The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

November 1, 2010

HERTZEL COLUMN - New coach doesn’t mean wins will come

MORGANTOWN — The off week for West Virginia could not come at a better time, not necessarily to let the players heal their physical and mental wounds and not to give Bill Stewart’s coaching staff time to regain their own and their players’ confidence.

Instead, it comes at the most necessary time to let the lynch mob cool its heels for a while and think about what it is doing.

We all know that West Virginia has been a flop this season and that it seems to have been building for some time. We know, too, that considering the religious fervor with which the sport of football is followed in the state, this nothing less than a statewide calamity.

But let us for a moment question the sanity behind this outcry for Bill Stewart’s scalp.

Sometimes the lone rational voice comes through in the strangest of ways, in places you would not expect it. With the help of Richard Kesling, a longtime correspondent, we were directed to a feature on entitled “Hot Seat”, which ranks coaches in terms of job security.

Interestingly, the coach with the least security was Stewart, followed closely by one Rich Rodriguez, the man he replaced here.

While on the NBC Sports site, however, my attention was drawn to a blog by one Ben Kercheval of Austin, Texas, a one-time Morgantown resident with a rather well known last name. While Kercheval’s blog was well thought out and stopped short of calling for Stewart’s dismissal, a comment from an unknown author put a completely different light on the situation than you get as close as you are to it.

To prove that even the most cluttered mind can produce a relatively sane and rational thought, it is being offered here as it came onto the website, complete with evidence that the writer either failed third-grade spelling or types as badly as I cook.

Wow you people have no idea how good you have it! 2 straight 9-4 years and because you are not having that kind of year this year you want to fire your coach? do you have any idea what a program like IU would do for a 9-4 season let alone 2 in a row? you whiney bitches have just joined ranks with the likes of dame who think it is their god given right to go to a bcs bowl every year. go anead fire hime but then there better be no more crying or columns about how the state of that program has fallen when you start having .500 seasons or below.

I.U., I would presume, is Indiana, although it could be Illinois, but it matters not. Neither school would claim him for his spelling.

I would suggest, though, that it is interesting to get this perspective, for it comes from someone who points out that this program has become rather spoiled in recent years and offers a few words of caution before just jumping ahead with what seems so obvious to the unfaithful at present.

Changing coaches does not guarantee a change in fortune. If you do not believe this, see Michigan and Rich Rodriguez.

The fact of the matter is that 9-4 is a good record, that most coaches do not have that kind of record and that if you are going to throw Bill Stewart money at the next coach you will get the next Bill Stewart.

Great coaches are expensive.

Sometimes, of course, bad coaches are expensive, too. Again, see Michigan and Rich Rodriguez.

If the WVU program is, as many fear, on the downswing and if the NCAA is to hit them with sanctions, as some suggest it will, what kind of coach are you going to get in place of Stewart if you move in that direction? Chances are it will be more of the same, and that may not be good, as evidenced by an article in the Wall Street Journal, also recently to brought to our attention by Kesling.

The article noted that Big East coaches who moved to a new head coaching jobs do not normally fare well. In looking at the six best known you had only Mark Dantonio, who went from Cincinnati to Michigan State, who had major success their next job.

Other than that, Paul Hackett went from Pitt to USC and went 19-18, Walt Harris went from Pitt to Stanford and went 6-17, Brian Kelly went from Cincinnati to Notre Dame and is 4-5, Bobby Petrino went from Louisville to Arkansas, where he is 19-14, and Rodriguez is 13-19 at Michigan.

It is ill-conceived to think WVU would land another Bob Huggins in a coaching search, Huggins situation being so unique leading to his return home.

The question in making a coaching change isn’t always what you are getting rid of, but what can you get to replace him with and is that worth the turmoil caused in changing coaches.

Of course, if things do not improve as this season goes forward, the equation changes and changing coaches might be the prudent way to go, but if this is another 9-4 season it would seem better to stick with what you have unless Nick Saban says he wants to come home.

E-mail Bob Hertzel at

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WVU Sports
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