If you happen to be a friend of mine on Facebook, perhaps you can guess today’s hot topic.
Over the weekend, it sparked comment after comment after comment. It sparked looooonnng comments. It sparked heated comments.
I write, of course, of quarterback Will Grier’s decision to skip WVU’s upcoming Camping World Bowl against Syracuse. (Oddly, I didn’t see the same blowback when left tackle Yodny Cajuste – who protects Grier’s backside – also announced he was sitting out for the second straight year.)
“It’s not even worth watching now,” wrote one of my Facebook friends.
“Lost all respect for him,” wrote another.
“Letting down his fans, his coaches and his teammates… He has turned his back on his brothers.”
Then there was the other side.
“Will Grier, thanks for all you have done for WVU! I wish you nothing but the best.”
“You people are out of control. He made the right decision for HIM and his FAMILY.”
“This is the reality of college sports today. Unless I get some of the bowl money or we are competing for a national championship, pass.”
For many, it’s another disappointment thrown on the bigger disappointment of the season. WVU had its quarterback. It had its offensive line (for the most part). It had its receivers. A run at a Big 12 title and College Football Playoff was a legitimate goal.
And look at the numbers. Grier did his part. He finished as the nation’s third-highest graded QB, according to Pro Football Focus. He put up 9.7 yards per attempt. His passing grade and PFF grade was 91.9. He finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting.
My view is it’s tough to get mad at the guy because he’s skipping a bowl game against Syracuse. He brought excitement to the Mountaineer program when it was most needed. He gave WVU a chance. There were simply other holes, which we went over in a prior blog.
Now, am I happy he’s skipping the bowl? Absolutely not. I enjoyed watching Grier. I loved watching his connection to David Sills, Gary Jennings and the rest of the receivers. I loved watching his swagger.
Yet I get it. It’s the Camping World Bowl. Against Syracuse. And the more Grier and Cajuste are on the field, the more they are exposing themselves to injury. They have already accepted an invitation to the Senior Bowl, which is a pseudo-tryout for the NFL. (Please don’t compare the two.) How many times should they go out there in one year?
That written, however, I do believe something should be done to pad the blow to die-hard fans. This year, WVU fans were hit with the high-profile bowl loss of Grier. Joining him are players like projected top-five NFL pick and Houston defensive lineman Ed Oliver, dynamic South Carolina receiver Deebo Samuel, projected first-round pick and LSU cornerback Greedy Williams and standout Iowa tight end Noah Fant. In the past, Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey made waves by sitting out.
What I suggest is the NCAA and players try to calm those waves. My proposal is they come together — and agree to give fans and bowls as much notice as possible.
I know without a players association, nothing will be ironclad. Yet if the NCAA would set up a system before bowl announcements are made, I don’t see why players like Grier, etc., would buck the idea.
Take this season, for instance. Give Grier as much draft status input as possible from the NFL. Give him the likely bowl scenarios. Then ask where or if he’d play. In the Alamo against Washington State? In the Camping World against Syracuse? Both? Neither?
Then share the information with the bowls before teams are selected and, certainly, with fans as soon as the matchups are announced. Strive for transparency. Don’t drag feet and risk upsetting longtime fans.
See, I understand if WVU fans are disappointed Grier isn’t playing in Orlando. Yet I would likewise understand steam from the ears if tickets are purchased, if plane and hotel reservations are made, if vacation days are requested and THEN Grier announced he’d sit.
Again, the NCAA should strive for a streamlined process. If such players can’t make up their minds right away, well, there’s nothing you can do about it. But at least roll out a process to try and help. Try to take the sting out of fans’ bowl experience.
Might that result in some lost bowl revenue? Maybe.
Yet considering the dwindling college football fanbase, the goodwill would be well worth it.