The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

December 3, 2013

Small crowd tells unfortunate story of Mountaineer football

By Mickey Furfari
For The Register-Herald

MORGANTOWN — How much lower can West Virginia University’s football program get in the wake of a 4-8 season?

Isn’t there any leadership in that institution that’s at least concerned about the damages thrust upon the Mountaineer fan base by Oliver Luck and Dana Holgorsen the past three years or so?

Luck, WVU’s highly-paid athletic director, surely saw that only 33,735 fans watched the Mountaineers blow a 31-7 lead in a 52-44 triple-overtime loss to Big 12 cellar-dweller Iowa State. That was the third-lowest attendance in the 34-year history of Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium.

Holgorsen, who keeps blaming himself in his third year as a head coach at any level, had looked on two weeks before as his team lost 31-19 in a similar style of setback at struggling Kansas.

Keep in mind, too, that West Virginia was favored in both of those Big 12 contests. What’s more, those two embarrassing defeats brought the total to five or six in what were considered by some observers as winnable games in 2013.

This will be remembered by many as a campaign in which the Mountaineers failed to attract a capacity crowd of 60,000 fans a single time while playing six home games.

It is also interesting to note that Holgorsen’s squad is only the fifth in WVU’s 121-year, 720-game football history to finish a season with as many as eight losses.

The others were in 2001 (3-8), 1978 (2-9), 1960 (0-8-2) and 1950 (2-8).

Going back to last year, WVU has won just six of its last 20 games (.300 percentage) since that 5-0 season’s start and No. 5 ranking in the polls. It finished 2012 with a 7-6 record.

That’s strictly a fact — not an opinion.

There are those who think the school’s highest paid football staff in history has done a bad job of recruiting, teaching and game coaching. They also disagree with Luck and Holgorsen that the program is headed in the right direction.

Did you ever wonder how WVU’s big, big donors are feeling?

It’s a truly sad situation which is expected to continue to lose more season-ticket buyers annually in the upcoming years.

Incidentally, the turnout for the 2013 football finale (33,735) was the smallest since Nov. 21, 1992. Just 27,051 saw the Mountaineers end that season with a 23-3 win against Louisiana Tech at home.

WVU’s blowing an early 31-7 lead against Iowa State marked the third time in the last four contests the Mountaineers lost a two-score edge after halftime.

Yet Holgorsen had insisted that the team was showing improvement.

Do you think the young head coach deserves a fourth year in the WVU program? I’ve heard some say “yes” and others “no.”

Well, the late Bill Stewart was not allowed to serve a fourth season in 2011. And his teams had posted three consecutive 9-3 regular-season records and as many bowl appearances.

Those teams were certainly competitive in the Big East Conference while it still had schools now in the ACC and Big 10.