It’s a question of identity for West Virginia football when it comes to Dana Holgorsen. We are now five years into his head coaching tenure at WVU. His first year WVU was in the Big East, while the Mountaineers spent the last four in the Big 12. Where does the program find itself? Is it in shambles, is it a feared program, or is it just another football team? The more important question is whether or not WVU thinks they should be a program that is feared? And if so, how many risks are they willing to take to get there?
So before analyzing WVU, let’s analyze the coach. Dana Holgorsen has a record of 25-25 in the Big 12. This is the very definition of mediocre. Now as bad as that number seems to most fans, it is fair to remember that we are in a transitional time. The team is in its fourth year in the Big 12 after transferring from its’ long time home in the Big East.
WVU is now playing much better teams, and more importantly, they are playing teams that are playing a different brand of football than what WVU is accustomed to. Holgorsen has also brought a personality to this team and this program. That might not seem like much, but it’s worth more than what you would think. Just ask recruits. Which by the way, he’s done pretty well in that department too. He has continued to utilize the state of Florida like Rich Rodriguez and Bill Stewart before him, as well as keeping some good recruiting ties from his home area of Texas.
His personality also has kept fans relatively happy, but as always, results matter far more. Now let’s get back to that 25-25 record. Almost a third of the losses came in the tumultuous season of 2013 when WVU went 4-8. The other four years were all winning record seasons and a BCS bowl win in the Orange Bowl at the end of the 2011 season.
Now let’s look at what makes him so irritating. The play calling is probably one of the most common complaints. Running the ball when he should be passing, poor clock management, gutsy plays when inappropriate and non-gutsy plays when appropriate for gutsy plays. This is Dana Holgorsen’s MO when it comes to play calling. Other than that, the reasons for his firing seem to depend on where a person thinks that WVU football stands.
Bill Stewart was fired at WVU after having an average of 8-4 to 9-3 every season. If WVU was in the Big 12, it would probably be more like 6-6 and 7-5 because of increased competition. After Stewart was let go, many questioned the decision saying that he didn’t deserve to be let go since he had put up winning seasons. For the moment I will ignore the odd “investigation” by Stewart of Holgorsen’s “drinking” right before he was fired, since WVU had already been looking for his replacement before all of that. Looking at this, I would argue Holgorsen and Stewart have similar resumes. So why did WVU get rid of Stewart? I believe it’s because they believed they are worth more than just making bowl games. They believe they should be in contention for the conference titles every year.
If that’s the truth, then Holgorsen should not have been brought back. He has had a variety of different teams and has shown signs of brilliance, but has always come back down to earth with mediocrity in the end. After five years, it doesn’t show signs of stopping. It appears this is Holgorsen’s plateau.
Dana Holgorsen won’t be leading WVU towards conference championships and certainly not to National Championships. However, he will lead to relevancy and probably a lot of bowl games. How important is it to WVU to be more than that? Does WVU still aspire to be in the ranks of the best teams in college football every week? I believe they do.
West Virginia football is the winningest program in the country to have not yet won a National Title. This is not a mediocre football program from a state that everybody still thinks is part of Virginia. This is not a program that shouldn’t be in a Power 5 conference. I believe that the flying WV is a symbol that is known and respected across college football. Mediocrity will not last long under that logo. It demands to be relevant, but not just for bowl games. It deserves to be relevant for conference championships and the College Football Playoff. We should be clamoring around our television sets waiting to see if we are in the Final Four and not the Cactus Bowl.
The 2015 season should not be thought of as positive. But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe WVU does see themselves as the opposite of all that I just said. The Georgia Bulldogs proved that they don’t accept any form of mediocrity. The Bulldogs went as far as to fire a coach who averaged ten wins per year. That’s a university with a boatload of respect for their football program.
For WVU, it’s not a question of money or fan support. It’s a question of pride. If WVU wants to be more than just another interesting team who won’t be talked about come Playoff time, then should have parted ways with Dana Holgorsen and found someone else. But, the powers that be in Morgantown have spoken loud and clear: bowl games and winning seasons are enough. Unfortunately, I’m willing to bet that most fans don’t agree.
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