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Weighing Awkwardness vs. Potential

Oliver Luck impacted college football in two ways this summer: one, by effectively managing his son’s decision to return to Stanford for his junior season; and two, by hiring Dana Holgorsen as West Virginia’s offensive coordinator and head-coach-in-waiting, setting up a rapid succession plan for the underachieving Bill Stewart. The first move was and has been an unqualified success, both for the Lucks and Stanford. The second was and will be a coaching coup, but unfortunately for Luck, Stewart, Holgorsen and the entire West Virginia family, it’s been an awkward transition.

We should have expected nothing less. Stewart has and will always be loyal to West Virginia first and foremost, so that he took such a slight — naming his successor with only a one-year waiting period — without any outward negative comment speaks to his love of this university. But he surely didn’t care for being pushed out the door.

And he had to have seen this coming. Stewart needed only to look at nearby Marshall for an example of an incumbent coach facing the music upon the arrival of a new athletic director: comparing Stewart and Mark Snyder isn’t quite fair, as Stewart has won games in Morgantown, but similarly to the circumstances at W.V.U., Snyder was relieved of his duties soon after Mike Hamrick became the school’s A.D.

Luck was hired at his alma mater nearly one year ago, and roughly six months later had laid out a blueprint for the future of West Virginia football. It didn’t include Stewart — at least not past 2011. It included Holgorsen front and center as the face of the program — beginning in 2012, at least. Luck’s decision was inspired but flawed in the short-term, as there is no escaping the potential for staff infighting as old meets news, as the past makes way for the future. That’s always a painful transition.

Like Stewart, Luck had to know this was going to happen. More likely than not, he weighed the positives and negatives and came to the following conclusion: the drawback of a gossip-filled, potentially underachieving 2011 season was worth the end result. That must have been his decision, because there’s now way Luck couldn’t have seen this coming. Most of us did.

Not only is the head coach a lame duck, but also a significant portion of the staff. At least it feels that way; Holgorsen and Luck should do everything in their power to keep defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel’s services. But those assistants who came in or continued their tenures under Stewart must feel like updating their resumes.

So there have been rumblings that there is a disconnect between the old and the new, to put it lightly. Even if these rumors are not true to the degree that they’ve been presented, they do highlight what is certainly a tense and awkward working environment between the holdovers and the new additions. Think of the normal head-coach-in-waiting scenario: it got ugly at Florida State, particularly during the final months leading to Jimbo Fisher’s ascension, for example.

Now multiply that. It doesn’t get much more awkward than what’s happening at West Virginia: Stewart doesn’t want to go, nor do his assistants; Holgorsen’s chomping at the bit; Luck can’t be sleeping well; and West Virginia fans are wondering whether to write this season off and wait for 2012 or to keep the faith, knowing that despite the disarray the program has added an offensive coordinator worth any pain that accompanies his arrival.

If there’s any doubt about the latter option, whether to keep the faith, do know that Luck has already weighed the question and come up firmly in Holgorsen’s favor. As he should: Holgorsen is worth the wait. And the awkwardness.

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  1. schedule nit says:

    Never worth it to make your entire organization look like a pack of circus clowns for a year, imo. I will be surprised if Stewart is still in place by the end of the regular season, let alone the bowl game, if there is one.

  2. Steve says:

    I’d say Paul just dropped the my Mountaineers down a few notches with this crap going on. This is a joke, flat out joke and I’m embarrassed by all of this. Luck needs to get this under control by firing and promoting DH now, or if DH has been a drunken fool let him go as well and promote Jeff Casteel to head coach and let Shannon Dawson run the offense. I’d rather win 7 games this year then put up with this circus.

  3. Matt Rob says:

    10 wins and a BCS bid will push this all behind us.

  4. Steve says:

    If we get 10 wins we will be playing with house money. We have the talent to run the table or win 12 including the bowl game with the lone loss to LSWho. But with all this swirling who knows, but yeah Matt a BCS win and know one remembers.

  5. Clayton says:

    Firstly I think Stewart can be defined as an underachiever. But has his 3 years in Morgantown really been THAT bad? The WVU fans are just too cut throat imo. I’m not a WVU fan, but I’m not very impressed with Holgorsen the man. The offensive coordinator, yes, he’s very impressive. But Holgorsen, the person, seems a little sketchy. I read about how he is ‘trying to figure out the expectations the university is expecting of him.’ Is it really that hard to figure out? Stop being a disorderly alcoholic.

    And for Stewart, he’s really a great person and I’m sure he’s a fine coach. Not the best coach, but he’s a good one. Better than a lot of other coaches in the FBS. It’s rather unfortunate he’s so loyal to a program that is pushing him out of the door after only 3 seasons (4 if he makes it through this one.) I could see Stewart winning the Big East this year, and yet the Mountaineer fans will give all the credit to Holgorsen and none to Stewart.

  6. Steve says:

    yup all the credit needs to go to Holgorsen. Stew would not make changes that needed to be made. He made a bad hire as his OC to begin with and would not can the man and he has paid for it. My dad is a good man but I don’t want him coaching the Mountaineers. The thing that drove the fan base over the cliff was his constant excuse making for former OC Jeff Mullen the past 3 years. Last year when they lost games to UConn and ‘Cuse without giving up more then 20 points he made excuses for the offense and threw the defense under the bus for not flipping the field enough. And the icing on the cake was the hiring of a former O-Line coach to coach the tight ends and a former tight end coach to coach the line. The O-Line was in constant trouble all season missing assignment after assignment.

    Buckeye fans need to be warned, the worse thing that could happen to them would be Fickle winning 10 or more games this year because they would be in a spot where they may hire him full time as the HC therefore making the same mistake WVU did after the Fiesta Bowl of 08.

  7. philip says:

    i took stewart at his word that he’d be the good soldier in all this; expecting him to follow through, however, was probably expecting him to be superhuman.

    based on those expectations, i figured we’d defy convention and have a smooth transition. the way things are now, it doesn’t seem to be the case.

    that, and i’m sure the team recognizes when mom and dad aren’t getting along. also not good.

    i’m naive enough to believe, though, that once fall camp opens, idle hands will be put to tasks more constructive than picking at old wounds. winning should cure all that ails us.

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