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Should 2018 be the end of an era for the West Virginia Mountaineers?

If you listen to fans on social media and message boards, it’s time to Make West Virginia Great Again

NCAA Football: Heart of Dallas Bowl-Utah vs West Virginia Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

I want to preface this article by saying that I am a very pro-Dana Holgorsen guy. I don’t think that fact is much of a secret, but I’m just getting it out there. I fully believe Holgorsen is the right guy for the job, and if we just hang in there a little longer we’re going to reap the rewards. Unfortunately I don’t think we, as a fanbase, are going to allow this to happen, which brings me to my face-melting hot take...

West Virginia and Dana Holgorsen may need to go their separate ways after the 2018 season, for the good of the program.

Ideally, that would happen after an amazing season in which the Mountaineers hoist that Big 12 championship trophy on December 1, 2018. Of course, if that were the case, the move would have to come with Holgorsen taking a job somewhere else - hopefully somewhere where I can still be a fan of his, for purely selfish reasons. If that scenario isn’t in the cards, and West Virginia grossly underperforms expectations, Dana is probably on the hot seat anyway.

So, now you’re probably thinking I’m insane. Why would this guy who claims to be a Mountaineer AND a fan of Dana Holgorsen think it’s a good idea for the two to go their separate ways? Well, the answer is easy...

We, as a fanbase, will never be happy with Dana Holgorsen as head coach.

This became apparent to me following the Heart of Dallas Bowl on Tuesday. Within minutes of publishing my recap, our mentions and comments section became a complete dumpster fire. This isn’t unusual after a bad West Virginia loss, but the infighting between the fans seemed much more vicious than usual. I’ve included a few snippets, for illustrative purposes. Names have not been removed, because I believe people need to own their opinions.

What you see there is just a small sample of what we’ve been seeing for the past seven seasons. There is a strong segment of the fans that have wanted Holgorsen fired no matter what happens, including after last year’s ten win season. The argument almost always breaks down into a Dana Holgorsen vs. Rich Rodriguez/Bill Stewart battle. The Rivals and 247Sports message boards are more of the same. The comments on the live feed of any Holgorsen press conference is just as bad, if not worse. We have reached a point where we are constantly tearing each other apart, and that’s not what you want to see in a fanbase. There is no sense of unity and spirit among the fans anymore, and this comment from someone who attended the bowl game makes that clear.

The rift in this fanbase is only getting bigger, and I’m honestly not sure if anything Dana can do at this point will fix it. When everything just breaks down into an argument, it sucks the fun out of everything. I know I personally felt completely apathetic about this football season. There were a lot of things I should have been excited for but, for the first time ever, I just couldn’t let myself feel any sort of joy. For context, there were points in that 4 win season a couple years ago that I got excited for.

I’m sure I’m not the only person that felt this way about the season. Fan apathy is not something you want to experience as an athletic director or the head coach. It can completely wreck a program.

Okay, so where do we go from here?

I’m glad you asked! I’ve got two scenarios that I think will reenergize us and take a step toward healing our fanbase. The fact is that there aren’t a lot of great, realistic options. We’re not going to get guys like Nick Saban and Jimbo Fisher in Morgantown. I hate to burst that bubble, but it’s just not going to happen. Sorry.

Scenario #1: Make West Virginia Great Again

Folks, this one is a doozy. Hang with me here for a second.

Rich Rodriguez returns to West Virginia.

Since every argument seems to devolve into a RichRod/Stew vs. Dana argument, as shown above, why not just go ahead and bring back the guy that everyone still wishes was our head coach? Some of you are going to push back against this, but you know damn well that when Rodriguez leads West Virginia to a win over a ranked Oklahoma State you’d be right back on his side. 11 years is surely enough to get over what happened.

This scenario seems like it could be the most likely, largely in part to half of the current coaching staff having ties to Rich, a fact that may not be a complete coincidence. Maybe we can hire Pat White as an up-and-coming assistant while we’re at it.

Let’s just go ahead and do it.

Scenario #2: The Dark Ages of West Virginia Football

A lot of people won’t like this scenario because of what we will have to endure to get through to the other side.

Shane Lyons decides to find a replacement that he feels will have the best chance to building on what Holgorsen has already started in Morgantown. For illustrative purposes, we’ll just assume that coach will be Tony Gibson. He’s a West Virginia guy, and we can hire him for a lot less than what we are paying Holgorsen. It’s a win-win, right?

Well, let’s say Gibson takes over and things don’t exactly pan out. West Virginia strings together a few consecutive losing seasons, but Gibby is a Mountaineer through and through so we are a little more willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. In the end, he can’t turn things around and we just ended up going through a extremely down period in West Virginia football history. We, as a united fanbase, can then move on and get behind whoever the next coach would be. It’s the Frank Cignetti scenario.

If you don’t understand that reference, here’s a quick history lesson. In 1974, Bobby Bowden’s West Virginia team finished 4-7 after being completely decimated by injuries. Fans were very vocal about calling for Bowden’s firing, even going as far as hanging him in effigy outside of Woodburn Hall. The Mountaineers bounced back with a 9-3 season in 1975, and Bowden didn’t hesitate to jump on an offer from Florida State. West Virginia hired Frank Cignetti Sr, a Bowden assistant. The Mountaineers suffered through four consecutive losing seasons before firing Cignetti and hiring Michigan quarterback coach Don Nehlen.

Now, back to the scenario at hand. West Virginia fires Gibson after a string of losing seasons, and hires an up and coming coach that may or may not have ties to the state. That coach can restore the program back to where we currently are, and have been for the last 37 years, averaging 7 wins a season with breakout seasons coming every 3-4 years. Now, before someone screams about accepting mediocrity, it’s not. It’s understanding who we are. West Virginia is not a blue blood that’s going to compete for a National Championship every year, but it’s not outside the realm of possibility to see the Mountaineers make a serious run at a conference championship and a spot in the playoff once or twice a decade. Oddly enough, next season could be one of those seasons, but we’re ready to run off the guy that’s getting us there.