I thought soap operas were only relegated to television. Add the seedy world of college athletics to that list.
Word began to surface on Monday that Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen was no longer being considered a candidate for the vacant head coaching position at Pitt. No sooner did this byline come across our attention, soon we got wind that Holgorsen was being sought out for a similar job at West Virginia. There’s just one problem with this, most notably that West Virginia has a head football coach in Bill Stewart.
Stewart, who three years ago won a BCS game against Oklahoma while working as an interim head coach for the Mounties, rode that wave of euphoria to the top spot in Morgantown. Stewart, a native of New Martinsville, WV was in a unique position to claim a job he had dreamed of since he began coaching.
As you recall, Rich Rodriguez had led WVU to the doorstep of the BCS title game in 2007 before dropping a 13-9 decision to rival Pitt at home. He quickly bolted for Michigan, having clearly worn out his welcome in Mountie land. It was an ugly divorce and in any bad breakup, sometimes people make hasty decisions that aren’t thought out too well.
I’m not suggesting WVU hired the wrong man. I think Stewart was a good choice for the job. However I blame not Stewart here, but the powers that be in Morgantown who decided that the 48-28 thrashing Stewart led the ‘Eers to was so impressive, that they gave him the job permanently the next day.
Talk about a knee-jerk reaction.
So Stewart, who had come ‘home’ to West Virginia in 2000 to be an assistant under Don Nehlan and later Rich Rod, became the head coach in his home state to the biggest college football program there was.
And all he’s done since then is win. He won nine games his first season, the most wins of any of the previous 31 men to do his job in their first year at the helm.
He’s averaged nine wins in each of his 1st three seasons actually. Although the Mountaineers have not won a Big East title outright under Stewart, he has done little to embarrass the program. If anything, he’s taken some of the shame left on the program by Rodriguez and made Morgantown a better place to play college football.
But apparently that’s not good enough.
Since his hiring in 2008, WVU has had a change in its Athletic Department, most notably Oliver Luck. Luck, who led Mountaineers to victory in the 1981 Peach Bowl as quarterback, became AD earlier this summer. As we have learned from the past, when there is a change of this nature in sports, it’s only a matter of time before the man in charge looks over his staff and decided who should stay and who needs to go.
Guess which category Stewart lands in?
Now it doesn’t help Stewart that fans of West Virginia sports have been displeased with the job he’s done in three seasons at the wheel. These fans feel that the football program should be 11-1 every year and play in a BCS game.
These are the same people who burn couches at the drop of a hat and relish driving on a paved road.
Luck has apparently been allowed to be influenced by the lack of ‘support’ from the fan base regarding the head coach. Crowds at Milan Puskar Stadium this year have not been at full capacity. Better than 10,000 fans decided not to show up for their season finale against Rutgers and Luck sees this as an opportunity to make his first major move as AD. Losses at home to Syracuse and on the road at Connecticut in front of a national TV audience didn’t help Stewart’s cause either.
I’m here to say it’s a bad idea to replace Stewart with Holgorsen.
Luck has some apparent ‘history’ with the Okie State O-Coordinator. Both lived in Houston a few years back when Luck was running an MLS team & Holgorsen was coaching at the University of Houston. I can’t imagine the two were close, but apparently Luck has reached out to Holgorsen about becoming the 33rd head coach of the football program in Morgantown.
The word is that Holgorsen would come and serve as the OC for one season under Stewart, then take over the job in 2012. Stewart has a contract until 2013 and if you can belive it, is opposed to this scenario.
Can you blame Stewart?
College Athletic Directors are a dime a dozen as far as I’m concerned. They wield large amounts of power. They almost always have a god-complex and look at others with that ‘I’m smarter than you’ stare. I don’t know Oliver Luck. I’ve never spoken to him, but when you see something like this playing out, even from afar, its hard not to think that when Luck puts his pants on each day, he levitates in doing so.
My hope is that by the end of the week, Stewart still has his job and this story disappears. By some accounts, Stewart will need to beat North Carolina State in the Champs Sports Bowl on December 28th just to keep employed. That may not even be enough according to some, as Luck is chomping at the bit to make a change.
It’s enough to make you sick to your stomach and wonder why these men choose to do this for a living. Stewart deserves better treatment and if Luck is allowed to do this, it will mark a new low in college athletics.
My thought is that this can’t end well for Stewart. I’m hoping it does, but who am I kidding. There is never a happy ending in the seedy world of college sports, especially for a good guy like Bill Stewart.
A defacto member of the Justice League of America, John Phillips is the author of this article. He can also be heard hosting weekend talk-shows and anchoring sports updates on 93.7 The Fan.