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Luck Handled Stewart Situation Poorly

December 18, 2010
By DOUG HUFF, Sports Columnist


I have followed West Virginia University football for more than 50 years and never knew the job description for the school's football coach.

That changed Thursday in Morgantown when OLIVER LUCK, the athletics director for six months, spelled it out in no uncertain terms: win a national championship. Period, end of story, nothing less.

We had heard from Morgantown sources last summer that one of the first things Luck did after assuming his position was to ask each varsity coach if he, or she, felt they could win a national title at WVU. Reportedly, only two answered in the affirmative - men's basketball coach BOB HUGGINS and women's soccer coach NIKKI IZZO-BROWN.

This may have been a "loaded" question since only one sport, rifle, has captured a national title in the history of the school.

We don't know the response of football coach BILL STEWART but, whatever it was, it must not have registered well with the new CEO of Mountaineers athletics.

Wednesday, WVU announced that Stewart would relinquish control of the football program after the 2011 season and be replaced by DANA HOLGORSEN, who will join the team as offensive coordinator following WVU's Dec. 28 Champs' Bowl game vs. North Carolina State.

In other words, Stewart will be a ''lame duck'' coach in 2011 during the transition period for the head coach-in-waiting, Holgorsen. That is not an ideal situation for obvious reasons. For example, what reaction to the move will be made if the outgoing coach takes the team to a conference and/or bowl title while continuing the second-best record ever posted by a new coach in the history of the school?

After all, Stewart does possess the best coaching resume of any active Big East Conference coach. He did guide WVU to arguably the finest victory in school history - a 2008 Fiesta Bowl upset of Oklahoma, and has recorded an overall 28-11 record while fielding teams with three different quarterbacks. But his teams never won an outright Big East Conference title or gained a BCS Bowl berth thanks to a goal-line fumble in an overtime loss at Connecticut and a UConn field goal vs. South Florida.

But, as the saying goes, you are what your record says you are. You win some close games you probably shouldn't and lose some close games you probably should win. The overtime victory at Marshall is one example but we didn't hear any Ohio State fans call for Coach JIM TRESSEL's scalp when the Buckeyes had to kick a last-play field goal, in Columbus, in 2004 to rally past Marshall, 24-21.

After the upset of Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, we noted that no matter what Stewart's teams did, it probably wouldn't be good enough for some WVU buffs.

And, obviously, it wasn't good enough for the new athletics director, who quarterbacked WVU teams to records of 5-6, 6-6 and 9-3 after being a freshman backup on a 2-9 squad. The WVU bar has been raised big-time since Luck's playing days.

As the leader of the athletics department, he has the right to select the leadership for each sport. But people deserve to be treated fairly, and with respect, and there's right and wrong ways to make changes.

This was not the right way.

I have known the last seven WVU head coaches and Bill Stewart ranks atop the personal meter. His legacy as a WVU football coach, with one season remaining, is solid.

But, it's a different story for Holgorsen, who along with Luck, admit that the only goal is a ''national championship'' and improvement of the program.

Ok, WVU fans, here's what you can expect from the new regime based on the announced job description:

2012 - 10 victories, a Big East championship and BCS bowl berth.

2013 - 11 victories, a Big East title and BCS bowl victory.

2014 - 12 victories, a Big East crown, and BCS title-game berth.

2015 - A 13-0 record, Big East championship, and BCS national championship.

If those goals aren't met, it will open the door for major criticims of the football team leadership as well as the folks who hired them.

Have a nice holiday.

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