On chat boards and on The Smoking Musket there has been considerable “discussion” about whether or not WVU fans have overreacted to two straight losses or not. In the end, one person’s over reaction is another’s standard response. Judge if you want, but as a Mountaineer whose hometown was Tallahassee, Florida (home of FSU), I can assure you that our fan base is no different than Florida State’s. When times are good, so are they. When they’re tough, they are tough on the coaches. As former President John F. Kennedy said, “Success has a thousand fathers, but failure is an orphan.”
It would be the height of presumption to assume that the WVU Coaching staff listens to their fans or reads a fan website such as The Smoking Musket. But I’d like to assert that as young coaches and first year coordinators, WVU’s coaches could stand to listen to the fan base at some point. A friend of mine says that weak people care too much what people think; but assholes don’t care in the slightest.
There is at least one reason why some historically successful football coaches have been given substantial latitude to grow into their jobs and others have not. They are fan friendly and warm. They don’t come across as arrogant and on their way to the next job. They give off a vibe of being in the moment instead of climbing the ladder. I was always a Rich Rod fan, but there was a sense (especially after flirting with the Alabama job the year before he left for Michigan) that he was looking way past WVU and didn’t really enjoy being with fans.
Coaches on the climb tend to look past the fans right in front of them – they see fans as a means to an end instead of the end in themselves. They chastise the crowd for not performing up to par instead of thanking the fans that came. They complain about empty seats instead of appealing to the fans for help cheering on the team. These coaches come across as surly, smug and entitled.
One of these surly S.O.B.’s is Mike Leach – the mentor to our current staff of coaches. CBS Sports recently ran a piece about how Leach continues to publicly blast players. Some coaches see this as a means of motivating the team - challenge the guys’ manhood. You can hear echoes of this Leach approach in the public statements of our coaches. They don’t understand the concept of “throwing the players under the bus.”
You see, when a coach publicly states, “We don’t have a very talented group of players,” or “We haven’t recruited the kind of players that will help us win,” the current players read and hear these comments. These college students have the Internet in their dorm rooms. They watch ESPN every night. They hear their coaches say the real problem is them; and guess what? They hate coaches for it.
In the long run (assuming the coaches stay around long enough), they might create a team full of their recruits to whom they feel a sense of loyalty. In the meantime, players who need a morale boost shouldn’t look for it in the remarks of these coaches. The players – like the fans – are a means to an end. They are cogs in the machine that helps these success-driven megalomaniacs get to their personal goals.
So, here’s my unsolicited advice for our coaches: If you act like you are doing us a favor by coaching our football team; if you chastise fans for not being the kind you need; if you are distant and unfriendly to your fan base…don’t act surprised to see them quickly turn on you. No matter how successful Mike Leach was at Texas Tech, he was such a cranky bastard that when Craig James decided to go all “psycho parent” on him, there was no one at Texas Tech there to rally to his defense. Now he’s coaching a Pac-12 bottom dweller. Just like Rich Rod.