Coaching Carousel Fans Flames…Unnecessarily
Other than wins, losses, schemes and playcalling, nothing inflames fan bases like coaching changes, hires and rumors.
West Virginia has gotten a double dose of this over the past two days with the departure of offensive coordinator Jake Spavital for the Texas State head coaching job, and with reports from Lubbock and Raiderland that current West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen was interested in the open Texas Tech head coaching spot, but was denied an interview.
— That David Collier (@CollieronTV) November 29, 2018
Thought I had tweeted this earlier — and I included it in this story. But yes, as others have reported, WVU coach Dana Holgorsen wanted the job, and Kirby Hocutt declined to interview him, a source told me. https://t.co/KrwSOxDwc9
— Don Williams (@AJ_DonWilliams) November 29, 2018
Predictably, those have fired numerous hot takes from multiple observers, especially from a West Virginia fan base that is as fractured as the U.S. Congress. Those who want coaching changes were happy to see Spavital go, while those who look at the Mountaineers’ offensive production the last two years weren’t thrilled. As is usually the case, though, those “aginners” were more vocal, so there has been perceived heat on Spavital, as well as on head coach Dana Holgorsen and defensive coordinator Tony Gibson.
Unfortunately, those immediate reactions, usually made without even a few moments’ reflection, dominate the airwaves today. Whether for or against Spavital, Holgorsen, the 3-3-5 or zone blocking, it only takes a few hundred tweets or a couple of memes to stir up a hornet’s nest. At some point, the original item, and its import, gets lost.
Perhaps, at some point in the future, society will evolve to the point where hot takes are frowned upon, and where more reasoned opinions, that take all factors into account, are the ones that hold sway. I’m not holding my breath, though.
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The Holgorsen item brings up, at its core, notions of loyalty to an existing employer, with undertones of “if he doesn’t want to be here, then we don’t want him.” Again, WVU fans have fairly recent, and painful, experience in this area in the form of Rich Rodriguez, who was the poster child for how not to handle outside job offers..
Such notions of loyalty, however, have long gone off the boards in most collegiate coaching jobs. As most every journalist and fan who covers college sports now acknowledges, it’s a business. Why, then, the fevered reactions to the fact that a coach is listening to another offer? Such information is certainly fodder for a report, but should it be a surprise? No. But the report, with its undertones of a former coach reportedly being snubbed, play right into the hands of those looking to be outraged, or for material to play an angle on why a coach shouldn’t be retained.
Should Holgorsen, or his agent, be blamed for looking at other jobs? No. It’s the way of the free enterprise system. Was there one West Virginia fan that thought Bob Huggins was being disloyal as he wrestled with leaving Kansas State to come back to WVU? Again, no. Anyone that draws a distinction between the two is being intellectually dishonest. And if a son of the Mountain State turns his back on the state’s flagship institution, can anyone expect coaches with no ties to the state to do so?
Luckily, there’s one major player in all of this who doesn’t get swept up by initial emotional reactions. Director of Athletics Shane Lyons, who has been measured and reasoned when tackling decisions large and small concerning Mountaineer athletics, won’t get bent out of shape by a report such as this. He won’t overreact. He understands that coaches, who are in one of the most insecure jobs in the country, look to make their money when they can. Sure, it’s appreciable, but the window for doing so is quite short.
UPDATE: Lyons confirms that Holgorsen is wanted at WVU, and vice versa:
— Shane Lyons (@WVUADLyons) November 30, 2018
To sum it up, while reports of this sort may stir up debate and discussions from job worthiness to the loyalty factors, in the end they are a tempest in a teapot. They mean little in terms of current or future job security, which only comes down to one thing — winning.
Reinforcing that is a recent tweet from another old school coach, Georgia Tech’s Paul Johnson, who announced his retirement earlier this week:
Appreciate everyone who has called, texted and tweeted over the last two days. Far more important than any win or loss, I am proud of the men who got their degrees and have become outstanding representatives of our football program and their families. Let's go get one more!!
— Paul Johnson (@GTPaulJohnson) November 29, 2018
His statement about importance levels is probably true for him, but how many people share that opinion today? Ask 100 fans of any school, and 99 would probably disagree with the order in which he puts game results behind graduating and the teaching of student-athletes. As long as that’s the case, we’ll continue to see over-the-top reactions such as those that have resonated across the WVU football landscape this mid-week.