The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

January 5, 2011

HERTZEL COLUMN: Changing coaches never easy

MORGANTOWN — Used to be easy, this changing coaches thing.

You made your mind up you were going to fire him, called him in and told him to pack up and leave. Or he’d decide it was time to move on. He’d write a letter of resignation, say thanks, hold a teary meeting with his team, then hold a press conference and be gone.

That’s how it used to be, but, then again, I can remember cigarettes at 35 cents a pack and gasoline at 25.9 cents a gallon.

Like cheap smokes and affordable gas, the days of being able to fire a coach – or hire one, for that matter – without turning it into a soap opera are gone forever.

It may have all started back with Gale Catlett’s exit from West Virginia University and the slapstick chain of events that followed, including Bob Huggins’ rejection of the job, Dan Dakich’s hire and rapid-fire exit, John Beilein’s hiring and then quitting and the return of Huggins.

Rich Rodriguez’s boorish exit from West Virginia to take the job at Michigan did nothing to improve the art of changing coaches. It was handled clumsily from his backdoor dealings with Michigan to the midnight madness that resulted in Bill Stewart’s hiring.

You figured a coaching change couldn’t get any more screwed up than the procedure Oliver Luck put in motion to replace Stewart, a firing that would linger for a year, that would create an untenable situation on the staff and that was both costly and ultra embarrassing.

As it turned out, however, that was only the warm-up act for the headliner in coaching changes, that which has transpired 80 miles up north, where the University of Pittsburgh turned its coaching change into a chain reaction of screw-ups.

It seemed simple enough when it started; Dave Wannstedt was to be fired. True a year earlier he was one point shy of playing in a BCS bowl and had a number of excuses why he couldn’t match that performance this year when he went with a first-year quarterback, lost the co-Big East Defensive Player of the Year in Greg Romeus, had the nation’s leading returning rusher, Dion Lewis, get off to bad start in 2010.

But coaches get fired. That’s the nature of the beast. It was set up that Wannstedt would coach his team in Saturday’s BBVA Compass Bowl in Mobile, Ala., against Kentucky, then leave.

Pitt ran a by-the-book search for a replacement, came up with Michael Haywood out of Miami of Ohio and all seemed well with the world until Haywood was arrested for felony domestic violence.

Ooops. Never mind.

Haywood was fired.

Another search was launched … a search for a towel to wipe the egg off Pitt’s face as it looked for another coach.

In the midst of all this Wannstedt stepped forward and in a grippingly emotional press conference addressed matters that should matter but don’t any long – loyalty, pride, love of school – in announcing he would not coach the bowl game.

“I would like to say emphatically that this university means more to me than any institution that I’ve ever been part of,” he said. “I am a Pitt guy. I am a Pittsburgh guy. I always have been and I always will be,” he said, holdly firmly to the podium that stood before him and fighting back tears.

“There have been a lot of coaches here before me. There will be a lot of coaches after me. But I can assure you one thing: None of them have loved this university or will love this university more than Dave Wannstedt.”

“I grew up here and if you grew up here or if you have an understanding of what this community is all about, if you know the people who made this city what it is, two words come to mind: loyalty and pride,” he continued.

“If you’re a Pittsburgher, you’re loyal, you handle yourself with pride — pride in your family, pride in who you are and pride in where you’re from.”

The words were from the heart and they rang a bell about what the world is supposed to be like, that put football in its place, which is a diversion that has grown into a heartless monster that is out of hand. The good human qualities mean little or nothing any longer for it is all about win, win, win and attendance and ratings and revenue.

This is not to say that is unimportant, but college football has reached the stage where it sells “good old State U” as something you should buy into while it will sell out its faithful for some gunslinger from another part of the world who has done no more than passed a background check and, in some cases, won a few football games.

In the end, it is going to devour itself because it has lost sight of the really important things in life, none of which involves winning football games.

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

1
Text Only
WVU Sports
  • ‘Cheating pays’ remark should draw attention

    When Bob Bowlsby, the outspoken commissioner of the Big 12, presented his opening-day picture of the future of college sports in Dallas for the annual media day gathering, his bleak comments were not unexpected.

    July 23, 2014

  • WVU, N.C. State to meet in football

    Following a trend of creating non-conference games against regional opponents, West Virginia University has reached agreement with North Carolina State to play a home-and-home football series in 2018 and 2019.

    July 23, 2014

  • WVU, Tennessee finalize 2018 meeting

    West Virginia University and Tennessee have finalized their season-opening, Sept. 1, 2018, meeting in Charlotte, N.C., at Bank of America Stadium.
    Both teams will receive $2.5 million for the game and have a chance to earn up to $3.2 million with ticket incentives.
    Each team will buy 12,500 tickets and set aside 2,000 of its allotment for students.
    The game, played on the home field of the Carolina Panthers of the NFL, is being put on by the Charlotte Sports Federation.

    July 23, 2014

  • Holgorsen’s program hits turning point

    You can almost sense, as you watch West Virginia University football coach Dana Holgorsen sit before the gathered Big 12 media contingent answering questions in the Omni Hotel in Arlington, Texas, that he senses his program has reached a turning point.

    July 23, 2014

  • Fleming, Billy.jpg WVU’s Fleming signs contract with Yankees

     Second baseman Billy Fleming of the West Virginia University baseball team has signed a professional contract with the New York Yankees, foregoing his upcoming senior season.
    “Ever since I was a little kid, it’s been my dream to play professional baseball,” Fleming said. “It is still surreal that I get to chase my dream, but I am ready to get after it. I loved my three years at WVU and want to thank all the coaches that made it possible for me to achieve my dream.”

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Big 12 Media Days Foo_time(1).jpg Trickett’s play key factor for Mountaineers’ success

     In the end, it comes down to the quarterback.
    Always has with Dana Holgorsen, always will.
    Quarterback is the offense with the West Virginia University coach. When he does well, the team wins – almost always.
    When he does poorly, the team doesn’t stand much of a chance.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Growing demands on college athletes concerns Wyant

    Fred Wyant, one of the greatest quarterbacks in West Virginia University’s history, has lashed out at today’s growing demands on college athletes.
    The 80-year-old Star City resident led the Mountaineers to a 30-4 record as the starter from 1952-1955. Percentage-wise, it’s clearly the best-ever record by a QB in school annals.
    Wyant, a member of the WVU Sports Hall of Fame, came here after graduating with honors from Weston High School. That’s where WVU coach Art “Pappy” Lewis signed him to a four-year scholarship.

    July 23, 2014

  • Holgorsen’s program hits turning point

    You can almost sense, as you watch West Virginia University football coach Dana Holgorsen sit before the gathered Big 12 media contingent answering questions in the Omni Hotel in Arlington, Texas, that he senses his program has reached a turning point.

    July 22, 2014

  • Growing demands on college athletes concerns Wyant

    Fred Wyant, one of the greatest quarterbacks in West Virginia University’s history, has lashed out at today’s growing demands on college athletes.

    July 22, 2014

  • WVU’s Fleming signs with Yankees

    Second baseman Billy Fleming of the West Virginia University baseball team has signed a professional contract with the New York Yankees, foregoing his upcoming senior season.

    July 22, 2014

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