By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian
To be perfectly honest, there was one thing that gnawed at my innards more than anything else last year, and that was the constant whining I would hear about travel affecting WVU in its first Big 12 season.
Mind you now, I’m speaking here solely of football, which now is the season du jour, and I’m speaking only of fans and media moaning ...
Knowing this, it was with great pleasure that I listened to the words of football coach Dana Holgorsen on Big 12 Media Day when a member of the media offered him said hook upon which to place at least part of the blame for last season’s disappointing and discouraging 7-6 record.
Holgorsen said, “Thanks, but no thanks.”
“I’ve never bought into that,” Holgorsen said. “It doesn’t bother me one bit. I will never use travel as an excuse for a win or for a loss.”
Being someone who disagrees with many of the things that come out of the football coach’s mouth, this in a way touched me deeply, especially when he took it a step further and pointed out the differences between his sport and the others who truly do have problems presented by travel.
“Now, Coach (Bob) Huggins and Coach (Mike) Carey and Coach (Randy) Mazey, our basketball coaches and baseball coaches, they should be complaining about it. When you play two, three games in a week, it’s different. When you play one game a week on 12 Saturdays in 14 weeks, it is not that big of a deal. We’ve got five road games,” Holgorsen said.
Holgorsen then went on to explain why travel in the Big 12 is little or no different from any travel West Virginia teams have faced in the past, save for the day trip up to Pittsburgh for the away editions of the Backyard Brawl.
“The routine of those road games will remain the same regardless if we were going to get on a plane and fly to Syracuse, N.Y., or fly to Lubbock, Texas, or South Florida or Austin, Texas. It doesn’t matter. It’s all about routine for us. We’re going to get back after the game on Saturday and line up and have the same routine the next week.”
Now, before we go any further, let me offer an apology to the fans who may have been insulted by my opening remark because I thoroughly understand why they cannot grasp why the football travel, going a longer distance, dealing with a time zone change, isn’t more difficult.
The reason is they only have their own travel to compare it with and, in truth, there is no comparison.
To begin with, let’s say that you and your family are going to go to Norman, Okla., for the Sept. 7 showdown with the Oklahoma Sooners, the first road game of the season.
You begin by having to track down plane reservations. They are available. I checked yesterday — flights available all day on Sept. 6 from Pittsburgh for anywhere from $440 to almost $600. None are nonstop, of course, and you can go via Houston, Chicago O’Hare, Denver, Newark, Minneapolis or Atlanta.
Probably through Seattle, too, but I’d avoid that.
West Virginia football players? They fly direct, on a charter. They don’t have to drive to Pittsburgh an hour and a half, park the car, pay for the parking, take a shuttle to the airport. They just hop on a chartered bus to Clarksburg and then they take off.
The flight is about 2 1/2 hours, on which they don’t have to sit next to some sweaty, smelly person they know not, and upon arrival whereas you are standing in line at the rental car agency, they are on the charter bus to the hotel.
Ah, the hotel. You, as a traveling fan, have to find one in Norman. I looked and there are still some available, actually at reasonable rates considering there’s a home football game. It isn’t always that easy.
The players, well, they have a travel coordinator so all they do is ride the bus to the hotel and pick up their keys.
Friday night, settled into the hotel, you go find a place for dinner and then party the night away. The players have a meal provided, then meetings and early to bed.
Are you getting the picture? The only similarity to your rather bothersome travel and theirs is that you are going to the same place at the same time.
Of course, you could decide not to worry about planes or rental cars or parking by driving. That trip to Norman is listed at only 1,136 miles, taking about 16 hours, 55 minutes with no fewer than 31 turns and travel on six different interstate highways.
What happens is the players play the game, pack up and bus to the airport, get on the charter, fly home and are spending Saturday night in Morgantown before you go to bed in Norman.
The truth is, if you need an excuse for your boss or teacher the next week, you might be able to use travel to West Virginia football games, but as Holgorsen says, it isn’t an excuse for playing bad football on the road.
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.