The Voice of West Virginia
Mountaineer Coach Neal Brown’s “Trust the Climb” mantra took a tumble Saturday.
The 38-17 loss to Texas Tech was not simply a misstep or slip, it was a face first slide down the mountainside that left WVU fans bloodied and bewildered.
Yes, this is Year Zero (my term), and yes Dana Holgorsen’s half-hearted recruiting efforts were only eclipsed by his aloofness, and yes Texas Tech’s use of tempo kept the Mountaineer defense on their heels, but…
Las Vegas didn’t expect this. The Red Raiders were only a two-point favorite. Fans didn’t expect this. They filled the stadium in hopes of witnessing the beginnings of a turnaround. After all, Coach Neal Brown did say the Mountaineers would be better in November.
But they aren’t, at least not yet.
As Texas Tech rattled off score after score—five touchdowns on their first five possessions—Mountaineer Nation was left stunned. The crowd can help get a team back in the game, but they must have something to cheer about, and the Mountaineers simply couldn’t provide that.
Brown deserves credit for reading the crowd and being self-aware. At the end of his post-game press conference he spoke candidly about the dreadful performance and the importance of fan support.
“I appreciate them being here. They were here for our Mantrip at 9:30 in the morning when (the temperature) was in the 20s and 30s,” he said. “They were here through the first half, and in the second half a high percentage of them stayed. That does not go unnoticed.”
Brown then threw down the gauntlet.
“But we have a high percentage of guys that will be back, not only for one year but three years. They will be significantly better. We’ll do a better job coaching them” he said. “And there will be a product on the field that will match the fans we have.”
Brown is an easy guy to support, especially after eight years of Holgorsen. Brown’s off-season commitment to embracing the state and Mountaineer fans built a reservoir of goodwill he could draw from when the losses begin to mount.
He’s going to that well now and, based on last Saturday’s performance, he will have to return to that well several more times before this season comes to a merciful conclusion the day after Thanksgiving in Fort Worth.
It could be worse. Holgorsen could still be the head coach and Athletic Director Shane Lyons could be trying to scrape up the $6.9 million necessary to buy out his contract this year. But with Holgorsen’s decision to leave for Houston and the hiring of Brown, WVU is really one year ahead of schedule.
Brown’s post-game comments show he gets the connection between the team and Mountaineer Nation; one could not exist without the other. They are linked in the joy of victory and the disappointment of defeat.
His statement about the future was clear and definitive: “There will be [emphasis added] a product on the field that will match the fans we have.”
Brown’s mission statement of “Trust the Climb” is as much for the fans as it is for the players.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Philanthropy West Virginia recognized multiple individuals and groups for their community work at its annual awards ceremony.
According to this association, 2019 marked a record year for honorees and their achievements.
Philanthropy West Virginia handed out six West Virginia Spirit of Philanthropy Awards:
— Critical Impact Award: The Foundation for the Tri-State Community and the Huntington America’s Best Communities Collaborative Team for their efforts to transform Huntington.
— Volunteer Leadership Award: Jean Clark for her work in Preston and Monongalia counties, specifically the Your Community Foundation of North Central WV.
— Lifetime Volunteer Leadership Award: C.J. Kaiser for his work in the Upper Ohio Valley, including 28 years with the Community Foundation for the Ohio Valley’s Board of Directors.
— Inaugural Corporate Responsibility Leader Award: Dominion Energy and Dominion Charitable Foundation for their investments and community engagement practices.
— Staff Leadership Award: Tamara Mullins who serves as executive director of the Nicholas County Community Foundation.
— Lifetime Staff Leadership Award: Sheri Ryder, the senior programs officer of the Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation.
The Susan S. Landis Spirit of Philanthropy Endowment at the Beckley Area Foundation made $250 grants to local charities in honor of the award recipients.
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state Public Employees Insurance Agency Finance Board has five public meetings scheduled over the next two weeks to give state workers an opportunity to comment on the proposed 2021 health insurance plan that will begin next July.
The first meeting, a telephone town hall, is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. Tuesday. Meetings are also scheduled to be held Wednesday in Morgantown and next week in Charleston, Beckley and Martinsburg.
The plan includes no rate increases for state workers while a phase-in of premium cuts is being offered for those who get PEIA as employees of some governmental agencies, municipalities and counties.
State Administration Secretary Allan McVey, who serves as PEIA Finance Board chairman, said PEIA had a good year in 2018-19 with claims below projections and investment earnings above projections. McVey said the current plan year is also doing well in the area of claims.
McVey said the board does want to increase the premium tiers in the new plan to match the average five percent pay raise state workers received.
“So if you did get a salary increase then you’re not going to automatically move up in a higher premium tier,” McVey said.
That was a complaint last year until Gov. Jim Justice stepped in and called for the tiers to be increased.
PEIA also has the benefit of a $105 million reserve fund allocation from the legislature, backed by the Gov. Justice. It’s not known how much, if any, money will have to be taken from the fund in the next plan year.
McVey said workers attending the public hearings will also learn about a few new wellness plans.
“We have done some pilots on some wellness initiatives and that’s going to continue and we’d like to increase those as much as possible but those are going to be options on behalf of the individual,” McVey said. “If we have some good options for people to stay healthy that’s going to help them and help PEIA in claims.”
The finance board is scheduled to meet Dec. 5 to consider any changes to its proposals and vote on the plan.
The hearing schedule:
Tuesday, Nov. 12, 6 p.m. Telephone Town Hall — 304-410-0513, Conference ID: 304-410-0513
Wednesday, Nov. 13, Morgantown, The WVU Erickson Alumni Center, One Alumni Drive
Tuesday, Nov. 19, Charleston, The Culture Center, Capitol Complex, 1900 Kanawha Blvd., E.
Wednesday, Nov. 20, Beckley, Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center, 200 Armory Dr.
Thursday, Nov. 21, Martinsburg Holiday Inn, 301 Foxcroft Avenue
All on-site hearings begin at 5 p.m. with an hour long customer service, hearing registration period. Public hearings are scheduled from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Written comments can be mailed to 601 57th Street, SE/ Suite 2, Charleston, WV 25304-2345 or via e-mail to: [email protected]
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JACKSON COUNTY, W.Va. — Jackson General Hospital will be reintroducing itself to Jackson County residents on Tuesday with a ceremony recognizing the merger between the facility and WVU Medicine.
Officials with WVU Medicine and West Virginia University will take part in a ceremony recognizing the merger. The event at WVU Medicine Jackson General Hospital will begin at 11 a.m.
“This is a celebration for the community,” said Denise Toler, market and public relations specialist with the hospital. “We want the community here to enjoy this merge with us and to see the wonderful aspects that we’re going to be able to give to Jackson County and the surrounding areas.”
The merger will result in increased options for specialty care.
“One of the largest barriers for Jackson County and surrounding areas is the rural,” Toler said. “Being able to have the specialty care tied in with Jackson General Hospital, we can get these patients from Jackson County to Wood County and on up into Morgantown for the surgeries and the procedures that they need.”
WVU Medicine CEO Stephanie McCoy, WVU Health Systems President and CEO Albert Wright and WVU President Gordon Gee will attend Tuesday’s event.
MetroNews Affiliate WMOV contributed to this story.
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — With winter weather affecting the Mountain State starting Monday, the West Virginia State Police is urging drivers to practice safe driving behaviors.
The National Weather Service has issued a winter weather advisory for much of the state beginning Monday at 10 p.m. As temperatures fall, rain will change into snow. Most parts of the state will receive between one and three inches of snow.
Cpl. Jason Gallaher said plan ahead before heading out and be patient once on the road.
“Be easy on the accelerator and easy on the brake. Everything is more gradual,” he said. “Give yourself some extra space and give yourself some extra time.”
Gallaher added if you do not need to be on the roads, then don’t.
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — It was more of a nail-biter than most years, but the West Virginia women’s soccer team kept its postseason streak alive with a 20th consecutive invitation to the NCAA tournament.
The tournament field was unveiled Monday afternoon. The Mountaineers (10-7-2) open the tourney at Georgetown (13-4-3) on Saturday. WVU earned an at-large berth in this year’s field.
West Virginia is 21-19-2 all-time in the NCAA Tournament and has won four straight opening-round matches.
“The NCAA selection committee always has a tough job to do,” coach Nikki Izzo-Brown said. “I’m certainly glad that the committee saw the value in our RPI to give us an at-large bid. This team has stepped up this season. It’s been incredible to watch the journey and how they came together and just how badly they wanted to be the team to get to 20.”
Sophomore forward Alina Stahl paces WVU with 12 points on a team-best five goals and two assists. Freshman forward Julianne Vallerand ranks No. 2 with 11 points (5 G, 1 A), while sophomore forward Lizzie Mayfield has a team-high four assists.
WVU has posted seven shutouts this season, with six credited to senior goalkeeper Rylee Foster. Foster is third among active student-athletes in Division I and second on the school’s career shutouts list with 37.
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Photo by Chuck Roberts
PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — Although the two schools are separated by nearly 200 miles, Capital and Wheeling Park have an extensive recent history of playing each other when it matters most.
For the fourth time in the last six seasons, the Cougars and Patriots will square off in a Class AAA playoff matchup when No. 6 Wheeling Park welcomes No. 11 Capital to Wheeling Island Stadium for a first-round showdown at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
“For whatever reason, we’ve found ourselves matched up with Capital,” Wheeling Park head coach Chris Daugherty said. “Out of all the teams in the southern area of the state, we’re probably most familiar with Capital.”
The Patriots and Cougars have each won a state championship over the last decade — the only Class AAA programs to do so besides Martinsburg, which has claimed seven titles since 2010.
The recent playoff history between the two storied programs began in the 2014 playoffs, when Capital defeated Wheeling Park in a quarterfinal en route to winning it all. However, the following season, the Patriots exacted some revenge with a 23-15 victory over the Cougars in the Class AAA title game.
In 2017, Capital had its way in a 63-21 first-round win over Wheeling Park.
“It’s crazy how it works out. We’ve played them a lot,” Capital coach Jon Carpenter said. “It doesn’t take much to break each other down.
“It’s exciting. You want to play good people. You want to play on that field and in that stadium. It’s what high school football is about.”
The Patriots (8-2) enter the postseason winners of three straight and are unbeaten since their lone loss to an in-state opponent, 26-24 at Musselman on Oct. 18.
Wheeling Park is 3-2 in games decided by single digits this year, while the Cougars (5-5) are 1-3 in games decided by 12 or fewer points and 0-2 in games decided by single digits.
“We know that 5-5 or 10-0, they’re going to have some kids that can play and they’re coached well,” Daugherty said. “We’re five points away from being undefeated, but a handful of plays away from being 5-5. That’s the way football is and it rolled that way for them, but that doesn’t mean they’re not any good. I know better than that.”
Both teams have explosive passing attacks, with the Patriots led by quarterback Alex Dunlevy.
Dunlevy, a Kennedy Award candidate, has a variety of weapons at his disposal, including wideouts Steven Mitchell, Shaheed Jackson, Carson Namack, Sincere Sinclair and Xavier Morris.
When Patriots’ tailback Rapheal Bradley is able to get going, an offense that scored at least 24 points in all 10 games and 33 or more in nine contests is that much more dangerous.
“Just like always, they’ll spread the ball around and you have to defend the whole field,” Carpenter said.
Capital, meanwhile has scored 205 points in its wins and only 62 in its setbacks. The Cougars have often relied on big plays to succeed, though quarterback Evan Landers has a knack for producing them.
Landers likes to look the way of wideouts Kerion Martin, K.J. Taylor and Chance Knox, while running back Tay Calloway has also been a standout.
“Even if you’re holding them at bay, it only takes one play for them to get 6 points,” Daugherty said. “The Martin kid is very, very good.
“They’ve run the ball predominantly. I know they might’ve struggled a little bit, but I know the coach is still going to try to run the football and make big plays through the air.”
With a surplus of skill position talent on both sides, the contest could very well come down to what team is more physical at the point of attack.
“We have to find a way to not get blown up on the line of scrimmage and get the ball out in space to alleviate some of that,” Carpenter said. “But it won’t be easy.”
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WHEELING, W.Va. — More traffic changes are coming to Interstate-70 in Wheeling as the start of the major bridges project is here.
The state Department of Transportation (DOT) announced on Monday that preparations have wrapped up and traffic controls are nearly in place for the multi-million dollar project replacing more than two dozen bridges on the stretch of road through Ohio County.
The DOT said the crossover of westbound to eastbound traffic, running from the Marion Street exit in Bridgeport, Ohio to the Wheeling Tunnel has gone into effect and will remain in place until February 1, 2020. Exits on that stretch of road will remain open.
On Monday started shoulder and lane closures on exits 5 to 10, eastbound and westbound, in order to prepare crossovers at the Elm Grove and Cabela’s interchanges. Those closures will last until Friday, Nov. 22 with shoulder closures occurring from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. and lane closures happening between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m.
The DOT further said that throughout this week, nightly traffic restrictions will be in effect on the shoulder in both directions from east of the I-470/I-70 split in order to install signage.
On Tuesday, barrier installation will begin in the areas of the Ft. Henry Bridge and Back Channel Bridge; west of the Wheeling Tunnel, per release.
Travelers are asked to be patient and slow down through the work zones.
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A response by the City of Charleston to the Concerned Clergy Coalition in Charleston over request of changes following a controversial arrest is expected by Wednesday.
Charleston Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin told MetroNews on Monday that her administration is still gathering information and discussing a proper response over the requests that were announced during a public forum on November 5.
The clergy asked Goodwin, city council members and other elected officials to respond in no more than 10 days. The Charleston Police Department (CPD) allowed two officers to return to work from administrative leave after a use of force investigation was launched following an arrest of Freda Gilmore of Charleston on October 14.
“As we continue to work with RESET, as we continue to work with the Charleston Police Department, we will be responding this week to the clergy with thoughtful responses,” Goodwin told MetroNews.
“I think that at the end of the day, the clergy and the police officers want exactly what this administration wants. We want an open, honest and thoughtful conversation to continue.”
The Charleston clergy, which is a group of pastors from more than 20 churches, believed that CPD Patrolmen Carlie McCoy and Joshua Mena went over the line when arresting Gilmore, who her family says has special needs.
Mena is seen on dashcam video punching Gilmore several times on the ground after McCoy struggled to handcuff her.
CPD Police Chief Opie Smith said an internal investigation on the incident that found their actions fell under current policy. He said strikes are allowed in “situations where active resistance is occurring.”
At the forum, the clergy asked in the letter for the city to put McCoy and Mena back on suspension and have the Kanawha County Prosecutor’s Office and the FBI investigate the matter.
The requests also included there is a review of all current CPD policies, revision of some, training for officers on the proper use of force, mental health and cultural sensitivity, and a formation of a police review board comprised of citizens.
Goodwin said she has heard from several councilmembers and some have direct responses to the clergy and others still have questions.
She said more discussions may lead to changes to current policy.
“There are a lot of things that we need to address, there are some challenges that we have,” Goodwin said. “The good news is this administration is willing to listen and to learn but make no mistake, this administration also supports our police department.”
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HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — A former Marshall University student accused of committing two off-campus sexual assaults is scheduled to be in court Tuesday in Huntington.
It appears Tuesday’s original trial date will be moved to next year, according to Joseph Chase Hardin’s attorney Kerry Nessel. Nessel told MetroNews Monday he’s still reviewing a large amount of information on the case turned over by the prosecution. There was originally a computer hard drive problem with downloading the information.
Cabell County Circuit Judge Alfred Ferguson will be asked Tuesday to move the trial to next February, Nessel said.
Hardin, 22, is currently in jail after his probation from a 2016 assault of a Marshall University female student was revoked because of the new charges. He pleaded guilty to a battery charge in the original case and eventually was sentenced to three years probation by Judge Ferguson. Ferguson evoked the original one-year jail sentence in July after Hardin was indicted for the alleged late-2018 off-campus assaults.
Nessel said he’ll also ask Ferguson Tuesday to release his client from jail.
Marshall kicked Hardin out of school on June 11, four days days after he was booked into the Western Regional Jail. Hardin was originally expelled from Marshall in March 2016 about a month after the first sexual assault. He appealed and a student conduct panel ruled in his favor. After he was sentenced to probation in the 2016 crime he was allowed back on campus with restrictions. Those restrictions were lifted for the Fall 2018 term.
The student who was the victim in the 2016 case filed a lawsuit against Marshall for its handling of the case. A federal judge found in favor of the university in a July 23 summary judgment. U.S. District Judge Chuck Chambers ruled Marshall University was not indifferent to the former student’s harassment complaint.
Tuesday’s hearing is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m.