The Times West Virginian

Sports

January 9, 2013

FURFARI COLUMN: Was Dunlap a scapegoat victim in firing?

MORGANTOWN — Was West Virginia University’s young head football coach, Dana Holgorsen, in search of a scapegoat when he fired likable Steve Dunlap as an assistant?

I don’t know. I’m just asking. Holgorsen hasn’t given any reason(s). He never even had his publicist issue an official announcement.

But there’s a heap of criticism in the wake of West Virginia’s unacceptable 7-6 record for the past football season. And there are those who suggest that there’s a lot of blame to go around.

That’s why the Internet has been receiving strong support of Dunlap, a WVU linebacker in the mid-1970s. He was the only West Virginian on the 2012 coaching staff.

Now there are none. All of the returning coaches are from outside the Mountain State, and reportedly are recruiting more junior college players than usual for 2013.

Dunlap, at 59, was the oldest assistant and by far the most experienced in 2012. He probably has forgotten more about football than some coaches will ever learn.

Of Dunlap’s 36 years in coaching, 26 have been at West Virginia. He also served short stints at Syracuse, North Carolina State and Marshall.

All of his coaching has been at the collegiate level. And most of that service dealt with the defense.

WVU had him coaching the special teams and outside linebackers.

As a defensive coordinator, his units ranked No. 1 in total defense at WVU in 1996. It also was No. 2 nationally in rushing defense and No. 3 in passing efficiency defense.

His defenses at North Carolina State, Syracuse and Marshall reportedly also were well prepared.

But West Virginia’s defense last fall had to be one of the worst in the school’s history.

The media guide lists these coaching highlights to which Dunlap contributed greatly:

• In 2010, the WVU defense was No. 3 in both total defense and scoring and No. 1 in pass defense nationally.

• In 2011, the defense was No. 11 in pass efficiency defense, No. 31 in interceptions, No. 32 in total defense and No. 35 in pass defense.

• In 2009, the defense led the Big East in interceptions (17).

• And in 2008, the defense finished No. 11 in scoring defense nationally and No. 16 in pass efficiency defense.

Has Steve Dunlap really lost his elegant touch? Or is he just the victim of being blamed for the screw-ups of others?

No one knows for sure, or so it seems.

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