One decision that he is suspected of having a hand in is the hiring of West Virginia University head football coach Bill Stewart. Everything in West Virginia is political. Even aspirant Terry Bowden found it prudent to approach the governor to discuss his interest in the job. After the big Fiesta Bowl win, interim coach Stewart got the job.
To me, criticism of this hire is valid in terms of the governor's possible involvement. No, he should not be part of the hiring process for a football coach. However Bill Stewart has done a good job despite the heavy criticism.
WVU football has two glaring problems this year. It has a very young offensive line and a set of cornerbacks that have had some difficulties this year containing passing offenses. Rodriguez lost Preston County native Rick Trickett as the o line coach a few years ago and hired a coach who did not recruit as well. Once Stewart took the job, strong offensive line recruits like Josh Jenkins of Parkersburg once again started coming to WVU. These young men have a lot of talent, but little experience. They are also not yet as powerful as the senior defensive linemen that they play against.
The cornerbacks have a hard time covering receivers. Some of them date back to the Rodriguez philosophy that one can take any athlete and make them a cornerback. That position takes years of practice to develop a true instinct. Their problems were covered up by using a passive defense for many years. Bill Stewart wants to get back to the WVU defenses of the mid 1990s that led the nation in sacks and gave up the fewest yards. That means more aggressive playcalling on defense, which leaves the cornerbacks in more vulnerable situations. The vision is there, it will just take a season of stepping back one pace to move two forward next year.
Stewart has a vision, if WVU fans are willing to be patient. He is one of the best recruiters in the nation and has a staff willing to adapt as the game changes. Meanwhile Rodriguez is suffering his second losing season at Michigan, his systems already considered old fashioned by experts.
Sarah Palin has an axe to grind against Newsweek. Would any respectable magazine pair an important political analysis of a national figure with a cover photo of them in workout clothes? Only Sarah Palin gets this treatment from a liberal magazine with no interest in portraying her as a serious figure. You do not have to like or agree with her to appreciate the fact that this magazine is using subtle sexism. Their defense is that they found the most interesting photo out there to use. I remember that Ronald Reagan was often photographed while swimming in the ocean. No one ever used a topless picture of a seventy five year old man to illustrate a political analysis of him. It is another cheap shot against a powerful, popular, and worthy Republican figure.