Almost Heaven, West Virginia…College Football’s Best Soap Opera Yet

Doomed from the beginning.

Head football coach at a major college program.  Native to the state the school resides within.  Considers the role his dream job.  Told by an incoming athletic director they can’t win it all with him coaching.  Asked to finish up his contract by mentoring a youthful newcomer as a head-coach-in-waiting.

Doomed from the beginning.

The most bizarre chapter of the book-in-waiting about this highly negative college football off-season had its origin back in late December…the hiring of Dana Holgorsen as (eventual) Head Coach of the West Virginia Mountaineers…simultaneously beginning the deconstruction of Bill Stewart as (actual) Head Coach of WVU.

The New York Times reconstructed the sequence of events as it knew them once Stewart “resigned” his position earlier this month…and Holgorsen assumed the role he was eventually going to get one way or the other.

Adding to the circus atmosphere of this “shotgun wedding” in Mountaineer land was the fact Holgorsen’s agreement included a clause giving him a raise if he became head man before or during this coming football season.

Doomed from the beginning.

How Athletic Director Oliver Luck was even allowed by the school’s President to craft this dead-on-arrival business plan simply can’t be explained.  Stewart went 28-12 in three seasons as Head Coach but failed to get the Mountaineers into the promised land of the BCS.  If that wasn’t good enough…and he’s not “your guy”…fire him.  Under this ill-fated transition arrangement, Stewart was left to twist in the wind…finish out his coaching career at West Virginia while utilizing Holgorsen as his newly forced-upon offensive coordinator…and then walk off into the coaching sunset to take an admin role thereafter.

Needless to say, the now 59-year-old Stewart had to be less than thrilled at not only being shown the door…but having to play doorman for the flashy 40-year-old offensive coordinator guru Holgorsen.  The whole thought of it must have been humiliating…especially under the premise the basis for all this was according to Luck, Stewart didn’t offer the greater potential for success his replacement did.

This is the point in the saga where I say I never try to judge others or their motivations when it comes to employment.  I have enough personal experience with employers and work environments to refrain from acting like I know what someone should or should not do in their job situation…especially from a distance…I can only imagine being in their shoes.  Yet…

Doomed from the beginning.

It could have been as simple as Stewart wanted very deeply to remain a WVU employee in that admin role.  His competitive spirit possibly wanted one more run for glory at his dream job, feeling he could leave his beloved institution on a high note.  Maybe he was still interested in coaching elsewhere and Stewart just wanted to show how classy a person he could be in riding all this insanity out.  Maybe he just needed the money.  Maybe it was pride.

Somewhere, all those feelings I’m imagining Stewart had must have gotten shaken and stirred…and what came pouring out was a poisonous concoction to kill the career of the man he was agreeing to mentor.

The only career that got killed was Stewart’s.

Doomed from the beginning.

Stewart contacted at least two reporters covering WVU in mid-December and asked them to “dig up something” about Holgorsen’s lack of character and “get it out” just days before all of this was being finalized.  Stewart’s true lack of passion for the arrangement going forward didn’t come to light until May…when Holgorsen helped the narrative along by getting a police escort out of a casino in West Virginia while intoxicated.

At this point, a third reporter indicated this wasn’t the FIRST time Holgorsen had thrown back too many in public.  While West Virginia was investigating if those multiple drinking rumors were true and it appeared Holgorsen’s employment at WVU would be quite short-lived, one of the original reporters asked to “dig up something” on Holgorsen was asked if he felt Stewart might have something to do with those additional drinking incident rumors.  Stewart’s desperate December dishonesty was finally revealed in an honest answer…to an honest question.

Doomed from the beginning.

Luck’s explanation…“At the time I thought it made a lot of sense.  I thought it was good management practice.”  He based his logic on similar “on-deck” scenarios carried out with the Wisconsin and Oregon programs.  That made him – if possible – sound even more incompetent since those two incumbent/successor changes were conducted in controlled, professional environments that don’t even compare to what was going on at West Virginia.

I hope it all works out for Holgorsen…it seems to me both he and Luck are on a short leash now.  We shall see.  As for Stewart…he could probably use a little “Country Roads” to leave on…


About sportsattitudes

I'm Bruce. Born, raised and still outside the City of Brotherly Love. Managed (so far) to visit a dozen of our United States and Canada (twice). Addicted from birth to Television/Movies/Sports. Took three years of French and got credit for two of 'em.
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One Response to Almost Heaven, West Virginia…College Football’s Best Soap Opera Yet

  1. JW says:

    Note the similarities here and in the Riggleman situation. Discuss amongst yourselves.


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