The Times West Virginian

June 21, 2011

HERTZEL COLUMN - Now 40, Holgorsen seems to have right approach

By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian

MORGANTOWN — Dana Holgorsen parachuted out of an airplane last week.

That’s scary.

Today he does something even scarier.

He turns 40.

If he were around, we’d all sing “Happy Birthday to You” to the new West Virginia coach, although knowing him he’d probably enjoy having the Beatles sing “Birthday” to him.

You know, you can almost hear Sir Paul McCartney hammering it out:

“You say it’s your birthday

Well, it’s my birthday, too, yeah

They say it’s your birthday

We’re gonna have a good time

I’m glad it’s your birthday

Happy birthday to you.”

Yeah, considering what we’ve come to learn about Holgorsen, he would certainly be a Beatles fan, but we suspect he might even use his birthday wish on wishing for Marilyn Monroe to come back to life just to sing “Happy Birthday to You” the way she did for John F. Kennedy’s birthday.

“Life begins at 40 — but so do fallen arches, rheumatism, faulty eyesight, and the tendency to tell a story to the same person, three or four times.” — English-American writer Helen Rowland, 1876-1950

Funny, isn’t it, but we’ve all been wondering if Dana Holgorsen were ready enough to take over a major program like West Virginia. He seemed so young, never was a head coach.

But that was yesterday. That was when he was 39. He’s 40 now and it just sounds older, more mature.

That’s what Jack Benny had in mind as the comedian remained 39 to the bitter end.

Look at it this way: If you aren’t ready to run a football team by the time you are 40, there’s a chance you aren’t good enough to run one.

The truth is, the timing is probably perfect. Not that Dana Holgorsen doesn’t have anything more to learn. It’s just age isn’t that big a deal anymore.

“At 20 years of age, the will reigns; at 30, the wit; at 40, the judgment.” — Benjamin Franklin

There, we did it, we actually quoted Benjamin Franklin when talking about Dana Holgorsen.

Quick, someone say it — go fly a kite.

If it is true that man really doesn’t change, then what was right in Franklin’s time is right today and by the time a man is 40 he should have developed a certain maturity and experience that he has enough judgment to make the right moves.

It is true that Holgorsen got off to a shaky start in this coaching endeavor with some midnight madness, but let us all remember that he was 39 then and not yet in full control of this football team.

Today he is 40 and he is a head football coach, one who learned the hard way that all eyes are on him whether he is on the sideline or in a casino and that he must go by the standards he wants followed. We are in complete agreement with him on wanting the football experience to be fun for himself, the team and the fans.

It always has been far too seriously approached, especially by coaches who likened themselves to Bear Bryant and Vince Lombardi, men who really believed that winning was the only thing when there is far, far in life more important.

At 40, Dana Holgorsen seems to have the right approach, wanting to be the best, but approaching it in a manner where his entire existence is not consumed by it, thereby allowing those around him to realize the world is not 100 yards long.

“To be 70 years young is sometimes far more cheerful and hopeful than to be 40 years old.” — Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes

Interestingly enough, on the day Dana Holgorsen turns 40 as a first year head coach, in another sport, baseball, Jack McKeon was named manager of the Florida Marlins.

Jack McKeon is 80 but has always had that cheerfulness and hopefulness that comes with youth, the same kind you expect Holgorsen to bring to the Mountaineer program.

In truth, the differences between McKeon and Holgorsen are not all that great, save for a wrinkle or two.

McKeon has the wrinkles in his face. Holgorsen’s still are in his offense.

Holgorsen probably even has a longer future than McKeon, but knowing the man who is McKeon, I’m pretty sure he’d never admit to that.

Email Bob Hertzel at or follow him on Twitter at @bhertzel.