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    Saturday, October 30, 2010

    What Hath Stew Wrought? (Or, more accurately, What Hath the People Who Hired Stew Wrought?)

    In a few short weeks, WVU has gone from being the conference favorite with dominating winning streaks against almost half our Big East foes to a sub-mediocre also-ran. One cannot blame Coach Stew for taking his dream job when it was offered to him, but you could see in his body language during UConn's possession in OT the excruciating reality of dream-turned-nightmare setting in.

    Remember the pre-game videos touting 7 years of achievements and featuring Stew's visage? What a fraud. Any holdover cred from the Rod era that this team has had has been thoroughly flushed down the toilet. Whether now or the end of the year, it's time for Luck to put his first stamp on the program by hiring a competent head coach.

    West Virginia doesn't have flocks of in-state talent to constantly replenish its roster. Any coach must be able to do more with less. An offense that is so much less than the sum of its parts is fatal. Maybe if we were USC or Texas or Ohio State we could afford to have a figurehead as a head coach. Not WVU. We need someone who will pull the plug on underperforming subordinates. We need someone who will recognize and cultivate winning strategies. Not someone who takes personal responsibility for special teams and watches as it becomes a season-tanking disaster. What a shame to squander Casteel's excellent defense. Is it any surprise that the most effective coordinator predates Stew's tenure as Head Coach?

    I know it's totally out of the character of any institution in West Virginia to work this way, but it's vital that when Luck makes his next hire, he values competence above who-knows-who. Even if that means the coach leaves for greener pastures in the future. I think we are all quite aware that hiring someone with West Virginia connections can result in that outcome anyway.

    Saturday, October 23, 2010

    The Coaches Have Their Say.

    The banners have been raised and a new hoops season is almost upon us. The first coaches poll was released earlier this week and WVU was only to be found on the outside of the top 25. I've been eagerly awaiting the first polls for months. From everything I've been reading in the offseason, it has been pointing towards WVU not being in the top 25 at the beginning of the year. I suppose I just wanted to see for myself if the voters would really be that foolish.

    I looked at what was returning in the Big East and I personally would have picked us either 3rd or 4th in the preaseason. But alas we were picked to finish 5th which isn't so terrible. After hearing that news, I was hopeful that we might make the preseason top 25 as surely the voters would have enough sense to rank more than 4 teams from the BE. The coaches, so far at least, don't appear to have enough sense. We'll see if the sportswriters are any smarter. I say this because I am completely confident that the 'Eers will be very strong again this year with strong leadership and an unbelievably improved back court. There will be huge shoes to fill, unquestionably, but there are also aspects of the game that this years team will likely be stronger at as well. And it's hard to believe that a Huggins' coached team will fall off too much defensively regardless of who is on the court. So let's hear some predictions. I'll get it started and say that entering the NCAA tourney, we'll be in the top 12 and finish 3rd in the BE reg season.

    Monday, October 11, 2010

    "Style Points"

    "I worry about the Master Coach and daily walk. I worry about my bride because she rules the roost at the house. I worry about being a role model for my son. Other than that, I don't worry. I don't believe in style points. You have no idea how tough this ol' kid from New Martinsville is. I will jut my jaw and bow my back. I don't care about style points. That means nothing to Billy Stewart. Nothing." Bill Stewart in Post game presser following Saturday's tilt with hapless UNLV. Hmm. really coach? Well unfortunately for WVU those who can determine the final placement of WVU do care.

    Now I know that if WVU (and I really hope they do) finishes at top of Big East they go to a BCS Bowl. The problem is that the specific BCS bowl will be determined in large measure about how WVU "appears" to the Bowl committee. Additionally, recruits care about style points. Frankly, I as a viewer of college athletics am attracted to the team that can put up the points. Long gone are the days that Bo and Woody coached. Where you could play a pro-style smash mouthed football game and still contend in the end.

    In this era of college football it is a beauty contest. The prettiest wins. So how a team wins a game is important in the end game. Even, suppose that we didn't have the bowl system and we were in a "playoff" system, style points would matter there too. Why? Well because if you are in a 16 team playoff and you are one of 4 teams vying for the votes for #16 then you want to be the prettiest girl in the contest. Otherwise you are watching the playoff not playing in it.

    Say what you will about "class" it doesn't sell to pollsters. They don't care that you took off the gas in a gesture of goodwill toward the other team. They might question why a "good team" would struggle with a "bad team." The fact remains that at the end of the day those pollsters likely didn't watch your game they just reviewed the score and maybe even the box score and made their decision based on that information.

    Why, many asked after the LSU loss, did WVU fall out of the polls? Well part of that answer is that we won ugly in two of the first 3 games. We didn't blow out FCS, Coastal Carolina and required some late game heroics by Geno to oust the detestable Herd. The fact remains that if we would have blown out those first 3 teams, as a "contender" would have, WVU would have been further up in the polls before we lost to LSU and would not have fallen as far as we did after the loss.

    Florida has 2 losses and remains in the poll. Why? Well part of that reason is that they have a pollster bank-account that they accumulated historically with "style" points. They get forgiven for their losses. We on the other hand don't have near as much capital to spend thus when we lose the pollsters punish us. And punish us hard. WVU blew out the Running Rebels as they should have. That game ironically had some style points to it. We blew out a team we should have blown out. The pollsters begrudgingly had to let us back in the revolving door of the top 25. It didn't hurt us that LSU against all logic has been able to pull out 2 straight wins in crazy fashion. Our loss had style points. We lost to a 6-0 LSU team in eyes of pollsters they were hard pressed not to acknowledge the same. But rest assured if LSU had been blowing the teams out on theirs schedule, as an SEC team they would be knocking on the door of the top 4.

    My point simply is that WVU needs to "run up the score" to make the points it needs to move up the polls. I have herd it said that win and the polls take care of themselves. The truth is that that simply is not the way it works. Win big and climb faster win and climb slowly and risk never making it to top of the hill. A team that starts at the top of the polls doesn't have to do anything but win to hold their spot right? Well ask Boise State. They have done nothing but win and thanks to VPI and Oregon's dominance "style point-rich" wins they have supplanted the Broncos. Now winning out gets Boise State a date in a BCS game but not in the BCS championship. Well DaGeek, you may ask, Boise State wins with style, why would they not get credit for it? Well they have gotten credit for it. They are discussed every week by the talking heads. They are in the discussion for the national championship. They whip the teams they should and the shine doesn't come off the statue, but they then get slammed because the WAC doesn't bring any bling. It the WAC, lacks style points. A win in conference for the Broncos just gets a ho-hum from the rest of the country, though we like watching them do it on TV. The Big East has style point problems this year as well, so WVU can ill afford to give up any mojo with ugly wins. We need to put it to the teams we are suppose to blow out, or we shall be punished.

    Coach Stew saying that he doesn't believe in Style points is disturbing to say the least. He better start believing in them or WVU will pay the price. I don't know why any competitive team exists if not to win the prize at the end. The prize at the end is the crystal football. To win the crystal football we must get the votes from the voters in the two human polls. To get those points we have to impress them. To impress them we need "style points". I want our Coach to take a good hard look at his position on this issue and ask himself if he really is doing his "OLD GOLD AND BLUE" any service by ignoring the glaringly obvious reality that style points matter.

    I love my Eers as much as anybody can. I respect our Coach, but I must disagree with his position as to style points. I am jutting my jaw out and bowing my back on behalf of my beloved team. Coach you have this wrong! Please address this and lead us back to the title hunt. Coach do it and do it with style!


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