Coach Rich Rodriguez blew it when he was trying to psych up his West Virginia squad for the South Florida game.
He was working to get the Mountaineers thinking like a top-ranked team—like a team that's the biggest game on everyone’s schedule—as they headed into a sold-out Raymond James Stadium on Friday night.
To do so, he compared his team to the New York Yankees.
“I’ve talked to our team about this,” Coach Rod said. “I told them, you’re highly ranked and when you go to play a game somewhere people are going to sell out the stadium. It’s like the Yankees. Every time they go somewhere they get a big crowd. Every time we go somewhere, we’re selling out stadiums or helping them sell out.”
Scribes covering the press conference said Coach Rod’s comparison was stunning.
This is the guy who always preached, “Stay hungry, stay humble.” And now he’s comparing the Mountaineers, who have exactly one (1) BCS bowl win, to the baseball team that has won 26 World Championsips in the previous century.
To prove his point, Coach Rod had his players wear Yankees ballcaps when exiting the plane in Tampa.
The instant comparison was to the “outlaw” Miami Hurricanes coming off the plane in camouflage before playing Penn State in the 1986 national championship game. Of course, the shirt-and-tie wearing Nittany Lions humbled the audacious ‘Canes—and that’s exactly what South Florida did on Friday night.
And that wasn't the worst of it. I know the underappreciated Big East owes ESPN quite a debt of gratitude for becoming, essentially, the official network of the conference...and I understand that TV runs on hype...but I really wish Coach Rod wouldn't let his players participate in the pregame video hype-up.
On Friday, ESPN rolled out a “What do you know?” segment in which it had players from both teams say what they knew about the game, as a way of pimping the game and talking a little smack.
The result? You had the polite, humble, mild-mannered Pat White looking into the camera and saying, “I know that losing this game is not an option.”
Well, it turned out it was an option—and White and the team look silly in retrospect.
Coach Rod, please don’t put your gentlemen players in this position again. Stay hungry, stay humble.
Seems to have worked so far.