Another week, another fan based fracturing controversy for a program that really hasn't been united since around 7pm on December 1st, 2007. It's par for the course at this point and an unfortunate reality for this program that I--and most of you--invest way too much mental capital.
This week's special comes off the heels of a reunion. One of--probably the best--teams in program history, the 2007 Fiesta Bowl champions, returned to Morgantown for their tenth anniversary during the 50-39 loss to Oklahoma State. That it's the ten year anniversary of that team is something that makes me feel incredibly old, but that's a rambling for another time. From attendees at the game, this reunion seemed rushed and not at all befitting of a team that raised West Virginia's national profile to a level it has never been and (to all of our chagrin) somewhere it hasn't been since.
That's not right, and honoring our past has been something that West Virginia football has struggled with for more than just the current regime. Our number retirement standards are outrageous and other than living on forever in hype videos, there's not all that much we've done was an athletic department to honor the greats that have put us in the position to be a program that always recruits and succeeds at a level far beyond it has any reason to reach.
Let's start with point number one: this is an athletic department issue, not one that should be another referendum on Dana Holgorsen and whether or not he "gets West Virginia" or any of the myriad non-football reasons that make parts of this base. Dana Holgorsen had one task on that Saturday--coach a damn football game. It's not on him to let families of old players run around the Puskar Center on the Saturday morning before a noon game.
It is, however, on our Athletic Director and that staff to provide a welcoming atmosphere to honor our past and in that respect, we've fallen woefully and consistently short. The Varsity Club was directly responsible for putting the 2007 reunion together for the Oklahoma State game and if Pat White and Steve Slaton feel they weren’t welcomed, that’s an issue that needs to be addressed with Shane Lyons and Dale Wolfley. Not blasted out for every average joe to hear on your podcast.
But there's a giant converse to all of this as well, and it's one I touched on over on the Twitter machine as this all broke: what should these players be entitled to and is it right to be publically and constantly upset if something doesn't meet whatever standard you've set in your head?
I will never go against Pat White. Those teams were these teams of my adolescence and are huge, huge parts of why I'm as big of a West Virginia fan as I am and why I exist today, sending dumb tweets and occasionally writing giant, rambling walls of text. But, as a card carrying member of #PettySZN, I can call petty when I see it and that's what it is here. I'm not going to refrain from criticizing someone even if that someone is a guy I still constantly watch YouTube clips of.
Patrick has never been a fan of Dana, and I can't blame Dana for not having a great relationship with him. And again, that relationship is a lot of why this is suddenly becoming another "he doesn't get us" issue with a subset of the base that's never going to latch on to Holgorsen no matter what happens.
Pat and Steve's comments--and the way they handling the ensuing, inevitable blowback--rubbed me the wrong way. You start with a series of comments which then were taken and run with in a lazy article by a party that will take every opportunity to slight Holgorsen era West Virginia football. Those comments, in my opinion, could not have been construed in any other way other that Pat and Steve want a red carpet treatment every time they come to Morgantown. I was offput by how they treated fan interaction in the Blue Lot as a university caused inconvenience. And, after all that they tried to run it back a bit, all the while inviting comments that brought Drew Schfino out of the woodwork.
It turned a non-ideal situation into a West Virginia athletic department bash session which does nothing but make everything worse.
I think Shane Lyons, the MAC, the Varsity Club, and all parties involved should used this week as a learning experience, something that brought an issue that has existed for a long time into the forefront. A ring of honor and some kind of expansion in prominence for the WVU Hall of Fame is long overdue, and I hope this week did some work towards that.
Ten years doesn't sound like a long time, but it's enough to create a divide, and that's what we're seeing here. It's ugly and all it does is create more dissent in the ranks. Our present isn't anything without our past, but the past needs to know that the present is the priority.