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Morgantown, West Virginia – It is a very weird time in history right now.  The pandemic, social/racial inequality, a lack of sports, and changes are going to be forced to be made.  West Virginia University, often a follower rather than a leader in progressive steps, should take actions to show that it is the most inclusive, forward-thinking university in the country.  Here’s how:

Fire Vic Koenning already: It’s perfectly reasonable for West Virginia University to do a thorough, lengthy investigation into sophomore defensive back Kerry Martin’s accusations against defensive coordinator Vic Koenning. He should be given a fair chance and the investigation should certainly be conducted, but it’s been nearly a month since Martin spoke out against the coach and it’s been radio silence from the university for almost 30 days now.

What message is this sending to the players?  How is this affecting recruiting and potential players who may want to join the Mountaineers?  It’s hard to imagine a scenario in which Koenning returns and everything goes back to normal.  A swift, clean removal of Koenning would have sent a message: “West Virginia University doesn’t play when it comes to racial equality.”

Announce Black Lives Matter Decals for Helmets:

Unfortunately, the University of Memphis has already adopted this idea for the upcoming football season and so West Virginia University wouldn’t be the first but rather among the first to take this unprecedented measure.

The Memphis Tigers will wear special “Black Lives Matter” decals on their helmets. The sticker will feature “BLM” in blue letters with the Tigers’ logo incorporated.  “The use of the BLM logo on a helmet decal was an idea from our student-athletes,” Memphis coach Ryan Silverfield said. “It doesn’t mean we support any anti-American, violent organization or hate group or any specific political party. In fact, I love this country and I love our players. Rather the decal is a show of support to our team.”

Name the football stadium after a prominent black leader from the state:

The West Virginia University football and basketball programs do not have any black players or coaches who have been honored with retired numbers or statutes.  West Virginia football has retired Ira Errett Rodgers’ #21 and Sam Huff’s #75, while the basketball program has retired the #44 jersey of both Jerry West and Rod Thorn, as well as the #33 jersey of Rod Thorn.

Although there have been many black athletes in basketball and football that have made huge contributions to the university, none have been honored in a significant way. One of the issues is West Virginia’s ridiculous policy to have a number retired: “To have a player’s number retired, a player would have to graduate from West Virginia, play the maximum number of years eligible by the NCAA, be selected as a consensus all-American or two-time First Team All-American or MVP of a national championship team and be a respected individual on campus and in the community.”

This isn’t the NCAA’s rules, this is unique to West Virginia University.  These arbitrary rules need to be immediately wiped away and at the very least Major Harris should have his #9 retired and Pat White should have #5 retired.

I’ll take it a step further, though.  Get rid of the “Milan Puskar Stadium” name and name it after an important black individual from the state. Why name the stadium after some rich guy who peddled drugs when you could honor black history in the state?  How about Mountaineer Field at Booker T. Washington Stadium?

Ultimately, this is about making all individuals of all races and backgrounds feel welcome at West Virginia University, and these simple, superficial measures would immediately do that.  West Virginia, change is coming, and it’s time to not only embrace it but be the leader.

 

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