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Viola: Is Firing Dana Holgorsen the Right Course of Action?

November 28, 2013
By TONY VIOLA - Staff Writer ( , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

MORGANTOWN - A couple weeks ago, I wrote how there was no excuse for West Virginia not to wipe the floor with Kansas.

Boy did the Mountaineers make me eat my words.

That loss is simply unacceptable. This season, by WVU standards, is unacceptable.

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So the chorus begins. Fi-re Da-na! Fi-re Da-na! Fi-re Da-na!

But is getting rid of Holgorsen, who is in his third year as coach of the Mountaineers, the right course of action?

For all of you screaming and chanting yes, hear me out.

Did you really expect West Virginia to compete for a Big 12 title this fast? No program that makes the move from one conference to another comes in and takes the top spot immediately, especially one that moves from the Big East to the Big 12.

There are rare exceptions like Missouri and Texas A&M, who made the jump from the Big 12 to the SEC, and are experiencing instant success.

Look at TCU, though. The Horned Frogs seemed to be one of the nation's top teams the past few years as they easily blew through the Mountain West.

Put them in a more dominate conference, and they're as irrelevant as West Virginia.

These things take time.

Holgorsen has a plan. Or at least claims he does.

The man has coached in the Big 12 before and knows what it's like. Granted, he was never been the head man, always the assistant.

Still, don't you think he took a few notes from Mike Gundy when he was at Oklahoma State?

The main thing that seems to be holding West Virginia back is depth. It's evident now more than ever.

When guys like Darwin Cook and Jared Barber go down, there's no one behind them to step up.

Yeah, recruiting is up to Holgorsen.

A lot of the players he inherited, though, where Big East players. There's a big difference between a Big East-caliber player and a Big 12 one.

Even though this will be his fourth recruiting class, last year's was really the only one built 100 percent for Big 12 competition.

You can see the results already just by looking at guys like Daikiel Shorts and Daryl Worley. The year before that it was Karl Joseph.

Problem is, these guys are straight out of high school and their bodies aren't quite up to par with the wear and tear of playing in the Big 12.

Veteran guys likes Pat Eager and Will Clarke are up to the challenge, but when they line up next to freshmen, there's no doubt they feel even more pressure to step up and make big plays. When they get hurt, no one is there to step up to take their place.

Holgorsen's not a fool. He knows this. He knows people are calling for his head. All he can do is stick to his plan.

My point is this: give Holgorsen two more years.

By that time he'll have four Big 12 recruiting classes under his belt. By then, these guys won't have to go straight from Friday night to Saturday afternoon. They'll be able to redshirt because there will be more depth and there will be more time for player development.

Don't get me wrong. The man should definitely be coaching like his job is on the line.

A big problem with the Kansas game was the fact the Mountaineers seemingly looked like they gave up in the second half. Lack of motivation sometimes comes with a young team, but it's up to their leader to correct it. Holgorsen didn't and that's a poor reflection on him. That's something that needs fixed.

But take this into consideration, too.

Say Holgorsen is sent packing and Oliver Luck brings in a new guy. Chances are this new guy isn't going to run the same schemes Holgorsen does.

That means he'll need new players that will fit better into the types of offense and defense he wants to run. If that happens, it'll set the Mountaineers even further back then they already appear to be.

Except for the 1993 season, it took some time for West Virginia to become relevant again when it joined the Big East.

It's no different this time.

Not going to a bowl game stinks. So does consecutive-game losing streaks. But it's the price you have to pay when you want to play with the big boys.

Tony Viola can be reached via email at

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