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Austin's new popularity, WVU-Herd travels

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Cleaning out a crowded notebook and a cluttered mind while wondering just how the IRS feels now about being audited itself:

And then there's Tavon Austin, who also finds himself these days with the tables turned dramatically.

Austin, of course, has made no secret of the fact that his greatest joy in being a first-round draft pick is his newfound ability to take care of his family. It's not as if Austin grew up impoverished in Baltimore, but his surroundings there were not exactly something out of a Norman Rockwell painting. I've talked to him more than once about what life might be like for him and his family should he strike it rich.

Well, as it turns out, his family is quite a bit larger than he imagined.

"I've got a lot of cousins now,'' the former WVU receiver told reporters in St. Louis, where he's going through his first workouts as a Ram after being the eighth pick in last month's NFL draft. "The whole [city of] Baltimore is my cousin now.''

Yes, money has its strings attached and Austin is finding out what so many other athletes have discovered when they hit the NFL (or NBA or MLB or NHL) lottery.

"Everybody expects a lot of things from you as far as money. Everybody wants to be around you,'' Austin said. "My phone doesn't stop ringing now. It feels like they're counting my bank account now. So that's probably the hardest thing for me right now, just people.''

Austin said he's letting his mother handle all of that while he concentrates on football. Nothing against his mom, but if he's smart - and if she's smart - he'll do more than just hand his checkbook over to her. There are way too many financial horror stories out there that begin just like this.

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  • So you think West Virginia's baseball team has faced some challenges regarding travel this season, what with playing "home'' games in three different cities and being part of a Big 12 Conference based a thousand miles away?

    Well, perhaps this might put it in a bit more perspective. The Mountaineers play Marshall tonight in Beckley, a 6 p.m. game (the third between the teams this season) that will likely see them exit the stadium at about 9ish. Eight hours later they have to be in Pittsburgh in time to go through security for a 7 a.m. flight to Oklahoma, where they face Oklahoma State in a three-game series beginning Thursday.

    "We've got a night game in Beckley on Tuesday and a 7 a.m. flight out of Pittsburgh on Wednesday,'' first-year coach Randy Mazey said. "So that presents some travel problems. But this team is used to stuff like that. We've prepared them for adversity and we're getting ready to face a little bit more of it.''

    Hey, at least classes aren't in session. Final exams were last week.

    "Our travel schedule for the next three days is going to be as bad as it's been the entire season,'' Mazey said. "But we're going to flip that into a positive. We started this season with an unbelievable travel schedule and we're going to finish it that way.''

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  • Not that Marshall's travel schedule is any easier than West Virginia's, mind you.

    For instance, after tonight's game the Herd has the same amount of time to get to Houston to face Rice beginning on Thursday. And while WVU was playing three against TCU in Charleston last weekend, Marshall was in Beckley for three with East Carolina.

    Shoot, the Herd doesn't play a true home game all season, bouncing between Charleston and Beckley. At least WVU had eight games in Morgantown and won seven of them.

    Then again, Marshall is now 19-31 and West Virginia is 30-22 and still within striking distance of a Big 12 title. So what the Mountaineers have done with that travel schedule is rather remarkable.

    "We've got an opportunity now, with three games to go, to get to the top,'' Mazey said. "I couldn't be prouder of where we are right now.''

    For the record, Kansas State leads the Big 12 at 14-7. WVU and Oklahoma are tied for second at 12-9. Oklahoma State and Baylor are each 11-9. All play three-game series this weekend to wrap up league play.

    So the game with Marshall tonight is really more of a nuisance than anything else. The same can be said from the other side, too, of course. Both teams would probably be better served resting up for the weekend.

    If either team treats it that way - it is, after all, WVU-Marshall - it will surprise Mazey.

    "I've got no doubt these guys will come out on Tuesday playing hard with a lot of energy and go into the weekend the same way,'' he said.

    Losing two straight to TCU to close out last weekend in Charleston certainly didn't help West Virginia's chances of winning a league title. But again, Mazey doesn't expect anyone to play this weekend at Oklahoma State as if they have no chance. After all, they had no chance all season, right?

    "It's just the character of this team,'' Mazey said. "Every time I've challenged them to do something, they've responded. We've got a huge challenge coming up.''

    Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickman1@aol.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.


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