OSU football: West Virginia panic affecting Cowboys
West Virginia is hot on the trail of OSU offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, WVU wants Holgorsen either as a replacement for coach Bill Stewart, or as a coach-in-waiting for Stewart.
Holgorsen might not touch the latter job; those crown-prince situations never seem to work out. They don’t seem to work out even when the head coach is on board, and Stewart has indicated he most definitely is not on board, the Post-Gazette reported.
But new West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck has not publicly endorsed Stewart as his coach, despite a 9-3 record and tying UConn and Pitt atop the Big East standings.
Luck’s obvious problems with Stewart are not related to record or personality. Stewart is 37-14 in three-plus seasons, the plus being that 48-28 rout of Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, when Stewart took over for Rich Rodriguez, who had fled to Michigan. Stewart is a grandfatherly type who charms most everyone who comes into contact with him.
But Luck is bothered by empty seats. The West Virginia fans are voting with their absence; as many as 10,000 empty seats were at the regular-season finale against Rutgers. That will concern any athletic director. That has gotten lots of coaches fired.
And the truth is, West Virginia panicked in January 2008. Most people think of panic as impulsive behavior in bad times. But sometimes you panic in good times. A marriage proposal. A house purchase. Stuff like that.
West Virginia panicked in the euphoria of routing the Sooners. OU was favored in that Fiesta Bowl three years ago — shouldn’t have been; the Mountaineers were a fantastic team that would have been playing for a national title had quarterback Pat White not been injured against Pitt in the regular-season finale — and with Rodriguez’s departure, West Virginia’s future seemed shaky. Lots of bitterness and uncertainty surrounded the Mountaineers.
Then on Jan. 2, West Virginia kicked the Sooners from opening bell to final gun. Total domination, with Grandfather Bill as interim coach.
Before 10 a.m. on Jan. 3, WVU had named Stewart permanent coach.
Stewart absolutely was the right man for the Fiesta Bowl job. A calm hand in turbulent waters.
But was Stewart the right man to take control of the program? A desert vacation capped by a football game is one thing. Fighting the cutthroat business of big-time college football is another.
The last three years, the Big East has been represented in the BCS by Cincinnati (twice) and now Connecticut. That’s a slot that should be West Virginia’s by acclimation. The Mountaineers are more ahead of the rest of their league in tradition and prestige and potential than any other BCS conference. Think Boise State of the East.
Yet under Stewart, West Virginia has allowed others to usurp its status. The Mountaineers have played in the Meineke Car Care Bowl, the Gator Bowl and now the Champs Sports Bowl, while little Cincinnati and upstart Connecticut have been to the Orange Bowl, the Sugar Bowl and now the Fiesta Bowl.
And Oklahoma State might have to deal with the fallout.
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