Weighing Awkwardness vs. Potential
By Paul Myerberg // Jun 6, 2011
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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