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Mountaineer fans vent

January 03, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - Sporting-goods store manager Jennie Watson has heard many "thoughtful wishes" for former West Virginia University football coach Rich Rodriguez over the few weeks since he abruptly left to coach at the University of Michigan.

"We've had a lot of customers come in and complain (about it)" ... Watson said Wednesday at Hibbett Sports in Martinsburg Mall. "I try to be positive."

Win or lose, WVU merchandise and clothing remain popular at the store, Watson said.

Hours before their football team battled the Oklahoma Sooners in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl Wednesday night, Mountaineer fans helped elaborate on the negative.

"I believe he lost the Pitt game because he was so focused on going to Michigan," said Steve Sites of Gerrardstown, W.Va. "He didn't think Pitt was coming to play."


The 13-9 upset to a 28 1/2-point underdog eliminated WVU's chances to play for a national championship.

Because he is so disappointed by Rodriguez's departure, Sites said he would cheer for the Ohio State Buckeyes, a team he hates "with a passion," to beat Michigan every year.

"How could he do that? He's a liar," Sites said of Rodriguez's statements after turning down the Alabama coaching job in 2006.

Billy Stewart, a junior at WVU, said the school will be better off without Rodriguez.

"I think the general consensus up at school is he got outcoached (in the Pitt game)," Stewart said.

Stewart said he would like the school to hire Central Michigan football coach Butch Jones to replace Rodriguez because he runs a similar offense and because several members of this year's team are expected to return.

Jason Rockwell of Martinsburg said he knew Rodriguez was going to leave.

"He just wanted the money," Rockwell said.

When asked if the team would miss its coach for the bowl game, Rockwell said the team's quarterback could fill the gap.

"Patrick White's a good leader," Rockwell said.

Debbie Shady wouldn't say anything negative about Rodriguez but was disappointed he didn't stay to "coach his boys."

Despite the coaching fiasco, Shady said her loyalty won't be dampened.

"Win or lose, they are the Mountaineers," Shady said.

And if they beat Oklahoma?

" ... It's going to be amazing," Sites beamed.

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