It is now very clear that Mountaineer football has suffered a great tragedy. As such, most of our fans are experiencing a different degree of grief, just as if they had lost their best friend. Here is my journey through agony.
1. Shock and Denial.
You will probably react to learning of the loss with numbed disbelief. You may deny the reality of the loss at some level, in order to avoid the pain. Shock provides emotional protection from being overwhelmed all at once. This may last for weeks.
Early losses to ECU and Colorado were certainly shocking, to say the least. Even still, however, Mountaineer fans held on to hope that those games were only the result of growing pains. Unfortunately, this was made even worse by the five game winning streak that immediately followed. The combined record of teams beaten during that stretch? 25-33. Not exactly the Big 12 South.
Those wins kept us from seeing the real truth: since the Villanova game, Mountaineer football has been in a steady spiral downward.
2. Pain and Guilt.
As the shock wears off, it is replaced with the suffering of unbelievable pain. Although excruciating and almost unbearable, it is important that you experience the pain fully, and not hide it, avoid it or escape from it with alcohol or drugs.
You may have guilty feelings or remorse over things you did or didn't do with your loved one. Life feels chaotic and scary during this phase.
Trust me, I am not hiding my pain.
In just one short year, Mountaineer football has gone from the doorstep of the National Championship game to abject mediocrity. And this is only the beginning. A coaching staff that seems more confused than confident will not be any better than mediocre, regardless of recruiting class. As it stands right now, this is the ceiling for our program. In coming years, we will not have the luxury of the one of the greatest college quarterbacks of all-time. Regardless of his abilities as a passer, the kid can still run, and this staff has failed to use his accordingly. That shows stubborness and lack of creativity, two qualities not often wished for in a coaching staff.
For the first time since 2001, I have no idea what is to become of Mountaineer football. I have gotten very used to success, which may make this rapid decline even harder to take. As much as I want to use alchohol as a crutch, I must face this stark reality. West Virginia's days (and it was measured in days) as a national power are most certainly over.
3. Anger and Bargaining.
Frustration gives way to anger, and you may lash out and lay unwarranted blame for the death on someone else. Please try to control this, as permanent damage to your relationships may result. This is a time for the release of bottled up emotion.
You may rail against fate, questioning "Why me?" You may also try to bargain in vain with the powers that be for a way out of your despair ("I will never drink again if you just bring him back")
Rich Rodriguez didn't do this. We can try to blame him all we want, but programs lose successful coaches all the time. The better programs survive, the weaker fail. Right now, we are failing.
The administration's decision to hire a life-long assistant coach after the emotions of a bowl victory will forever retard the potential growth of this program. We made a rash decision and we're stuck with it. Thoughts of bringing Rodriguez back, however fleeting they may be, are not going to solve anything. We must go this on our own, this time in a much more rational manner.
4. Depression, Reflection, and Lonliness.
Just when your friends may think you should be getting on with your life, a long period of sad reflection will likely overtake you. This is a normal stage of grief, so do not be "talked out of it" by well-meaning outsiders. Encouragement from others is not helpful to you during this stage of grieving.
During this time, you finally realize the true magnitude of your loss, and it depresses you. You may isolate yourself on purpose, reflect on things you did with your lost one, and focus on memories of the past. You may sense feelings of emptiness or despair.
It was all laid out for us. Trip to the national championship game, lofty recruiting classes, prolonged success. Then, in this past year, it up and poofed away. No one is quite sure if we will ever -- seriously, ever -- reach the type of success we have seen since 2001. Everything that was built up since then has been unceremoniously torn down. If things were just done differently, maybe we could have held on to that success and built on it. Instead, we made a horrible decision and have paid a dear price.
5. The Upward Turn.
As you start to adjust to life without your dear one, your life becomes a little calmer and more organized. Your physical symptoms lessen, and your "depression" begins to lift slightly.
This post is "Stage 5" for me. I believe that I am finally seeing things clearly. Instead of blindly hoping for things to change, I have decided to take a more active approach. You will see that in Stages 6 and 7, which will come later today.
Pray for me.
[7 Steps are courtesy of this site]