Look around the country at all successful college programs accustomed to seeing nine and ten-win seasons. You have dynasty schools in the Big Ten or the SEC that are concerned with who their playoff opponents will be rather than if they will be in the discussion at the end of the season. WVU fans are a proud group – this is our professional team for many of us. So why does it seem so hard to make necessary changes when they should happen?
There are four main reasons that West Virginia University has not fired a head coach for the football program since 1979:
Money makes the world go round, and it is critical to the staff you bring to the table in college athletics. Shane Lyons set a table without having any food to serve, and now everyone in the fanbase is going hungry. Neal Brown’s buyout is still steep, all because Lyons was scared a team like the University of Kentucky would snipe him even without proving himself at the Power 5 level. WVU is going to have to choke down $13 million (which honestly would be negotiated down to a smaller amount by the end of the proceedings) and cut ties if this thing goes sideways.
Mid-Season is a Strange Time for a Coaching Search
This particular point does not apply to all times that a coach should have been let go in the years of the program, but it certainly factors in last season. Abysmal football plagued the Mountaineer program through 2022, yet nothing was done. Part of the reason was that the coaching carousel had stopped. Sometimes it’s best to wait for a new song to start rather than just take whatever dancer hasn’t paired up. Even when firing Cignetti in 1979, the department waited until the season was over before looking to Don Nehlen to take over.
The Season Could Get Worse
Even last year, when the fanbase was screaming loud enough to hear from Martinsburg, Neal Brown was not axed mid-season simply because higher-ups were still being led to believe that things were turning around. Gordon Gee made multiple comments about how close the program was to turning the corner and competing for a Big 12 Championship – so why would they knowingly make the situation worse? Well, sometimes that improves things. Look at Georgia Tech last year, who ended up winning 3 of the 5 games following the release of their head coach – including (22) Pitt on the road.
If They Succeed, Someone Is Willing to Pay More
So many coaches left WVU to find success, or at least a bigger paycheck, somewhere else. Most recently, look at Dana Holgorsen. Yeah, he isn’t killing it at the moment in Houston, but that didn’t mean they didn’t want him to come lead their program when he was doing alright with ours. Argue all you like, we had only one losing season with Dana. Then you think about Rich Rodriguez, who, when successful, was offered more than WVU was willing to pay to coach for Michigan. Bobby Bowden compiled a 42-26 record with the Mountaineers before Florida State came calling. WVU has to be willing to find someone willing to stay and be willing to negotiate to keep a head coach who is producing results. Sometimes, the University of Kentucky should get its way.
I want success for the Mountaineers so badly I can taste it. We have to look forward to what the program needs now. If Colorado rolls the dice on Deion Sanders and how much money he can bring in, WVU can do the same to get a higher-profile head coach that excites fans to make the trip to Morgantown.
Image courtesy of Heartland College Sports