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WVU’s current mess has an easy, albeit controversial, fix

Toyota Gator Bowl: West Virginia v Georgia Tech Getty Images

Rich Rodriguez previously admitted it was a mistake for him to leave West Virginia more than three years ago.  Now, West Virginia could be admitting it was a mistake not to deal with the Bill Stewart/Dana Holgorsen mess by bringing Rodriguez back.

Though the move surely would create significant local controversy in the short term, all parties need to take a longer view of the current situation.  The Mountaineers need a stable, long-term fix at the coaching position.  And with Rodriguez’s tail currently tucked between his legs after being fired by Michigan, this could be the perfect moment to secure true long-term loyalty, along with consistently high-level performance.

Whether it’s Rodriguez or not, change is surely coming to Morgantown.  The one-year forced marriage between Stewart, the outgoing coach, and Holgorsen, the offensive coordinator/incoming coach, was doomed from the outset.  Athletic Director Oliver Luck surely hoped that Stewart’s pride would prompt him to walk away once Holgorsen arrived, with Stewart giving up all or part of his severance pay in lieu of suffering the public awkwardness of being a lame duck with his replacement, a stranger to the program, on the staff.

Luck’s instincts were right, sort of.  Stewart reacted, but not by quitting.  Instead, he fought back, reportedly launching an effort to smear Holgorsen, either in an effort by Stewart to save his job or in a fit of vengeance aimed at blowing the whole thing up on his way out the door.  With WVU now possibly having enough ammunition to send Stewart out that door without paying him another penny, the three-year head coach who never should have been given the job in the first place could soon be fired “for cause” based on the disclosure that Stewart asked a Pittsburgh reporter to dig up dirt on Holgorsen.

But that doesn’t mean Holgorsen is the answer.  Questions remain regarding the much-publicized incident involving Holgorsen and more than a few Heinekens at a Charleston-area casino last month, not to mention the report of five other similar incidents.  Even if Stewart had a hand in publicizing those five incidents, there’s a chance the report of those five incidents contains some truth.

With Rodriguez currently available and engaging in an obvious image reclamation effort in his native state, why not bring him back?  Folks in West Virginia were outraged (count me among them) when Rodriguez left, primarily because we all wanted him to stay.  If a prodigal son who took to program to the cusp of a national title is willing to truly come — and stay — home, slaying the fatted calf could translate to finally hoisting the crystal football.

Current rumblings out of Morgantown suggest that, if Holgorsen and Stewart are sent packing, Tommy Bowden could be the replacement.  Bowden, the former Clemson head coach, Rodriguez mentor, and son of legendary Florida State coach and West Virginia coach Bobby Bowden, has been involved in recent fund-raising efforts at his alma mater, and many assumed he, not Holgorsen, would be Stewart’s replacement.  Still, we (or at least I) think that Rodriguez is best suited over the long term to take the program back to the brink of the one thing that every West Virginian covets — a national championship in football or basketball, and preferably both.

Given the current state of the football program, Bob Huggins’ basketball program may continue to be the best bet for finally getting it done.  But there’s still an opportunity to emerge from the current mess in a positive way.  Though it will require plenty of forgiving and forgetting from the fan base (especially since many of them genuinely believe Rodriguez threw the 2007 Pitt game so that he could take the Michigan job), it could be the best thing for both parties.

Four years ago, Rodriguez had a chance to become a Bobby Bowden or a Joe Paterno-type figure in Morgantown, holding down the same job well into his 70s and becoming a living legend.  The window is open now for that three-year stretch of ugliness to eventually become a faded memory for both the coach and the school.  And it’s coming at a time when the program stands on the brink of full-blown disarray.

With Luck suddenly having good reason to worry about his own job given the manner in which the ill-conceived Stewart-Holgorsen arrangement has played out, Luck’s best chance for keeping the job over the long haul could come from bringing back the coach who found out the hard way that the grass is always the greenest in his own backyard.

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27 Responses to “WVU’s current mess has an easy, albeit controversial, fix”
  1. edgy says: Jun 7, 2011 9:45 AM

    Gee, Mike, I can’t believe that I agree with you. :)

  2. fitz66 says: Jun 7, 2011 9:45 AM

    Rich won’t have Pat White this time so it would be destined for failure.

  3. wvuandsteelers says: Jun 7, 2011 10:06 AM

    Not sure how I feel about that. But if Dana H. does NOT have 6 drunken frat boy moments in the past few months, why would he get canned? If he does, I’d much rather have Terry than Tommy Bowden.

    And yes, I’m still pissed over that 2007 Pitt game. I had NC game tix, a hotel room…..just needed to book the flight.

    I’m not disagreeing with you, but that’s a big pill to swallow.

  4. edgy says: Jun 7, 2011 10:16 AM

    He may not have Pat White but as he proved in Michigan, he CAN get his kind of QB. His failure was on the defensive side but he was able to get his kind of QB and there’s no doubt that he could get them again.

  5. phillyb6 says: Jun 7, 2011 10:38 AM

    At Glenville State when Rich Rod was “inventing” his version of the spread, QB Jed Drenning threw the ball 50-60 times a game. RR’s offense is adaptable to his personnel. He’ll go with what he’s got. Ryan Mallett would have been fine if he’d stayed at Michigan… but I digress.

    An exerpt from an article from NY times sports blog in 2007:

    Folks these days most readily associate Coach Rodriguez’ Mountaineer offense with 400-yard rushing outbursts, zone-read running plays and explosive jaunts on the perimeter by guys like White and Steve Slaton. While things have no doubt changed a bit since the early 1990s at Glenville State when we were chucking the ball around to the tune of 50-60 times a week and our leading receiver once hauled in 144 receptions in a single season, the fundamental premise of Coach Rod’s scheme remains intact: Spread the defense and take what they give you.

    Geno Smith would be a fine QB for Rich Rod. But edgy, i agree… he’ll try to find another Rasheed Marshall, Pat White, Denard Robinson at his next gig.

    fitz66… dumb comment.

  6. weswelkerspornstash says: Jun 7, 2011 10:51 AM

    Has anyone noticed that Holgerson looks like buffalo bill, from Silence of the Lambs?

  7. myballsmyrules says: Jun 7, 2011 10:52 AM

    I guess folks in West Virginia have no class at all. Wow, what incompetent snakes. that’s in addition to those that think they are Big Bad Leroy Brown behind a computer using cuss words.
    Stay out of West Virginia. Land of gravel roads, barefoot hilbbillies with tobacco juice all over their feet, and no indoor plumbing

  8. fitz66 says: Jun 7, 2011 11:00 AM

    “fitz66… dumb comment.”
    But yeah, Mallett would’ve been fine at Michigan with Rich Rodriquez (he and his 5.37 40).

    I’m sure Rich could’ve adapted though.

  9. Dan says: Jun 7, 2011 11:06 AM

    Bowden seriously?? Luck is no Pastilong. He is smarter than that. Pastilong was from the good ole boy ways of doing things. WVU doesn’t need another 9-3 coach. Not that it matters Holgorsen is staying.

    As for Rich Rod…please!

  10. edgy says: Jun 7, 2011 11:10 AM

    myballsmyrules says:


    Wow, you continue to show your ignorance. Stick to the facts and stop pissing all over the South. I’m from Illinois and I’ve lived in the South for decades and I guarantee you that there are just as many idiots on both sides of the M-D-L and YOU are a perfect example of that.

  11. thevinehc says: Jun 7, 2011 11:26 AM

    Mike Florio,

    This article proves why you are a sports writer writing free bits online.

  12. myballsmyrules says: Jun 7, 2011 11:34 AM


    You need to sit on the sideline before that kid Buckeyeboy ridicules you again. That kid tears you a new backside daily you sissy

  13. phillyb6 says: Jun 7, 2011 11:38 AM

    fitz66… he’d THROW the ball. ever heard of the forward pass?

    Fun Facts:

    Rich Rodriguez coached Glenville State from 1990-1996

    Glenville State Stats (ALL of these numbers led the WVIAC in their respective years)

    1991 Jed Drenning – 319.7 ypg
    1992 Jed Drenning – 335.0 ypg
    1993 Jed Drenning – 339.1 ypg
    1994 Scott Otis – 277.9 ypg
    1995 Scott Otis – 278.4 ypg
    1996 Rod Smith – 341.7 ypg

    1992 Chris George – 135.8 ypg
    1993 Chris George – 189.6 ypg
    1994 Chris George – 133.9 ypg
    1995 Carlos Ferralls – 125.2 ypg
    1996 Carlos Ferralls – 120.6 ypg

    He’d adapt the offense.

  14. 2007chill says: Jun 7, 2011 11:41 AM

    Congrats, Mike. You’re the sportswriter to use “Rodriguez” and “long-term loyalty” in the same sentence.

  15. edgy says: Jun 7, 2011 11:50 AM

    myballsitch, you’re stupid if you think that BEG does anything except waste anyone’s time here. Hell, because of the way that you trash the South just like him, I’d say that you’re probably a close cousin – especially since you’re defending the turd.

  16. fitz66 says: Jun 7, 2011 11:55 AM

    Sure, I’ve heard of a forward pass – but from 2005 – 2011 Rich Rodriguez hadn’t. Isn’t that who we’re talking about? At WV he averaged 14 throws per game.

    Or, let me guess, he was recruiting those lightning bolt QB’s to pass the ball?

  17. myballsmyrules says: Jun 7, 2011 12:26 PM

    edgy wash my balls

  18. centexhorn says: Jun 7, 2011 1:31 PM

    This is the most absurd thing I’ve ever read. Dana Holgorsen is one of the most sought-after minds in football. Why the hell would you get rid of him over something Bill Stewart did? Or some inconsequential incident at a casino? Do you want to win football games or not? Because if you do, you keep Dana Holgorsen.

    This isn’t even the time to hire or fire coaches. Stick to the NFL, Florio. You’re clearly a fish out of water here.

    Because, you know, I can think of a whole bunch of different programs who would kill to have Holgorsen. Not the least of which is Oklahoma State. You’re looking for reasons to get rid of him out of nostalgia for the Good Ol’ Days. But those days are gone with Rich Rodriguez. He was a flash in the pan. The future is bright with Dana Holgorsen.

    Some people are just f*cking crazy. I swear. What kind of blog is this? Hilarious.

  19. phillyb6 says: Jun 7, 2011 1:40 PM

    fitz66 thank you for proving my point. All I’ve been saying is that he’d adapt the offense to what he’s got on the roster.

    Jed Drenning – Pass
    Scott Otis – Pass
    Rod Smith – Pass
    Shaun King – Pass (not a bad runner)
    Woody Dantzler – Both
    Brad Lewis – Pass
    Rasheed Marshall – Run (could throw a little bit)
    Pat White – Run
    Tate Forcier – Pass
    Denard Robinson – Both

    Are we done now?

  20. fitz66 says: Jun 7, 2011 3:09 PM

    The man sure knows how to toss the tater around…..

    * 1997: 366 passes vs. 424 runs (54% run)
    * 1998: 375 passes vs. 518 runs (58% run)

    [edit] Clemson

    * 1999: 422 passes vs. 486 runs (54% run)

    [edit] West Virginia

    * 2001: 355 passes vs. 474 runs (57% run)
    * 2002: 279 passes vs. 714 runs (72% run)
    * 2003: 252 passes vs. 600 runs (70% run)
    * 2004: 259 passes vs. 589 runs (69% run)
    * 2005: 193 passes vs. 625 runs (76% run)
    * 2006: 233 passes vs. 590 runs (72% run)
    * 2007: 265 passes vs. 628 runs (70% run)

    [edit] Michigan

    * 2008: 338 passes vs. 453 runs (57% run)
    * 2009: 329 passes vs. 494 runs (60% run)
    * 2010: 243 passes vs. 556 runs (70% run)

    Now were done.

  21. cleoface says: Jun 7, 2011 4:52 PM

    Rodriguez is a self-proclaimed Michigan Man.

    He and Michigan had secret meetings in Toledo the week of the 07 Pitt game. He is not welcomed at WVU. If WVU were to have a record like MIchigan had over the last three years, if WVU lost to App State or Toledo, if WVU got in Embarassed in a bowl game by a second tier Miss. State. He would still not be wanted at WVU.

    He belongs to AA. They have the same set a values.

  22. cleoface says: Jun 7, 2011 4:56 PM

    I sooner cancel football at WVU than to have Rodriguez back. Just to see his name mentioned along side of WVU makes me sick in the stomach.

  23. garkeith says: Jun 8, 2011 4:31 AM

    I am 100% for a Coach Rod return!

    Stewart should have been fired yesterday. He has proven at this point that he has less loyalty to the program than ANYONE!! Including Coach Rod!! He was blatantly attempting to sabatage the future of the program!! Is this a guy you want in charge all year!! He is sandbagging the team.

    Holgerson on the other hand has proven in a very short period of time he is going to have issues…..Also BEST case scenario he is a 3-5 year coach for WVU. No Loyalty.

    Rod has learned his lesson, hire him back now and he would retire from here.

  24. proc2000 says: Jun 8, 2011 9:12 AM

    I wonder if the state of West Viriginia would go into a self-induced, civil war, if Rich Rod returned?

    He was great for the Mountaineers program and then abandoned them. Believe me, we here in Michigan are glad he is gone, but is the WVU program the best place for him?

    I think RR would be better off starting off clean somewhere else or else cousins, brothers and uncles will be shooting each other all over the state of West Virginia.

  25. fairmonteer says: Jun 10, 2011 11:29 AM

    Rita, quit writing these

  26. josephw336 says: Jun 14, 2011 11:49 AM

    Who is this myballsmyrules?
    Why don’t you go to some other site and spit your tobacco venom someplace else. Talk about a dumb hick you take the cake it sounds like your a Marshall want a be or is this Bill Stewart for gods sake would you craw back in your hole

  27. josephw336 says: Jun 14, 2011 11:57 AM

    Also I was RR’s biggest fan but after his turn coat run to Michigan I never want him back in the State of West Virginia he’s a man with roving eyes stay away RR and please don’t mention him coming to WVU again.

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