WHEELING - When Dana Holgorsen and the rest of the West Virginia football team returned from their 38-14 loss to Syracuse in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl in January, the Mountaineers coach realized some changes were in order.
''After that disaster in New York, we came back and we re-evaluated everything in the program,'' he said.
''We came up with a blueprint that we felt we could share with our kids to be able to get them in a position to win games. We came up with the 'T.E.A.M.' idea.''
PHOTO BY HEATHER ZIEGLER
WVU football coach Dana Holgorsen with Light of the Valley award winner Bob Contraguerro at Wheeling Park’s White Palace on Wednesday.
That was the third-year coach's main message when he addressed the crowd that gathered to to celebrate the 'Light of the Valley' award at Wheeling Park's White Palace. The award, presented by the Wheeling YMCA, went to Bob Contraguerro Sr., the founder of Panhandle Cleaning and Restoration, for his exemplary community service.
''What we're trying to do in the football program is become a better team,'' Holgorsen said.
Hence, T.E.A.M. - Toughness, Effort, Attitude and Mountaineer Mentality.
Holgorsen said that last one took some time to develop.
''It's one thing that took me a couple years to grasp,'' he said. ''As an outsider coming in ... it's important to everybody to be a Mountaineer. Well, it's important to be a Red Raider, too. It's important to be a Cowboy, it's important to be a Longhorn, it's important to be all these different things, but until you say it, get in the middle of it, live it for a couple of years, you can't really get it.
''We really did a good job of educating our guys, because they're just like myself, coming from a bunch of different places other than West Virginia. When they come in, they need to be educated as well.''
The result was Friday morning meetings that turned into West Virginia history lessons.
''We really got down to the nuts and bolts of who we are. We told the guys they need to be proud of who they are.
''There's 1.6 million people ... actually, I think there's 1.8 million -well, 200 of them don't count cause they're down in Huntington (referring to state-rival Marshall University and not the city itself) ... so the 1.6 million people in the state is really what counts.
''These guys live it, they die it, they breath it ... I can't stress to you guys how much that it means to be a Mountaineer. Again, I probably dropped the ball on that the last couple of years, but going into this year, I can assure you that these guys are going to be proud to be Mountaineers.''
That was music to the ears of a crowd consisting mostly of WVU fans who were born and bred in the Mountain State.