As I sit here pondering what to write, and how fast I can write it, before the New Year’s Day bowl games begin, I will make the New Year’s Day games issue my starting point. Over the past couple of weeks, I have detected some surprise and discontent on radio shows and internet message boards that this year’s slate of New Year’s Day games were actually scheduled to be played on January 2. Comments like, “Why does the NFL have sole rights to Sunday football?” were common. Whatever the rant, the NFL was the near unanimous choice as the villain preventing the colleges from having their games on New Year’s Day.
That assumption may be true in the current era, but the reality is that when New Year’s Day falls on a Sunday, the traditional New Year’s Day games have been played on another day. This policy is as old as the Rose Bowl itself and includes an era when the NFL crowned a champion by Christmas, so let’s not blame the NFL. I only bring this up because of the number of people who seem to have had the notion that this year is any different than any other year when January 1 is on a Sunday.
As soon as Rich Rodriguez was hired as the head coach at Arizona, rumors surfaced that current West Virginia University defensive coordinator, the highly regarded Jeff Casteel, was the former WVU coach’s choice to run his defense in Tucson. This all began about a month ago and neither side is on the record as to the validity of the rumor. When cornered, and has to respond, Casteel states that he is under contract at West Virginia and plans to coach at West Virginia.
I’ll try to handicap this as best as I can without any direct knowledge of the situation. When the rumors initially surfaced, there was a reputable group of people saying Casteel’s family and his family’s ties to the state would keep him in Morgantown. From another corner came a caveat suggesting that while that summation is true, if Casteel felt that the program was not stable at the top, then he would consider another defensive coordinator job.
The biggest tell here is that just over a month into his job at UA, Rodriguez has not named his defensive coordinator. That is as strong of an indicator one could want to make the assumption that Casteel is gone and waiting for the conclusion of tonight’s Orange Bowl to publicly announce his intentions.
My question is why wait at this point? Anyone paying attention almost has to come to my previous conclusion, including players and recruits. So, from that perspective, maybe there is nothing to announce.
My devilish side wants the following to be the scenario. Casteel makes a difficult decision to move on to Arizona. Has told Rodriguez he is coming, but changes his mind at the last minute and stays at WVU. Childish of course, but we’re talking Rich Rodriguez here, so all is fair.
Casteel is a wonderful coordinator, but he can be replaced. The bigger point to ponder is why would he leave? He was just made one of the highest paid coordinators and most accounts say money is not an issue.