The Hot Button Debate on ESPN.com featured Ted Miller and Mark Schlabach discussing whether it's better to have won a national title or sustained enduring winning seasons. Which model would WVU fans choose?
It was linked in the Shotgun/Throwdown this morning but for convenience sake, you can find the actual debate here. It doesn't say much you wouldn't expect it to say: Teams like Auburn, Colorado, Washington and Clemson can always tout their national championship, even when things get bleak, like they currently are at Auburn and Colorado, while schools like Virginia Tech, Wisconsin and WVU have it better because they are always in bowl games and winning at a high level, even if they don't have that elusive title.
The mention of West Virginia served only to highlight what most of us already know---that WVU is the winningest program to have never claimed a national championship in football. The title haunts us, tantalizes us, toys with us. As Couch Burners Anonymous pointed out, it builds us up with hope after wins over a ranked Texas squad in Austin (or after blowouts over UConn, squeakers against Miami, and thrashings of Syracuse in Morgantown) then torpedoes those hopes the following week. Cruel? Yes. But despite that pain, we have the comfort of a decade of bowl games to fall back on. 38-35, 48-28, and 70-33 are sweet, sweet music to our ears as we make holiday plans for yet another bowl game.
Would you trade all those for just one national title? Would the ecstasy of a complete pass from Pat White to Wes Lyons in the waning seconds of December 1, 2007 and a 48-28 over OSU instead of OU make up for belting out Country Roads in the Georgia Dome or the reminders posted all over West Virginia that 70 is more than just our speed limit? To me, it sure is tempting. WVU has only reached the pinnacle in rifle, and to my knowledge no couches have ever been burned to celebrate that accomplishment. For Mountaineers who taste the sweet, malty flavor of victory, that moment could never be taken away.
It's hard for me to say which I would choose. Part of me wonders if the fun isn't in the chase? Once you win, doesn't that just make you want another one more? Doesn't that make the 3-9 seasons that much worse to know how it feels to be in the national spotlight and yet be forced to live in the shadows while that light shines brightly upon your biggest rival? We have tasted a 5-game losing streak as recently as this year, and you know what? It sucks. It sucks to have the air let out of the tires and to see the stadium half empty for Oklahoma. It sucks for there to be no buzz around Morgantown the week before Geno Smith and Tavon Austin play their last home game. For me, I want to be relevant always. Not just every 5 or 10 years. Every. Single. Year.
My question is, why can't we have both? Why can't sustained success lead to the mountain top? Isn't that what building successful programs is all about? How are you supposed to build a team for one year unless you're paying money under the table for a transcendent quarterback and an NFL defensive line? You don't. It just doesn't work that way, especially at a place like WVU that is still trying to break into the ranks of college football's elite.
No, I'll take the sustained success, thank you very much. I'll take the sustained success because it's going to beget more success. And more success will eventually beget a championship (and possibly more) because you can't just build for one year at a place like WVU. Yes, I'll take another 10 years of bowl games and BCS victories for the Mountaineers, and I'll take the national championship that will eventually come with it. Schlabach, maybe you're not such an ignorant slut after all.
Which would you prefer?
Mediocrity plus one National Championship (28 votes)
Consistent success but no National Championship (83 votes)
111 total votes