The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

February 4, 2011

HERTZEL COLUMN: Gillespie sticks with Mountaineers

MORGANTOWN — It looked like more of the same for West Virginia University a week ago when the University of Florida approached the Mountaineers’ new running back coach Robert Gillespie, who still needed to Google directions to find his way to his new office in the Puskar Center, and offered him an assistant coaching job in the Florida program.

The Gators had no reason to believe they couldn’t steal away this West Virginia coach, being an SEC program and a card-carrying member of the college football elite, complete with a few national championships on their resume.

What’s more, Gillespie himself is a former Gator, a highly decorated one at that as a running back and team captain for Steve Spurrier from 1998 to 2001, finishing as Florida’s No. 2 all-time receiving running back.

The defection alone would have been crushing as Gillespie now had strong ties to new WVU coach Dana Holgorsen, coming with him from Oklahoma State, but the effect was multiplied because it appeared if he skipped out on WVU, top running back recruit Andrew Buie also would go in a different direction, probably to Louisville.

WVU had no reason to expect Gillespie to refuse such an offer, considering its recent history. Rich Rodriguez walked out on his team after losing to Pitt in 2007, and basketball coach Dan Dakich left just eight days after having been hired to replace Gale Catlett when he discovered some dirt under the basketball office carpet.

This defection thing had become so prevalent at WVU that basketball player Dan Jennings walked out on the team at halftime of a game a week ago with nothing more than a chalkboard goodbye to his teammates.

It appears, however, that Robert Gillespie is made of stronger moral fiber than the others.

Put yourself in Gillespie’s shoes, a young coach offered a chance to go home, to coach the best athletes maybe in the nation, to wake up on a February morning and take a walk on the beach instead of hoping the car is warm inside and the snow melted off the windshield when he leaves for work.

What could go through his mind to bring him to the decision to stay with Holgorsen, an untried head coach who did not yet even have that position, when Florida was calling?

“I’m a man of my word,” he said Thursday afternoon at the Puskar Center. “I left a good job at Oklahoma State to come here with him. I gave him my word that I’d come here and help him build this program. As attractive as it was, I believe it’s all about timing. I didn’t think it was the right time.”

This was neither a snap decision nor an easy one. To some, it would seem to be a crossroads in a career, but Gillespie saw beyond the moment and decided not to accept it as the moment that would dictate the direction his career would take.

“I didn’t make my decision on going back to a place where I get a little butterflies and bright stars,” he said, referring to Florida and his history with the state and the school. “I’m a football coach. This isn’t a beauty pageant. I want to be around guys I enjoy being with, guys who can help me grow, guys where I have a voice and some input in the offense. That’s what I based my decision on.”

He had spent time discussing it with his wife, praying over it. He spoke to some family members and some coaches whom he has come to trust.

There were first, of course, practical considerations.

The timing was just wrong, he felt. He believed at this time in his career, as early as it is, this was the right fit.

And then there was a far bigger consideration, a moral one.

“I gave my word and that means a lot,” Gillespie said. “I told him I would come to help him build this program. He’s passionate about this place, and he brought along people with the same passion. Was it tough? Yes, but in the end of the day I made the right decision. Things happen every day in this profession. Doors open when you don’t expect them to. If it’s meant to be, they will open back up.”

Holgorsen understands the situation, appreciates the decision, a decision he applauds as the right one.

“He’s a good person and a man of his word,” Holgorsen said. “I didn’t have a discussion with him. I didn’t have to. He knows that he has a strong voice with me. He knows what he’s getting. He knows how I work. He knows the offense. He’s going to have lots of opportunities in the very near future to go to a lot of places.”

E-mail Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com.

1
Text Only
WVU Sports
  • WVU’s Smallwood waives preliminary hearing

    West Virginia running back Wendell Smallwood, arrested on a felony charge of witness intimidation in a first-degree murder case, waived his preliminary hearing Monday, his case now being moved to Superior Court, where more serious crimes are argued, according to The News Journal.

    July 29, 2014

  • Were Bowlsby’s fears about college athletics’ future justified?

    I have never met or even talked to Bob Bowlsby, commissioner of the Big 12 Conference.
    But I did read a lengthy story on his 45-minute address to reporters last week on Media Day in Dallas, Texas. Among other things, Bowlsby forecast a startling change threatening the existence of intercollegiate athletics as we have known for these many, many years.

    July 28, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Big 12 provides plenty of optimism

    This past week the Big 12 held its annual media gathering in Dallas and served up a heaping portion of optimism for the 2014 season that is now upon us, West Virginia University opening its preseason practices on Thursday.
    This is a time of year when no one has lost a game, not even Charlie Weis at Kansas, and it’s a time of year when opinions are more plentiful than tattoos in an NFL locker room.

    July 27, 2014

  • Seider's brother commits to WVU

    West Virginia University’s football team has received a commitment from one of its own.

    July 26, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Big 12 provides much optimism heading into 2014 season

    This past week the Big 12 held its annual media gathering in Dallas and served up a heaping portion of optimism for the 2014 season that is now upon us, West Virginia University opening its preseason practices on Thursday.

    July 26, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: WVU needs White to follow in former receivers’ footsteps

    A year ago Clint Trickett took a lot of grief as the once potent West Virginia offense came unraveled, but there is more that than meets the eye.
    The criticism was not unfounded, of course, although behind each incomplete pass there was the pain Trickett was suffering through to throw it, his rotator cuff in need of surgery.

    July 26, 2014

  • Forsey posts Top 10 finish at World Championships

    Freshman Jillian Forsey of the West Virginia University cross country team finished ninth at the 2014 IAAF World Junior Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Oregon.
    Forsey, a native of Stephenville, Newfoundland and Labrador, was representing Team Canada. She was the first Canadian to cross the finish line in the women’s 5,000-meter run, finishing in ninth place overall in 16:02.55.

    July 26, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: Wyant talks about ‘Pappy’ Lewis and other items of interest

    I saved some other interesting observations from the recent interview with Fred Wyant which you may find worth reading.
    He believes a college football coach ought to recruit a quarterback he wants, give him some help, then turn virtually everything over to him and let him go.

    July 26, 2014

  • Forsey posts Top 10 finish at World Championships

    Freshman Jillian Forsey of the West Virginia University cross country team finished ninth at the 2014 IAAF World Junior Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Oregon.

    July 25, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: Wyant talks about ‘Pappy’ Lewis and other items of interest

    I saved some other interesting observations from the recent interview with Fred Wyant which you may find worth reading.

    July 25, 2014

Featured Ads
WVU Sports Highlights
NDN Sports
House Ads
NCAA Breaking News
NCAA Photos