Print and Go Back ESPN.com: On The Trail: East Region [Print without images]

Wednesday, January 30, 2013
WVU not getting the mother's blessing

By Jared Shanker

For the first time since 1942, there was no Backyard Brawl. But that doesn’t mean the storied Pittsburgh-West Virginia rivalry is dead. It’s now being played out on the recruiting grounds, where the latest version of the Brawl is coming down to a 2013 recruit, ESPN 300 Clairton (Pa.) High athlete Tyler Boyd.

A Pittsburgh commit since Jan. 5, Boyd, who is ranked No. 165 in the ESPN 300, originally said he would take official visits elsewhere. However, all planned visits were canceled except for a hastily-put-together visit to West Virginia last weekend.

Tonya Payne, Boyd’s mother, was asked after her son’s visit if the Mountaineers have her blessing. “No,” was her immediate response.

Payne has received attention recently for her staunch disapproval of West Virginia as a suitor for her son.

Tyler Boyd
Tyler Boyd took a trip to West Virginia last weekend, but his mother, Tonya Payne, isn't so sure about the Mountaineers.
“I would always support my son, but I won’t agree with that decision,” she said. “I made that perfectly, perfectly aware to the West Virginia coaches I’ve talked to.”

Payne’s reluctance to give the Mountaineers her approval comes down to conversations she has had -- or not had -- with the coaches. It was not until Jan. 24 -- two days before Boyd’s visit to WVU -- that she first had contact with a Mountaineers coach. West Virginia offered Boyd in February 2012. His original recruiter, Steve Dunlap, was let go earlier this month.

Due to NCAA rules, West Virginia cannot comment on Boyd, as he has not signed a letter of intent. Boyd has not been saying much since coming back from West Virginia, and Payne said his phone is on “do not disturb.”

Payne said this is not a case of her being a fan of Pitt, a short drive from where the family resides. She has been the target of criticism from both fan bases for her role in Boyd'd recruitment.

“People don’t realize the hardship it is on a family,” Payne said. “It’s his life, but it’s still a decision that affects his family.”

Eric Fusco, a Clairton assistant coach, was put in charge of Boyd’s recruitment by Payne, a single mother. When Fusco first drove Boyd to West Virginia for an unofficial visit close to a year ago, he too had issues with the Mountaineers’ recruitment. When he told Payne about the visit, a red flag was raised.

“She’s just doing what’s best for her son. She’s going to protect him,” said Fusco, who added he has no preference for Boyd. “I’ve known her a long time. She feels in her heart of hearts she knows what’s best for him.

“... It’s not as personal as it seems.”

As of now, Payne said West Virginia “can’t be included” as a viable option for her son. The conversations she has had with new recruiter Tony Gibson and coach Dana Holgorsen the last few days have not done much to assuage concerns.

This past Saturday, Payne and Holgorsen spoke, and she said he did not have the answers she hoped to find. Having placed an emphasis on education after her oldest son lost opportunities from a career-ending football injury, she felt Holgorsen pushed potential NFL success too much on her.

“When I had a conversation or met a recruiter, everyone’s first question to the parent is, ‘Do you have any questions?’ I always said no because I left it for them to sell themselves to me,” Payne said. “Immediately if everything was football and not education, it was a red flag to me.”

West Virginia is not buried, though. The family will host West Virginia for an in-home visit Friday, after Pitt drops by on Thursday. It will be the first time any program recruiting Boyd has come into Payne’s home.

Boyd went to West Virginia after canceling his Tennessee official visit. Payne said the Volunteers are still an option, and there is a good chance Boyd will officially visit Knoxville this weekend.