For any organization to be successful, the direction and guidance it gets from the top has much to do with whether it can meet its goals and expectations. Whether it be business, politics or sports, leadership matters.
Let us make an analogy. Suppose you own a car dealership, and you decide that it needs improvement in management. You look at one of your competitors across the street and see a salesman who is one of the best at selling cars in town, outperforming most others. He looks sharp at what he does. He is young and on the rise. So you hire that salesman to run your dealership.
But after a few years you find that the dealership is still floundering. Running the business is more than just sales. There is the service department, suppliers, customer relations, financial management, hiring the right employees, and motivating them to perform to the best of their abilities. And maybe the guy who was really good at selling cars just doesn't do all those other things very well. So you look around and realize that your dealership is no more successful than it was and you are losing even more business to your competitors.
Three years ago Athletic Director Oliver Luck saw the need to upgrade the West Virginia football program, so he went out and hired to lead his program an offensive coordinator whose skills in that role were unquestioned and much admired. But each year the level of success of the team has since declined.
WVU has now lost 12 of its last 18 football games, a run capped by an embarrassing loss to a moribund Kansas team that had lost 27 straight conference games. After taking a 7-0 lead, the Mountaineers surrendered 31 unanswered points in a lackluster effort reminiscent of a similar performance earlier in the year in a 37-0 loss to Maryland.
Many fans thought that an opportunity to become bowl eligible would be a motivating factor as the Mountaineers would be favored in their final two games. But being "bowl eligible" these days means only that you were able to win half your games. And for West Virginia, it would have likely meant another trip to the Pinstripe Bowl played in a cold weather city (New York), on a chilly day, in a baseball stadium ill suited for football, after a disappointing season and against a mediocre opponent from the old Big East. For players who have practiced since August, the idea of another 15 practices in the holiday season for all of that just wasn't much of a reward. And it was reflected in the way they played.
So after three years the West Virginia football program is now worse than it was before the change was made.
That is a harsh observation and may be unfair, but regretfully it is a perception now held by many West Virginia faithful. Perhaps there are things that have happened behind the scenes that explain the decline of which we are not aware. Maybe the future will prove us wrong. But at this point as fans looking from the outside we can only judge the quality of leadership of the organization by what we see on the field. Being a head coach in major sports can be a tough business. They are well paid and responsibility for the overall performance of their endeavor rests on their shoulders.
The Mountaineers are off next Saturday. We will take a break here next Monday as well, so we'll look forward to the final game.
SATURDAY, NOV. 30: Two teams playing out the string will meet for the season finale in Morgantown. Going into their own game with Kansas this week, Iowa State has suffered through an awful 1-9 season. When in doubt we'll go with the team that doesn't have to travel 900 miles for this somewhat meaningless affair. WEST VIRGINIA 33, IOWA STATE 24.