WVU photo

Oliver Luck says he expects West Virginia’s football team to be better in 2014, though that may not lead to an increase in wins.

 

COMMENTARY

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Oliver Luck spent time on the set of WOWK-TV’s “Decision Makers” this week, an aptly titled news program considering the West Virginia athletics director could soon face a difficult decision regarding his football coach.

The Mountaineers, reeling from a 4-8 season that marked their first losing record since 2001, are entering Year 4 under Dana Holgorsen. He joins Charlie Weis as the only two Big 12 head coaches facing a hot-seat situation, and local opinions vary on just how hot Holgorsen’s seat is.

It seems a tad less dicey based on Luck’s most recent comments in this clip from Sunday:

“I think we’re going to be a better football team. I hope that’s reflected in our record, but given the strength of our schedule this year, it very well may not be.”

His tone seems pretty clear: With Alabama, Maryland and the nine-game Big 12 schedule on deck, a 4-8 repeat could be construed as progress. (Heck, by these relaxed standards, a .500 season might be cause to name the new team room Holgorsen Place.)

You’ve got to give Luck this much: He certainly isn’t over-promising. Instead, he’s establishing an early narrative designed to reset expectations for 2014. Why paint himself into a corner by establishing benchmarks when he can leave himself wiggle room to justify retaining Holgorsen?

Fact is, it would cause Luck severe gastritis to go coach-hunting next season—would be particularly ignominious given the muddled and clumsy manner in which Luck handed over the reins from Bill Stewart to Holgorsen. Create disharmony to bring in a winner, and the fans will champion the forward-thinking logic. Make a mess to bring in a coach you fire after four seasons, and Luck will be reminded how the situation was cursed from the get-go.

Firing Holgorsen also would be expensive—almost prohibitively so. He will be owed $8.6 million after next season for a contract that extends through 2017. While Texas and Oklahoma can shrug off that kind of payout, most Big 12 schools would feel the pinch. (Recall that West Virginia athletics netted $4.2 million last year, a figure that would have been in the red if not for a $4.4 million subsidy from the university.)

It’s hard not to agree with Luck’s primary point—a four-win team this fall could be markedly better than the four-win version of 2013. Thing is, the 2013 version was absolutely rancid by some metrics. At 2-7, West Virginia produced its second-worst conference record ever on the FBS level. It lost by 37 points to a Maryland team that closed the season precisely one spot higher in the Sagarin ratings at No. 73. It lost at home to No. 72 Iowa State. It lost by double-digits at No. 119 Kansas.

Yes, there was a magical September ambush of Oklahoma State and the overtime gut-punch against Texas. Few fans, however, will cherish beating a four-win TCU team, and fewer still will tell their grandchildren about victories over William & Mary and Georgia State.

Yes, the injuries escalated as WVU limped through the season’s second half, but until the NCAA outlaws tackling, that will be an annual peril.

“Clearly last year was a disappointing season for me, for the coaches, for the student-athletes, for our fan base,” Luck said this weekend. “But I do think this team has made some significant improvements over last year.”

And if we are to oblige Luck’s preseason warning, improvement needn’t necessarily manifest itself in a bowl bid.

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  • ExtendedMountaineerFamily

    "The people in your company
    have little loyalty; some even want
    you to fail. Your star performers expect
    constant pampering. Your stockholders
    are impatient, demanding quick results.
    And the media scrutinize and second-
    guess your every move. In 1983, my first year as a head coach, I led the New York Giants through an abysmal season – we won only three games. In the next six seasons, we climbed to the top of the league, winning two Super Bowls"
    Bill Parcells

  • Bob Cobb

    Luck's a loser and he's tethered to his loser coach Holgorsen because he brought him in. 'You are what your record says you are (B Parcells)' is apparently lost on these losers. Did I mention these guys are losers?

    • Big Hooptie

      Believe in Ollie.

      34% of the time, he's right 100% of the time!

  • food for thought

    Holgorsen's all-time record against Power 5 teams that finished with a winning record is 5-14. For comparison's sake, Stewart went 9-6 against winning Power 5 teams in his tenure, (As you see, we play more now in the Big 12 so the schedule is tougher and some drop in the record is justified-- but maybe a max of 2 games a season not 5!)


    Equally disturbing, holgs is only 5-3 against Power 5 teams that finished with losing records. On the plus side he's 11-0 against the lower level patsies. Maybe we should get Marshall back on the schedule :)

    • Sam

      That is food for thought. Seeing the numbers in black and white highlight the steep especially when you add that in 2013 the numbers were 1-6.

      You also don't mention that at the time our dear esteemed leader Der Kommissar Luck explained the whole point of bringing in Holgorsen was to ELEVATE the program not merely keep it where we was.

      We needed the boy wonder because we were going to compete for championships. That Luck inherited a program where talking about competing for championships didn't sound ridiculous at the time shows how far and how fast he has brought us down.

  • Human Nature

    Studies have shown that people tell an average of 13-people of a negative experience and 3 of a positive one. I guess it's survival instinct to identify threats but it may not be the best strategy in dealing with long-term program development. People just want instant results and that's just not going to happen in this scenario no matter who the coach is, it just doesn't work that way especially when the hand-off was botched, you enter a new conference and the athletic facilities need upgrading. This coach has worked with at least three coaching staffs to rebuild ailing/average programs(Oklahoma State, Houston and Texas Tech) and all of them still have good programs. He knows how to do it and at the very least will leave that legacy. I just think a lot of people are plain whining and not seeing the nature of the situation clear enough. Relax and try to be positive instead of slinging mud. At the very least, you'll give the team a fair chance to disappoint you instead of being a negative distraction...

    • Yeah right

      So, he knows how to do it and is just holding back out of spite?

      Saying things does not make them true. the only evidence we have as to what Dana knows and doesn't know about being a head coach is his record as head coach. You also should look at the 3 schools wher ehe was a coordinator. None of them made any dramatic improvement when he became coordinator and none suffered any drastic decline when he moved on. One might use that info to infer that the head coach is a lot more important than the assistant. Maybe he deserved his reputation as a coordinator but he's earned his reputation as a head coach entirely based on him and when there isn't someone above him leading the team and calling the shots we see what we get.

  • Crusher

    WVU fans are so fickle. It seems like just yesterday most were gushing about what an awesome cool dude Holgs was and how much they loved his attitude and personality because it was such a refreshing change of pace.

    Now after a little 6-14 hiccup (less than 2 seasons), that same guy with the same personality is a lazy drunk loser in over his head.

    I bet if that was 14-6 the same people now attacking him would be cheering on his antics.

  • jay zoom

    the jerk is trying to cover up Holgerson tracks with a song and dance. He says given the strength of our schedule this may not be the case. If you can't run with the big boys get out of the kitchen and get out of the big 12. you made this bed now live with it. what will be your excuse next year - and the next year maybe WVU should join force with conference USA or the MAC or even with the WVSSAC at least there they might come in second thanks Ollie -- your a loser Holgs is a loser and Huggs is a loser since joining the big 12

    • Human Nature

      Why you calling any of these coaches "jerks"? I mean, WVU alumni and staff hired the director and coaches to represent your team so they cannot be that bad of people. You just sound kinda silly and ridiculous calling him that.

  • Billy Joe Bob

    This dude "Amber" is the best troll that I've seen on this message board. Truly funny stuff.

  • Alumni

    What the alumni want, they will get. You can talk, theorize, and speculate all you want. In the end, it will come down to the ALUMNI and the MAC donors getting what they want.

    Contracts can be amended to, people. Just because there's a contract out there, doesn't mean it can't be re-negotiated. DO NOT lose sight of that.

  • Independent View

    To somehow infer that Maryland is a major D-1 football power is ludicrous. Remember even Marshal beat them in the Military Bowl!
    Beat them and embarrassed them to boot.

    • Rob

      Yeah, we beat their butts and you didn't. Here some numbers for you. Maryland 37 WVU 0. Marshall 31 Maryland 20. What's your point?