By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian
It was with no small amount of confusion that I listened late Saturday afternoon in the aftermath of West Virginia’s Gold-Blue football game to Coach Dana Holgorsen’s opening comments to the media.
“I commend the fans — I don’t know what the attendance was, but the turnout was fantastic. The WVU Children’s Hospital is very grateful for any contribution that we give them. The fans were great. The players enjoyed getting in front of a crowd and playing football,” he said.
I was wondering if he had attended the same outing I had, for the WVU Children’s Hospital deserves far better than an event that draws no more than an estimated 8,000 fans in what is supposed to be a football mad area.
Before going any further, let us understand that we are placing absolutely no blame for this upon the WVU faithful, for you must give them something worth turning out for and the Mountaineers did not do this.
All spring long Holgorsen had downplayed the spring game, going so far as to say he didn’t even want to put one on because his team was not at a point to have such a scrimmage.
That was as much as having the Dos Equis “most interesting man in the world” saying, “I don’t always drink beer, but when I do I prefer Guinness.”
Holgorsen downplayed what was about to be presented to the point that about the best thing he would say about it was, “We want it to resemble football.”
And after it was over, his strongest compliment wasn’t far off of that.
“I think it resembled football, but I don’t think it resembled high-level football. At least it looked like football,” he said.
With these kind of vibes filtering out of the office of the head football coach, is it any wonder that while Auburn is drawing 83,000 to its spring game coming off a disastrous season and Tennessee drawing 61,000 off a year that cost its coach its job, too, WVU’s spring game was played in relative privacy?
What’s more, Holgorsen saw to it that even the most interesting aspects of his spring practice and his team — namely the new players or those from whom much is going to be expected — were not publicized, making them off limits to media.
Jordan Thompson, for example, who must fill a large gap at wide receiver, wasn’t even made available to give to the story of how he managed to come up with a three-TD spring game ... as if it were more important he learn how to get separation from the media that cover him rather than the cornerbacks who cover him.
It should not be forgotten that the first spring game played under Bill Stewart when he took over as head coach drew 18,000 fans — a figure that now has been cut more than in half, certainly a sign of interest in the program going in the wrong direction.
In fact, an argument could be made that the school has done far more to publicize and help report on its new uniforms and its bid to build a baseball stadium than has been done to publicize its cash cow and public face, the football program.
In truth, one year into the Big 12 and having heard many questions from this area about whether or not that was the right thing for the school to do, considering how dramatically the athletic department’s production dropped, there is an even bigger question to ask.
If there is any second guessing about the move around here going on, how much second guessing is going on in the Big 12, which passed off national basketball champion and football Sugar Bowl champion Louisville to take the Mountaineers?
It would seem that it might be best for WVU to turn all its assets immediately toward improving its product and the public perception of that product before it worries about its uniforms, radio broadcasts or whether it is going to share its baseball stadium with a low minor league franchise.
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.