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UVa apologizes for band behavior during bowl game
/ Daily Progress staff writer
Dec 31, 2002
University of Virginia officials apologized Tuesday for a pep band performance at the Continental Tire Bowl that has drawn the ire of West Virginia's governor.

Bob Wise, the governor of West Virginia, wrote a letter Monday to UVa President John T. Casteen III, calling the scramble band's halftime show, which mocked West Virginia University and the state in general, "a classless act."

Bowl officials said Monday that the band is banned from playing the bowl ever again.

"We respect our colleagues at West Virginia University and all the citizens of West Virginia and would never favor actions that insulted them," UVa spokeswoman Carol Wood said Tuesday afternoon. Casteen, who was unavailable for comment, has spoken with WVU's president but not Wise.

Casteen will make a formal statement soon, although no earlier than Thursday, Wood added.

But John P. Ackerly III, the rector of UVa, defended the scramble band, which is known for mocking UVa's opponents.

"The Pep Band was not offensive," said Ackerly, who attended the Saturday game in which UVa beat West Virginia University, 48-22. "Any insult to West Virginia was delivered gloriously by our football team, not our lampooning pep band."

The halftime show was built around a skit based on the hit television show "The Bachelor." Two female band members - one purported to be from West Virginia University, the other from UVa - competed for the affections of a male band member.

The "WVU" competitor wore pigtails and overalls, performed a square dance and expressed her dream of living in Beverly Hills - a "Beverly Hillbillies" reference. West Virginia fans, who occupied more than half of Charlotte, N.C.'s Ericsson Stadium's 72,000 seats, booed throughout the performance.

The show's script was approved by both UVa's Athletic Department and bowl personnel, Wood said. Craig Littlepage, UVa's athletic director, has been in contact with pep band leaders, she added.

Ackerly also criticized Wise, whose office received "numerous" phone calls and e-mails from offended West Virginia residents, according to his letter.

"I would think the governor of West Virginia would have more important matters of state on his agenda, not the University of Virginia's spoofing Pep Band," Ackerly said.

"It seems to me that WVU invites the use of the term 'hillbilly' when its own mascot is a 'mountaineer' - unshaven, clad in buckskins and a coonskin hat, chewing tobacco and toting a musket," he added.

Wood said she had heard from many UVa and WVU alumni who were embarrassed and offended by the show, although a minority voiced support for the band.

UVa's executive vice president and chief operating officer, Leonard W. Sandridge Jr., said Tuesday that the brouhaha likely stemmed from a history of animosity between WVU and Virginia's 29-year-old Pep Band, rather than just Saturday's incident.

"I think the history of the situation some 15 years ago is a factor in this," said Sandridge, who spoke on a Morgantown, W.Va.-based radio show Monday.

In 1985, the Pep Band drew fire for poking fun at the state's supposed outdoor bathrooms - one of many occasions over the years in which the student group has been accused of bad taste. A review committee, which has since been discontinued, began examining show scripts before games in 1986.

In 1991, a General Assembly delegate and UVa alumnus threatened to introduce a bill calling on UVa to create a traditional marching band to replace the Pep Band.

The group also boycotted the 1993 football season after controversy over a halftime show during a game against the University of Tennessee, in which band members pretended to trample an Elvis Presley impersonator to death.

In 1997, after being confined to the stands, the band was allowed to play halftime shows.

Pep Band director Adam Lorentson did not return phone calls Tuesday.

Wood declined to say what, if any, sanctions the most recent controversy could bring.

Casteen "is reluctant to jump the gun until he knows all the facts," she said.



Casteen apologizes for Pep Band performance at game
/ Daily Progress staff writer
Jan 2, 2003
University of Virginia President John T. Casteen III placed blame Thursday on both the Virginia Pep Band and officials who approved the script of last week's halftime show mocking opponent West Virginia University.

Casteen apologized for the diversion of attention from the UVa football team's 48-22 victory at the Dec. 28 Continental Tire Bowl. He added that the university will examine in the next few weeks the Pep Band's conduct, which has come under fire many times during the group's 29-year history.

"The football team, those who attended the game and indeed the Pep Band, whose members have worked hard to do the right thing, deserve better," Casteen said in a prepared statement. "For all of this, I am sorry."

The president also spoke of UVa officials' respect for their WVU colleagues and West Virginians in general. "We are related," he noted.

Both the NCAA and the ACC prohibit ridiculing an opposing team or its fans at sports events - a tenet both the band leader and UVa's Athletics Department, which approves all Pep Band scripts, should know, Casteen said.

The president also admonished the Continental Tire Bowl officials who OK'd the show.

But Casteen tempered his criticism a bit, noting that the history of animosity between WVU and the Pep Band dates back to 1985, when "the current band members were infants or toddlers."

The controversy had mostly died down in the intervening years, although some pre-game publicity had mentioned it, Casteen added.

"Not all who have complained will want to accept my view, but I have come to believe that the band's attempted spoof, however ill- or well-conceived, worked badly, and that our common problem now is to learn from this event and move on," Casteen said.

The executive director of the Continental Tire Bowl acknowledged Thursday that he and other bowl officials hadn't done their homework on the Pep Band before approving the halftime script.

Executive Director Ken Haines said although he knew about the band's reputation for humor, he was unaware until after the bowl of the long history of animosity between the Pep Band and WVU fans.

A 1985 show drew fierce criticism when the band made outhouse and birth-control jokes at the expense of West Virginians during a UVa-WVU game.

The band's mockery in 1988 of Virginia Tech basketball player Bimbo Coles, a West Virginia native, prompted further debate.

But the controversy had remained quiet until the recent halftime show, which drew criticism from West Virginia's governor as well as many other residents of the state.

The show featured a female Pep Band member as a WVU student dressed in pigtails and overalls, prompting boos from Mountaineers fans.

The skit was a takeoff on the TV show "The Bachelor," with the WVU student and a UVa student competing for a UVa man's affections.

"We made a mistake here," Haines said. "We were not aware of the '85 skit. Maybe we should have been."

The Pep Band director, meanwhile, said Thursday that criticism of the group's performance was overblown.

Adam Lorentson, a 20-year-old UVa junior, pointed out that both bowl personnel and UVa's Athletics Department had approved the script days before the Dec. 28 game.

"The show was approved, and we didn't add or subtract anything from the text," Lorentson said. "We do shows that are jokes, and jokes should be taken as jokes."

But Haines said the script, which was read by the game announcer over the stadium's public-announcement system, gave few details on how the WVU girl would be dressed and did not state that she would square dance during the show, which WVU fans roundly booed.

A copy of the script on the Pep Band's web site calls only for the WVU student to be dressed in blue and yellow, the school's colors. It also does not specify that the girl would square dance, only that all three characters would dance during two songs.

Lorentson said the band had been asked the day of the game what the WVU character would wear, and the pigtails and overalls were approved then. Haines said he didn't know about the game-day interaction.

The band director said he has spoken with UVa's athletics director since the bowl, but no possible sanctions have been mentioned. The university is simply investigating, Lorentson said.

Casteen noted that UVa officials have been unable to find a videotape of the halftime show.

As for the controversy, Lorentson attributed West Virginians' angry reaction to history.

"This particular show is more innocuous than in the past," Lorentson said. "This is an issue where they are trying to exact some retribution for what happened 17 years ago. I don't know, I was 2 years old then."



Watson sees 20-20 in victory
/ Daily Progress staff writer
Jan 3, 2003
Travis Watson was 0 for 4 from behind the 3-point arc against Wofford on Thursday night at University Hall. It was the only statistical area in which he faltered.

Watson scored 21 points and grabbed a career-high 20 rebounds as the Cavaliers won their sixth straight game with an 87-65 decision over the Terriers.

Furthermore, his teammates' hot shooting more than made up for his poor marksmanship from long range.

Three nights after making just six of 24 3-point attempts against Liberty, Virginia connected on 11 of its 24 treys Thursday, including a late one from 6-foot-11 senior reserve Jason Rogers in the final minute.

"We made 11 of 24 3s. We're not a great 3-point shooting team but tonight we shot the ball better than we have been," Gillen said. "Jason pulled a three. He was happy."

Watson's performance marked the first time a Virginia player had at least 20 points and 20 rebounds in a game since Ralph Sampson had 33 points and 21 rebounds against N.C. State on Jan. 12, 1983.

"I didn't know I was that close to 20 rebounds. I just knew I was out there playing well. I thought I was playing good defense and rebounding and that's my job," Watson said.

As for the 3-point shooting?

"A couple of my jumpers weren't going down but that was my real strong point today," Watson said with a laugh. "I'll be in the gym working on that tomorrow."

Freshman Derrick Byars, starting in place of junior guard Todd Billet who didn't start as he's battling a case of food poisoning, added 17 for the Cavaliers (9-2). Jermaine Harper also added 11 off the bench as he made three of his four treys. Starting point guard Keith Jenifer added seven points, eight rebounds and eight assists. Jenifer also connected on both of his 3-point attempts and has now connected on seven of his last eight.

Lee Nixon had 16 for Wofford (4-6), which was playing its seventh game of the season against an ACC, Big East or SEC opponent. The Terriers were coming off a 86-71 loss at N.C. State on Sunday.

"I will not make comparisons but those are the two best teams we've played. They are very different in personnel and style, but I think those games between them will be two great ACC games," Wofford coach Mike Young said. "I assure you that both N.C. State and Virginia would win the Southern Conference."

The game was Virginia final tuneup before entering ACC play. The Cavaliers travel to Raleigh, N.C., on Sunday to face N.C. State in the ACC opener for both teams. While at times Virginia has looked more like a collection of parts rather than a full team, Thursday's performance was Virginia's most cohesive of the season.

"I thought we played some our best basketball of the season. We shared the ball well. I was pleased with our effort," said Gillen, whose team's 22-point victory was its largest of the season. "We still have a long way to go though. We're nowhere near being in sync."

Added Byars: "This was our biggest margin of victory and probably was our best overall game of the season. I felt we played great but still have to be disciplined for the whole 40 minutes."

Virginia led 47-34 at the half thanks in large part to a blistering performance from behind the 3-point arc. The Cavaliers connected on seven of their 12 3-point attempts as they shot 55.2 percent overall from the floor in the first half. The Cavaliers led by as many as 19 in the first half as they grabbed a 30-11 lead with 9:30 left before intermission.

Watson led Virginia with 13 points and nine rebounds in the first half while Byars added nine, as he connected on two of his three 3-point attempts.

Wofford never got closer than 14 and the final margin accounted for UVa's largest advantage of the game.



Player misconduct does not reflect well on Gillen

Pep band not popular and not funny, either

Exclusive to by 5 p.m. Thursdays

Elsewhere, governors were making proclamations and school presidents were seeking apologies for the antics of Virginia's pep band.

Before the UVa men's basketball game Tuesday night with Liberty, talk in the University Hall turned to the off-court antics of Cavaliers' basketball player Keith Jenifer.

At last, Jenifer's on-court antics were no longer an issue.

Jenifer was the only UVa player named in a letter written by Kara Finnegan Irving that appeared in The Daily Progress in Charlottesville on Dec. 22.

In the leter, Irving described herself as a staunch Virginia men's basketball team since 1994-95 who will not watch any Cavalier games this season after a scene she witnessed while in Charlottesville for UVa's homecoming football game with Akron.

"Like many alumni, my trip back to Charlottttesville for the homecoming festivities included a walk down on the Corner to celebrate the win over Akron," Irving wrote. "I was excited to see the members of the basketball team hanging out on the Corner that night, proud that they seemed to gel as a team and a little starstruck to see them all together.

"However, as my husband I, with another University of Virginia couple, walked past the team gathered outside Littlejohn's, we were horrified by what we heard. Members of the team, led by Keith Jenifer, were yelling obscenities and offensive remarks to people -- their fans and supporters -- innocently walking down the street.

"We continued past, collected ourselves and tried to assess what had just happened. We decided to walk back past the group and received the same curses and insults. It reminded me of a group of middle-school bullies harassing kids on the bus. I was dumbfounded that the team was arrogant enough to harass their fans."

IRONICALLY, IRVING'S LETTER came to light about the time that Jenifer was showing improvement on the court and possibly he has made strides off the court, considering the Akron-Virginia football game was in mid-September.

Nevertheless, the latest allegations follow another act of misconduct by a member of UVa's 2001-2002 basketball recruiting class, Jermaine Harper. Harper missed the first five games of the season after his arrest for driving under the influence.

When head coach Pete Gillen said last spring that his players needed to become more disciplined on the court, he took offense to suggestions that the Cavaliers needed to become more disciplined off the court and pointed out that other programs had suffered greater embarrassments than his.

Subsequently, Gillen placed Harper under a suspension that was not required by the school, and while it is not known if he has met with Jenifer about the Irving letter, he is not at a point in his five-year tenure - with one NCAA Tournament appearance and zero postseason victories - where fans are going to give him the benefit of the doubt.

These latest developments only reinforce my opinion that the single most damaging blow to the Gillen regime has been a summer 2000 injury to point guard Majestic Mapp. It has now been close to three years since Mapp last played in a college game and his absence has been felt in numerous areas.

Not only is Mapp the only former McDonald's All-American in the program, but he is a class kid and a model student who has a chance to graduate in three years. There are other good kids on the team but Mapp has the kind of charisma that could permeate the program if he could ever get on the court.

I COULD HEAR West Virginia's fans yelling "get off the field" while the UVa Pep Band was performing at halftime of the Continental Tire Bowl, but I wasn't aware of the firestorm that was taking place in the media when I saw UVa Athletic Director Craig Littlepage on Tuesday night.

Littlepage confirmed that he had seen a script of the band's skit and aproved it beforehand, but he did not know that members of the UVa band would be dressed in overalls and perpetuating stereotypes that West Virginia has been trying to erase.

"We didn't ask enough questions," Littlepage admitted.

I like good satire as much as the next guy but the pep band just isn't clever anymore (if it ever was). There was an instance during the halftime show of the UVa-Clemson game when the pep band -- and I'm paraphrasing -- suggested that South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond is a symbol of everything that's wrong with America.

We know from the Trent Lott affair that Strom Thurmond isn't a symbol of everything that's right with America, but why not come up with something that might make UVa and Clemson fans alike laugh, not something that bores your fans and make the visiting fans angry?

THE MOST INTERESTING recruiting note of the week was Mike Farrell's report that Phoebus High School cornerback Phillip Brown, rated the No. 2 prospect in Virginia by The Roanoke Times and No. 1 by Farrell's, is leaning to UVa.

Brown is given very little chance of meeting NCAA or UVa eligibility requirements, but it is likely he will sign a letter-of-intent. That would not bind him to the school of his choice, unless he qualifies, but UVa has been successful in holding onto players like Darryl Blackstock and Ahmad Brooks after a year in prep school.

UVa assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Mike London has been fighting an uphill battle with a handful of Peninsula District players with more natural ties to Virginia Tech, but it is extremely important to have a presence in that area.

Just consider the contributions of the following Peninsula District players in the Continental Tire Bowl: Marques Hagans, Muffin Curry, Elton Brown and Blackstock. Phoebus coach Bill Dee wasn't wild about the Cavaliers pulling off of Xavier Adibi this year and they'd certainly want to be in his good graces when the recruiting starts for all-world sophomore tailback Etan Lewis.



All appears well for Watson
Travis Watson has 21 points and 20 rebounds for the Cavs' first 20-20 game since 1983.

CHARLOTTESVILLE - If an optometrist were to provide a status update on Travis Watson's injured right ankle, he might say it's 20-20.
Watson, whose jumping ability had been impaired in recent games, was full of life Thursday night and finished with 21 points and a career-high 20 rebounds in an 87-65 victory over Wofford.

"Thank goodness we don't have anybody like that in our league," Terriers coach Mike Young said.

It was the first 20-20 game for the Cavaliers since Jan.12, 1983, when three-time national player of the year Ralph Sampson had 33 points and 21 rebounds against North Carolina. That was also the last time a Virginia player had grabbed as many as 20 rebounds in a game.

"I thought I had about 17," said Watson, a 6-foot-8, 255-pound senior. "Sometimes, I surprise myself. My ankle felt a lot better. I was able to step and plant tonight, which hadn't been easy the last couple of games."

Watson, the reigning ACC rebounding champion, had consecutive five-rebound games against Gardner-Webb and Georgetown before posting a 15-point, 10-rebound effort Tuesday night in a 77-58 victory over Liberty.

He was stuck at 19 points and 19 rebounds Thursday until he grabbed the rebound of a missed Keith Jenifer free throw and jammed it with 2:17 left. Coach Pete Gillen, unaware of the school record of 25 rebounds or the fact that Watson was approaching it, took him out of the game with 1:30 remaining.

"I had no idea," Gillen said. "I'm lucky if I know who we're playing."

It was the sixth straight victory for the Cavaliers, who will take a 9-2 record into their ACC opener Sunday at N.C. State. Southern Conference member Wofford fell to 4-6 in its first season under Young, a Radford native.

Wofford learned earlier in the day that its schedule ranked No.1 in Division I, and that didn't count the game against the Cavaliers. The Terriers have played Auburn, Clemson, Virginia Tech, West Virginia, South Carolina, N.C. State and UVa.

"We survived the Bataan death march," Young said. "Let me assure you, N.C. State or Virginia would win our conference."

Virginia, unimpressive in earlier nonconference home games, made five straight 3-point shots in opening a 30-11 lead in the first 10 1/2 minutes Thursday. The barrage came courtesy of five different players: Jenifer, Devin Smith, Derrick Byars, Todd Billet and Jermaine Harper.

It was the only field goal of the night for Billet, who was battling a case of food poisoning that kept him out of the starting lineup and limited him to 16 minutes, including three in the second half. Jason Clark did not play in the second half after injuring an ankle.

Watson missed four 3-pointers, but the rest of the Cavaliers were 11-of-20 from behind the arc, two days after going 4-of-24 on 3-pointers against Liberty. Freshman forward Derrick Byars had 17 points and sophomore guard Harper had 11 points in his second straight double-figure scoring effort off the bench.

The 22-point margin was the largest of the season for the Cavaliers, who were able to empty their bench for the first time. Rob Williams, a walk-on from Martinsville, blocked a shot in his first trip down the floor.

A crowd of 6,516 reserved its loudest cheers for Jason Rogers, a seldom-used 6-11 senior who has received the Cavaliers' best-attitude award after each of the last three seasons. Rogers replaced Watson and had five points, two rebounds and a block in the final 90 seconds.

Rogers' 3-point field goal with 33 seconds left came on the first 3-point attempt of his career.



Watson's vision 20-20 vs. Wofford
U.Va. senior in select company

CHARLOTTESVILLE - It took him three-plus seasons at the University of Virginia, but Travis Watson finally joined the 20-20 club.

Watson, a 6-8, 255-pound senior, had a season-high 21 points and a career-best 20 rebounds last night in U.Va.'s 87-65 romp over Southern Conference member Wofford at University Hall.

"Thank goodness we don't have anyone like that guy in our league," said Terriers coach Mike Young, a native of Radford.

Watson's 20th rebound came off a missed free throw by sophomore point guard Keith Jenifer with 2:19 remaining. Watson went back up and slammed home his 20th and 21st points. He left with 1:30 remaining to a warm ovation from the crowd of 6,516.

Not since Ralph Sampson, nearly 20 years ago, had a Cavalier totaled at least 20 points and 20 boards in a game. The 7-4 Sampson blitzed N.C. State for 33 and 21 on Jan. 12, 1983.

"It's a blessing to have my name mentioned with his," said Watson, whose previous high was 17 rebounds against Wake Forest last season.

With Watson recording the 43rd double-double of his career, the Cavaliers (9-2) won their sixth consecutive game and collected their most one-sided victory of the season. Three nights after missing 18 of 24 shots from beyond the 3-point arc against Liberty, they sank their first five treys and finished 11 for 24 from long range.

Six players made at least one 3-pointer for U.Va., which opens ACC play Sunday night at N.C. State. Sophomore guard Jermaine Harper came off the bench to hit a career-best three treys and scored 11 points, his second consecutive game in double figures.

Freshman forward Derrick Byars, starting for the first time since Dec. 4, had 17 points in 30 minutes. Byars, 6-7, made 5 of 8 shots from the floor, including two 3-pointers, and 5 of 6 from the line.

"Derrick is terrific. I hate to take him out," Virginia coach Pete Gillen said. "He's a very good player, doesn't make too many mistakes. He had two turnovers, but when he has the ball in his hand, you're not gasping for air. Some guys you do. You go, 'Oh, my God.'"

Junior guard Todd Billet, recovering from food poisoning, didn't start and played a season-low 16 minutes. Sophomore post player Jason Clark turned his right ankle in the first half and remained on the bench as a precaution. Neither player was needed against Wofford, which has played the nation's toughest schedule.

The Cavaliers shot 49.2 percent from the floor and outrebounded their guests 51-35. Senior guard Lee Nixon (16 points) paced the Terriers, who shot only 33.3 percent against a tenacious U.Va. defense.

"I think it was one of our better efforts," Gillen said.



What's all the hubbub?


Why are a number of West Virginia fans so up in arms over the UVA pep band's little number during halftime of the Continental Tire Bowl Saturday?

I know the initial response is because the Wahoo's musical ditty poked fun at us backwoods West Virginia fans; complete with buck-toothed, bibbed overall-wearin' hillbillies and country music. There was no mention of mama, prison or trains.

Yes, West Virginia was being picked on, but no more so than any of UVA's other opponents. The pep band routinely makes fun of the Cavaliers' foes.

A large number of WVU faithful is up in arms, having begun a letter writing campaign to UVA's president demanding an apology. You can reach President John T. Casteen's office at 434-924-3337, fax him at 434-924-3792, or write him at PO Box 400224 Charlottesville Va., 22904-4224.

But before you start pounding out a fiery hillbilly-style retort on the typa-ma-writer or storm up the nearest water tower with a can of paint to besmirch the Wahoos, take a deep breath.

Are you mad because UVA was already beating the Mountaineers 28-10 at the half - ultimately losing the game - and the band stunt added insult to injury? You shouldn't be mad because they poked fun at us.

Face it, there is a stigma attached with living in West Virginia. While I'm proud to tell people I hail from the our great state, I accept the fact people inevitably think my wife is also my sister. They are also surprised I wear shoes - with laces; and don't own a house with wheels on it. Or have a bumper sticker on my truck advocating the virtues of possum meat. We're made fun of.

That statement is about as hot a news nugget as Japan bombing Pearl Harbor. I hear all the latest hillbilly jokes from my yankee relatives when we travel to Pennsylvania for family reunions and holidays.

I don't let it bother me and neither should you.

My personal motto - aside from Carpe eat'em (Eat the Carp)- is, "I don't discriminate, I make fun of everyone." In order to do that, you have to be able to laugh at yourself - including the hillbilly stereotypes associated with our home state.

Every time I turn on the Jerry Springer Show, I inevitably find myself muttering, "Please don't be from West Virginia. Please live anywhere but in West Virginia!"

Don't take the UVA pep band's jab too seriously. One southern W.Va. sports columnist wrote about the distasteful performance and got a slew of responses agreeing with him. To me, that's just sore losers looking for an excuse to pout and complain.

West Virginia may have split from Virginia to stay in the Union, but we are still associated with the south - and all the inbreed, bare foot, lazy, liquor-running stereotypes that go with it.

Don't let UVA's fun ruin your bowl trip or overshadow the season WVU had.

Remember it could be worse. You could be living in Kentucky!

Now if you'll excuse me, my cousin, his wife and my dad are going to be on Springer.



W. Virginians' hurt feelings ruin image


I've always had an image of West Virginia that had nothing to do with overalls or outhouses.

I believed West Virginians were sturdier than the rest of us. I believed they lived the way they thought they should rather than the way others thought they should. I believed they were too self-assured to succumb to prevailing trends.

Man, was I wrong. The prevailing trend in this country is sensitivity. Life in the United States often seems a contest to demonstrate whose feelings have been damaged most. Some claim the movement, like so many others, originated in the south of California. I'd say it originated in South Charleston, W.Va.

Saturday, West Virginia and Virginia played a football game at Ericsson Stadium. During halftime, the Virginia band engaged in a skit that mocked West Virginia.

Two women, one representing Virginia and the other West Virginia, competed for the interest of a bachelor. The woman who represented Virginia planned to become a pediatrician.

The woman who represented West Virginia wore overalls and square-danced with the bachelor. Did she plan to go to medical school? No. She planned to go to "Beverly ... Hills that is. ... Swimming pools, movie stars!"

To some, this was funny.

To West Virginia, this was Hillbillygate. The governor of West Virginia called for an apology (and received one from the Virginia university president Thursday), the West Virginia university president denounced the skit, and the indignant fans of the state and school cranked out angry letters to the editor.

Hey, West Virginia. Why don't you do what other sensitive souls do when they get angry? Why don't you form a committee? Counselors from Wheeling to Willow Bend, from Halltown to Huntington and from Bluefield to Brandonville are standing by.

What a waste. I travel frequently and occasionally hear outsiders make fun of Charlotte. Some of their criticism is valid, but most is uninformed. I don't get offended. What does their ignorance have to do with me or with my town?

By trotting out tired West Virginia stereotypes, the band did no damage to the state's reputation. But the reaction of West Virginians has.

Do you remember, West Virginia, how much fun the Continental Tire Bowl was going to be? You came cascading down Interstate 77, filled our hotels and restaurants and took a backwater bowl and made it feel important.

Not once in the 21 years I've worked for this newspaper have I been asked by so many for tickets to a sporting event. I had no idea I knew so many West Virginians. They were so proud and happy, and their enthusiasm was sufficiently contagious that folks who long ago turned from their West Virginia roots announced they were loyal and lifelong fans.

We loved having you here. You showed us how real fans act. Then came halftime, and you showed us you're no different than anybody else.

I have a question. If Virginia, a six-point underdog, had not pounded your Mountaineers by 26 points, would you still be talking about halftime?



ACC gains respect
By FRANK DASCENZO : The Herald-Sun
Jan 2, 2003 : 11:09 pm ET
ACC gains respect

Watching and listening to the plethora of bowl games that have made my eyes somewhat bloodshot and my ears nearly deadened, I’ve been able to reach one conclusion:

ACC football is earning national respect — quickly.

Maybe it was that new Tire Bowl, in Charlotte, where Virginia toyed with West Virginia. Maybe it was the Peach Bowl, where Maryland whacked a dizzy Tennessee team. Or maybe it was at the Gator Bowl, where N.C. State put an exclamation point on its season by slamming Notre Dame from start to finish.

No, hold on. It might have been way out in Seattle, where Wake Forest was seen pushing around the Oregon Ducks without much trouble. But one of the announcers — right, who cares which one? — was jabbering on about how the "Atlantic Coast Conference is really known as a basketball league, but it also plays some pretty good football, too."

Well, really now? I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or shake my head in disbelief that this actually was getting through to some people.

Come on now, take a look at what we’ve got rolling here: Good coaches, improved facilities, more interest than ever before and, by all means, high expectations.

It reminds me of what former ACC commisioner Gene Corrigan told me when he proudly ushered Florida State into the league 10 years ago. Corrigan said that the Seminoles would make everybody else better in football.

Well, can we make that nearly everybody else?

What’s changed about ACC football is obvious. Just look at Florida State’s final 9-5 record to be convinced. It’s now difficult to tell which program is the best. True, Florida State won the 2002 ACC title and was awarded a BCS bowl and lost to a better Georgia team in the Sugar Bowl, but the Seminoles also lost to N.C. State during the regular season.

The simple fact that the ACC put seven teams in the postseason and came away with four wins is impressive enough to admit that the league is vastly better in football than many realize. Look at the four wins a bit closer:

Virginia beat West Virginia 48-22. That matched the second-place teams from the ACC and Big East. West Virginians were crying about the fact they didn’t get to play in the Gator Bowl. Now is a good time to dry the tears and move on. This game never was close, and now you know why Al Groh deserved ACC coach of the year.

Wake Forest beat Oregon 38-17 and never looked better. Jim Grobe is 13-11 in two years and has been a viable candidate for conference coach of the year — twice. The Deacs rushed for 256 yards against the Ducks, but Grobe’s early game passing attack clearly caught Oregon by surprise.

Maryland’s 30-3 dismantling of Tennessee ended the Vols’ disappointing season, but Ralph Friedgen, as good as he was a year ago, was very good again in 2002. The Terps won 11 games and, along the way, took down West Virginia and N.C. State.

The Wolfpack’s 28-6 domination of the Fighting Irish sets the stage for what could be something special — a BCS bowl perhaps? — for Chuck Amato’s 2003 team. The moment Dantonio Burnette knocked Irish quarterback Carlyle Holiday out of the game, the stage was set for a gigantic win by an ACC team.

Now consider this: In the last two seasons, the ACC is 8-5 in bowl games.

True, there were three downers, and Tom Mickle can tell you about one of them. Clemson was hideous in a 55-15 loss to Texas Tech, a team that lost earlier on its home field to N.C. State, in the Tangerine Bowl. And Georgia Tech turned the ball over seven times at the Silicon Valley Classic while losing to Fresno State 30-21. Florida State, with no experienced quarterback, fell to Georgia 26-13.

It’s time to give ACC football its due. The conference did well this postseason — again.



Balance finally takes root in ACC

By ROB DANIELS, Staff Writer
News & Record

Virginia's 2002 season was only a few hours over and ESPN college football analyst Trev Albertswas declaring Al Groh's team the "favorite" to win the ACC in 2003.

But that was before Maryland took a chunk out of Ol' Rocky Top and before N.C. State tranquilized the Echoes. And what about the Seminoles? Remember them?

Since Florida State joined the ACC for football in 1992, the league race has been short on compelling drama. Don Knotts as Hamlet would have held audiences' attention better.

Now what? The conference's long-predicted competitive balance is coming about, and it's not strictly a matter of stragglers gaining on FSU. The Seminoles are doing their part by slipping.

The Cavaliers (6-2 ACC, 9-5) may stand out on paper more than anybody else. In last week's 48-22 Continental Tire Bowl win over heavily favored West Virginia, their offensive depth chart included eight freshmen, eight sophomores and one senior. Defensively, they've got one of the league's best freshmen, quarterback-chaser Darryl Blackstock, and they'll welcome two of the best linebacker prospects in the nation, Ahmad Brooks and Kai Parham.

Quarterback Matt Schaub, the ACC Player of the Year, will be back for his senior season.

"We finished second (in 2002). The next step is to win it,' Schaub said. "We're extremely confident. We feel we can play with anybody. It's reasonable to think we can win the ACC."

But not automatic. UVa plays at North Carolina, N.C. State, Clemson and Maryland this fall -- a far more arduous road schedule than Duke, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech and Florida State.

"The biggest mistake we can make," Groh said, "is to assume that it will pick up again just because of the way this ended."

The Wolfpack (5-3, 11-3) will corner the market on marquee value. Having dismantled Notre Dame in the Gator Bowl, State will mount a Heisman Trophy campaign for quarterback Philip Rivers. T.A. McLendon will seek to defend his conference rushing title, and Jerricho Cotchery, one of the league's most reliable receivers, will still be around.

The Pack will lose a lot on the defensive line, but it can expect immediate contributions from Mario Williams, whom coach Chuck Amato ardently pursued the past two years and who recently committed to the program.

If the Wolfpack can pull off an early-season upset at Ohio State, dreaming and anticipation will eclipse October 2002 levels and a virtually unprecedented concept -- big-time football -- will hit the Old North State.

It was easy to dismiss 2001 champion Maryland as a one-hit wonder after the Terrapins suffered early lopsided losses to Notre Dame and FSU. But when QB Scott McBrien got comfortable, a whole new group of offensive and defensive leaders emerged. This suggests that coach Ralph Friedgen may really get this program going when he has stockpiled it with his own recruits.

In the past dozen years, Florida State has never had three competitors in such healthy shape as the Pack, Terps and Cavs are right now. State will soon move its football operation into an impressive new facility in the end zone opposite Finley Field House at Carter-Finley Stadium. Virginia's stadium expansion to 60,000 seats, once dismissed as superfluous and pretentious, is proving wise. And Maryland, fresh off a 30-3 whipping of Tennessee in the Peach Bowl, is working on an upgrade of its support facility.

For the first time in decades, few opponents were afraid to throw deep on the FSU secondary in 2002. No matter who played quarterback in the Sugar Bowl loss to Georgia -- and the identity of that poor soul seemed to change hourly -- he wasn't going to get much help from an offensive line that appeared to wave rushing defenders right on through.

For whatever it's worth, at least one source would rank FSU's 2003 recruiting class fourth in the ACC if today were signing day.

Clemson seems to be moving toward irrelevance and Georgia Tech's second straight trip to an unknown bowl -- this one sealed by several critical injuries -- doesn't bode well for the Yellow Jackets.

Wake Forest will not be elite, but coach Jim Grobe's complicated offense is enough to make opponents worry. When counting guaranteed wins, smart fans must concede that Wake, which has posted consecutive winning seasons, deserves omission from the list of the downtrodden.

Duke and North Carolina will be better in 2003, but both programs need further recruiting to advance appreciably. With its tradition and facilities, Carolina seems like a natural for immediate improvement. But there is simply too much competition right now to expect a rapid jump. The Tar Heels' current recruiting class is promising, but it must have company down the line.

At any rate, there seems to be a lot to talk about.



Mail Bag
Virginia pep band should be abolished
Friday January 3, 2003

Virginia pep band should be abolished

First of all, congratulations to the Virginia football team. You guys played with heart and determination and deserved to win that game without a doubt. However, the halftime presentation by the U.Va. band at the Continental Tire Bowl was pathetic and disgusting.

This performance insulted every Mountaineer, especially all current and future alumni of WVU. I am sure a lot of lip service will be paid to this issue, but I doubt that justice really will be done.

In essence, this group should be abolished — period. No more of their classless behavior should be tolerated.

This so-called pep band will surely claim artistic license to do what they do. They will say that those of my opinion should lighten up. After all, “It’s only humor.” But the point is that we are not laughing. I suppose if the opponent was Grambling, then you would mock slavery. Or maybe for a game against South Carolina, the target could be the KKK. Or even better, had you gotten your matchup in the Gator Bowl against Notre Dame, would your skit involve Catholic priests? Yes, these are all disgusting examples, but no more disgusting to us than the manner in which we were portrayed.

Just try to wear my shoes for a minute (yes, I do have a few pair without holes). My heritage, my family and my education at WVU are all very important to me. Maybe you would laugh if we ridiculed your heritage. But if that’s true, then you lack pride and self-esteem. Those are qualities that all Virginians, West Virginians and, indeed, all Americans should possess.

James Layton


WVU brings negative image upon itself

First of all, apologies for the U.Va. Pep Band. I’m like most who feel it was not funny and out of line. That being said, WVU brings much of this on itself.

Upon entering our hotel, my family was subjected to chants of “white trash” by a group of about 30 WVU fans in the lobby, and it didn’t get any better. Many acted as if they had been let out to come to the game.

The boorish behavior by this group and other anomalous dolts I encountered did nothing to enhance what I have heard about WVU fans. I heard more than once, “Hell, these people are worse than [Virginia] Tech fans.”

William D. White

Richmond, Va.

Gov. Wise praised for reaction to band

Kudos to Gov. Wise! As a WVU grad and former West Virginia resident now residing in Charlotte, N.C., I applaud his stance and hope that the U.Va. administration (I use this term very loosely) steps up to the plate and does something about this.

I attended the game but quite honestly did not pay attention to the U.Va. band and their “Bachelor” skit. However, I did catch the last part of it and commented to some friends, “I hope this guy and his sister have a good life together. Let’s get the real band onto the field,” and left it at that.

However, if the U.Va. band is not disciplined for this, I hope the next time these two bands meet, the Pride of West Virginia does a skit parodying “Mr. Jefferson’s College” by either having Thomas Jefferson beating a slave with a whip or George Jefferson doing their laundry! I wonder if they’d be laughing about that!

Greg Richmond

Charlotte, N.C.

WVU fans fell right into band’s trap

As a graduate of Virginia Tech, a frequent pep band target, I have a few words of advice for WVU fans — lighten up! The band is known for its unique brand of satire, and they delight in the overreaction of their targets. You played right into their hands and gave them more press than they could have ever obtained on their own.

Denise Merinar

Midlothian, Va.

WVU players, fans can learn from Herd

I find it both humorous and disappointing about the behavior of both players and fans of WVU in regards to the Tire Bowl.

First, the players. You feel snubbed when you get invited to a minor bowl AND win. When you lose by 26 points, you were selected to the right bowl. Also, Avon, don’t count your chickens before they hatch, or else you wind up with egg on your face.

Second, the fans. WVU was second place in the Big East. That counts for something. You don’t embarrass the whole state and WVU by being dragged out by cops because your team’s rear end is being kicked.

Maybe you should take your cues, players and fans, from the smaller state school, Marshall University. After all, they were complimented about their behavior and attitude — low key and “enjoy the ride.”

Scott Paxton




Bright outlook for ACC
By CAULTON TUDOR, Staff Writer

The ACC's bowl record was a modest 4-3 and the league may not have a top-10 team in the final polls.
But if you think ACC football is down, think again. The 2003 season should be the league's best in years, possibly ever.

Barring extensive attrition, the ACC will begin next season with four legitimate national top-20 teams, a world of quarterbacking experience and some of the best young running backs in college football.

Here's an early look at the pecking order:

1. N.C. STATE (5-3 ACC, 11-3): The schedule includes games at Ohio State, Florida State and nemesis Georgia Tech, but the Wolfpack is loaded.

Quarterback Philip Rivers, receiver Jerricho Cotchery and runner T.A. McLendon will be joined by big-play prospects Tramain Hall and Richard Washington.

The defense, easily the ACC's best by the end of this season, will benefit from the addition of cornerback A.J. Davis.

If Rivers can stay healthy for a fourth straight season, the Pack should start and end among the nation's top 10.

2. VIRGINIA (6-2, 9-5): With Matt Schaub at quarterback and Wali Lundy at tailback, the Cavaliers will be even more difficult to contain in '03 than they were in Al Groh's second season.

Wide out Billy McMullen will have to be replaced, but much of the current recruiting emphasis is on finding receivers.

The Cavaliers play at NCSU and Maryland. But Florida State and Georgia Tech -- as well as in-state, non-league rival Virginia Tech -- go to Charlottesville.

3. FLORIDA STATE (7-1, 9-5): The Seminoles face more pressing offseason questions than any team in the ACC.

Is Chris Rix reliable enough to be put in control of the offense? Can tailback Greg Jones make a complete recovery from his injuries? Do junior defenders Kendyll Pope and Mike Boulware come back or consider the NFL? Does the coaching staff need revamping?

It's obvious that the talent level has slipped during the past several years and the fear factor among league opponents is beginning to fade.

The Seminoles, who will play NCSU, Maryland, Tech and Miami in Tallahassee, are still a top-12 team, but the dynasty is cracking.

4. MARYLAND (6-2, 11-3): The Terps play at NCSU, FSU and Tech, so it's not going to be easy.

And there are significant personnel losses including linebacker E.J. Henderson, center Todd Wike, running back Chris Downs, offensive tackle Matt Crawford and punter Brooks Barnard.

Ralph Friedgen still has one of the best coaching staffs anywhere, and the momentum is sky high. But a third straight season with a double-digit win total seems unlikely.

5. GEORGIA TECH (4-4, 7-6): You have to start by assuming that the Yellow Jackets can't possibly have as many injuries as in early '02.

Running back Tony Hollings, who missed most of his junior season, won't go through spring drills but should mend from Oct. 1 knee surgery in time to start preseason camp. When he's in the best of health, he's the best ball carrier in the league.

But the team didn't make a smooth adjustment to new coach Chan Gailey and the defense has eroded significantly. Holding off North Carolina for fifth could be a challenge.

6. NORTH CAROLINA (1-7, 3-9): It's easy to forget that with Darian Durant at quarterback, the Tar Heels were a competitive team, winning at Syracuse and Arizona State and hanging around for a while against Texas, NCSU, Virginia and Georgia Tech.

Unless Durant is sidelined again, there will be improvement. How much will hinge on the defense. Getting Will Chapman back from injuries will help, but he can't do it alone. For the Tar Heels to win five or six games, all the UNC defenders must play much tougher.

7. DUKE (0-8, 2-10): In '02, the Blue Devils found a way to stay in league games. Now, they have to find a way to win a few.

The team's maturity should make that possible. Jamyon Small, the sole senior on the '02 squad, is gone. But everyone else returns, and quarterback Adam Smith no longer will be learning on the job.

8. WAKE FOREST (3-5, 7-6): Most of the offense, starting with much underrated quarterback James MacPherson, will have to be replaced.

But the defense should be slightly better, and Jim Grobe has established that he can coach. The Deacons will retreat some, but they won't be an easy mark for any ACC team.

9. CLEMSON (4-4, 7-6): Could 2003 be a repeat of 1998, when Tommy West lost his job after going 1-7 in the conference?

It's entirely possible. Tommy Bowden will face enormous job pressure from the start and his fifth team will end the season at South Carolina. By then, it could be ugly unless he can come up with something bordering on a miracle. The talent is low and the team's confidence even lower.