingum, Southern Illinois and Connecticut.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to WVU women’s basketball coach Mike Carey, whose father Ronald passed away recently at age 82. The Careys are a close-knit family and Ron was a big reason why. He is preceded in death by his wife, Shirley, who passed away on Nov. 27, 2014.
Speaking of Carey, he is in the midst of finding a replacement on his coaching staff for Diane Richardson, who was recently named women’s basketball coach at Towson University. Richardson spent only one season at WVU, but her impact was felt immediately on the recruiting trail.
With her as West Virginia’s recruiting coordinator, the Mountaineers signed a class in 2017 rated 17th in the nation by ESPNW. She was also part of WVU’s first-ever Big 12 tournament championship.
All-American guard Wil Robinson was recently inducted into the Pennsylvania State Hall of Fame. WVU Athletic Communications photo
And finally, former All-America guard Wil Robinson is a member of several halls of fame, but perhaps the most prestigious one just happened when it was announced on June 27 that he will be joining 11 others in the 2017 Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame.
This year’s class, plus 2016 inductee Ron Insinger, who was unable to attend last year’s event because of a family emergency, will be honored on Oct. 28 at the Genetti Hotel & Conference Center in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
Robinson still holds WVU’s single-season scoring record by averaging 29.4 points per game during his senior season in 1972.
The one knock on Robinson during his Mountaineer playing career was an inability to go to his left, but as former assistant coach Gary McPherson once said, “He didn’t need to - no one could stop him anyway!”
One of the best WVU stories I ever heard involved Robinson and a game West Virginia played against George Washington at Fort Myer Gym in Fort Myer, Virginia, during Wil’s sophomore season in 1970.
The game went down to the wire and with the score tied, West Virginia’s coach, the late Sonny Moran, called timeout to get his team organized for an opportunity to score the winning basket. Moran’s explicit instructions were for Robinson to dribble out the clock and with virtually no time left, he was to use a ball screen to take the winning shot.
If he missed it there was to be no time left on the clock for George Washington to get off a shot in regulation.
Everything went according to plan, with Robinson dribbling the basketball beyond the top of the key with his back to the basket.
Then, suddenly, the George Washington student section began counting down … “10, nine, eight, seven, six, five …” until Robinson spun around, and took a wild shot that crashed off the back of the basket, enabling a GW player to grab the rebound with still plenty of time remaining.
George Washington coach Wayne Dobbs immediately called timeout, seeking to take advantage of his good fortune.
When Robinson walked over to the West Virginia bench where the players were huddling around their coach, an exasperated Moran asked his star player what the hell he was thinking.
“Damn it, Wil, I told you not to shoot the ball until there was not enough time left on the clock for the other team to get off a shot, in case you missed it!” he said.
“I know, coach, but those kids started counting down and I thought they were telling the truth,” Robinson said.
That’s when senior forward Dick Symons reminded his young teammate where they were playing.
“Hey Wil, this is Washington, D.C. Nobody tells the truth here!” Symons said.
Have a great weekend everyone!