For head coaches at prominent college football programs, winning is the only way to ensure job security.
With many programs, it is no longer acceptable to simply run a clean ship, win a few games and graduate some successful student-athletes.
Now, these coaches must win, and win a lot, to appease the expectations of their fervent fan bases. If they fail to do so, they will be pushed out and ties will be severed like any bad relationship.
Like any good relationship though, the relationship between a coach and his fan base must be built on a base of trust. The fans have to trust that their coach is the right man for the job.
If they don't, that distrust will turn to ill feelings, which will fester under the surface until they boil over and the coach is given a one-way ticket out of town.
Again, the best way for coaches to prevent this is to simply win. West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen won a few games this year, but he didn't come near the expectations set by the WVU fan base before the season.
Even despite a pair of All-American wide receivers and one of the best quarterbacks in college football, the Mountaineers failed to reach the 10-win milestone for the season.
At best, WVU can finish 8-5 with a New Era Pinstripe Bowl win over Syracuse to cap the season.
With that win, the Mountaineers would match their worst mark in the last decade—an 8-5 finish in 2003.
In defense of Holgorsen and the 2012 Mountaineers, this has been the most difficult schedule in those 10 seasons and likely the most difficult circumstances.
Including WVU, nine of the Big 12's 10 teams have been ranked at some point in the season. As a result of that depth, the Big 12 Conference cannibalized itself.
From top to bottom, the Big 12 is arguably the deepest league in the nation. No team finished undefeated in Big 12 play, while the ninth-place team—Iowa State—finished just two games off of a third-place finish.
Five teams finished 7-5, only two will attain double-digit wins and West Virginia ended up locked in an untidy four-way tie for fifth place. For what it's worth, WVU was also just four measly points off an outright third-place finish.
However, that didn't happen, and the Mountaineers learned that the Big 12 is a world apart from the Big East Conference.
West Virginia faced this tough schedule with a depleted defense, as well. WVU lost defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel, who had been in Morgantown for a decade, to the Arizona Wildcats. The Mountaineers also were without two outstanding pass rushers—Bruce Irvin and Julian Miller—and three NFL draft picks spanning all three levels of the defense.
Replacing those losses was guaranteed to be a tough task, but against West Virginia's schedule, it proved to be even tougher. Seven of the Mountaineers' 12 opponents were ranked among the 25 best scoring offenses, including five in the top 12 in the nation. The Big East, meanwhile, didn't have a scoring offense rated higher than No. 47.
Many fans, however, will chalk all of this up as excuses because of that unappealing 7-5 bottom line.
There isn't much "Fire Holgorsen" talk going around right now, but it is clear that WVU fans are unhappy with that finish.
Holgorsen was a very popular hire when he was brought to Morgantown. The fans in "Touchdown City" were unhappy after a few lackluster offensive seasons, so Holgorsen's high-flying offense was well-received by Mountaineer Nation.
However, five straight WVU losses washed the luster of the hire off and sent Holgor-fever into dormancy.
Holgorsen knows he has lost some of the trust of his fan base and has already been making changes to improve his team. He made a switch at defensive coordinator through a promotion of Keith Patterson and demotion of Joe DeForest. He also let go of cornerbacks coach Daron Roberts after the Mountaineers finished almost dead last in the nation in passing defense.
There will also likely be a few more coaching additions before the 2012-13 offseason is over.
Additionally, he and his staff have hit the recruiting trail hard, finding new recruits and Junior College transfers that can have an immediate impact in Morgantown.
All of this to improve on that 7-5 finish and earn back some of that trust.
One year from now, however, these little moves won't matter if WVU doesn't turn them into an improved overall record. The tweaks are a start, but if Holgorsen doesn't win, he'll continue to fall out of favor with Mountaineer Nation.
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