Mike Florio

WVU’s current mess has an easy, albeit controversial, fix


Rich Rodriguez previously admitted it was a mistake for him to leave West Virginia more than three years ago.  Now, West Virginia could be admitting it was a mistake not to deal with the Bill Stewart/Dana Holgorsen mess by bringing Rodriguez back.

Though the move surely would create significant local controversy in the short term, all parties need to take a longer view of the current situation.  The Mountaineers need a stable, long-term fix at the coaching position.  And with Rodriguez’s tail currently tucked between his legs after being fired by Michigan, this could be the perfect moment to secure true long-term loyalty, along with consistently high-level performance.

Whether it’s Rodriguez or not, change is surely coming to Morgantown.  The one-year forced marriage between Stewart, the outgoing coach, and Holgorsen, the offensive coordinator/incoming coach, was doomed from the outset.  Athletic Director Oliver Luck surely hoped that Stewart’s pride would prompt him to walk away once Holgorsen arrived, with Stewart giving up all or part of his severance pay in lieu of suffering the public awkwardness of being a lame duck with his replacement, a stranger to the program, on the staff.

Luck’s instincts were right, sort of.  Stewart reacted, but not by quitting.  Instead, he fought back, reportedly launching an effort to smear Holgorsen, either in an effort by Stewart to save his job or in a fit of vengeance aimed at blowing the whole thing up on his way out the door.  With WVU now possibly having enough ammunition to send Stewart out that door without paying him another penny, the three-year head coach who never should have been given the job in the first place could soon be fired “for cause” based on the disclosure that Stewart asked a Pittsburgh reporter to dig up dirt on Holgorsen.

But that doesn’t mean Holgorsen is the answer.  Questions remain regarding the much-publicized incident involving Holgorsen and more than a few Heinekens at a Charleston-area casino last month, not to mention the report of five other similar incidents.  Even if Stewart had a hand in publicizing those five incidents, there’s a chance the report of those five incidents contains some truth.

With Rodriguez currently available and engaging in an obvious image reclamation effort in his native state, why not bring him back?  Folks in West Virginia were outraged (count me among them) when Rodriguez left, primarily because we all wanted him to stay.  If a prodigal son who took to program to the cusp of a national title is willing to truly come — and stay — home, slaying the fatted calf could translate to finally hoisting the crystal football.

Current rumblings out of Morgantown suggest that, if Holgorsen and Stewart are sent packing, Tommy Bowden could be the replacement.  Bowden, the former Clemson head coach, Rodriguez mentor, and son of legendary Florida State coach and West Virginia coach Bobby Bowden, has been involved in recent fund-raising efforts at his alma mater, and many assumed he, not Holgorsen, would be Stewart’s replacement.  Still, we (or at least I) think that Rodriguez is best suited over the long term to take the program back to the brink of the one thing that every West Virginian covets — a national championship in football or basketball, and preferably both.

Given the current state of the football program, Bob Huggins’ basketball program may continue to be the best bet for finally getting it done.  But there’s still an opportunity to emerge from the current mess in a positive way.  Though it will require plenty of forgiving and forgetting from the fan base (especially since many of them genuinely believe Rodriguez threw the 2007 Pitt game so that he could take the Michigan job), it could be the best thing for both parties.

Four years ago, Rodriguez had a chance to become a Bobby Bowden or a Joe Paterno-type figure in Morgantown, holding down the same job well into his 70s and becoming a living legend.  The window is open now for that three-year stretch of ugliness to eventually become a faded memory for both the coach and the school.  And it’s coming at a time when the program stands on the brink of full-blown disarray.

With Luck suddenly having good reason to worry about his own job given the manner in which the ill-conceived Stewart-Holgorsen arrangement has played out, Luck’s best chance for keeping the job over the long haul could come from bringing back the coach who found out the hard way that the grass is always the greenest in his own backyard.

Tressel out at Ohio State


Yeah, I don’t post here very often.  Yeah, with the lockout, you may see me a little bit more frequently.

For now, I needed to pay a quick visit to the PFT sister site for the purposes of firing the first shot in the new chapter of the ongoing clusterfudge in Columbus:  Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel has resigned.

“After meeting with University officials, we agreed that it is in the best interest of Ohio State that I resign as head football coach,” Tressel said in a statement issued Monday morning.  “The appreciation that Ellen and I have for the Buckeye Nation is immeasurable.”

The school said that assistant coach Luke Fickell, who was slated to replace Tressel during a five-game suspension, will serve as interim head coach.

Frankly, this would have happened weeks ago if Tressel hadn’t delivered consistent high-end results for the school.  So it’s really no surprise, even if it would have been a lot more interesting if Tressel hadn’t been forced out for a chronic inability to tell the truth but for delivering an acute blow to the head of an opposing player during a bowl game.

Brian Kelly's crisis of conscience


As the entirely avoidable death of Declan Sullivan continues to gnaw at me like that feeling of something I’ve forgotten to do or the sense that there’s something I need to remember to do but can’t quite remember what it is, the only way to make the discomfort subside for the next 10 hours or so is to write about the situation.

I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few days wondering what Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly is thinking right now.  As the man ultimately responsible for everything that happens in the Fighting Irish football program, and as the man who apparently decided to practice outside, not inside, on Declan’s last day, Kelly likely is feeling responsible for the accident.

There’s that word again.  “Accident.”  As I’ve told my son more times than he cares to remember when he’s doing something that he shouldn’t be doing, a potential bad outcome can’t be brushed off as an “accident” when common sense should have indicated the connection between the behavior and the eventual “accident.” 

And when an “accident” happens under those circumstances, people are held accountable.

For Notre Dame, which undoubtedly has liability limits and umbrella policies that will allow $10 million or more to be paid by an insurance carrier to Sullivan’s family (as if that will even begin to comfort them), the question of accountability runs far deeper than whether the death falls within the terms of the available coverage.  For Notre Dame, the question of accountability entails doing the right thing in the wake of a preventable tragedy — and, ideally, those accountable shouldn’t have to be told by anything but their own consciences what the right outcome should be.

Jason Whitlock of FOXSports.com has made a passionate, persuasive argument that Kelly should immediately be fired.  We agree with a lot of what Whitlock has said.  For now, however, we’re not sure we agree with the suggested outcome.

It’s still too early in the process for Notre Dame to determine whether Kelly has responsibility for Sullivan’s death.  But Kelly likely knows right now, in his heart, whether he bears all or part of the blame for Sullvan’s death. 

The algorithm is simple.  Can Kelly look the mother of Declan Sullivan in the eyes and truthfully say, “There was nothing I could have done to save your son”?  If Kelly can’t do that, then he should resign.  Apart from being the right thing to do, it will set a clear precedent and send a loud message to every head coach at every level of every sport.

Every day, people entrust the safety of their sons and daughters to these men and women.  Certain risks aren’t avoidable.  Plenty of risks — especially weather-related hazards like wind and lightning — are.  Coaches need at all times to be willing to take all reasonable precautions to protect the sons and daughters under their care from these dangers.

And when they fail to take reasonable precautions, they never should seek refuge in the notion that it was all an “accident.”