In the film Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, Michael Douglas' sleazebag Gordon Gekko finally gets it right: "Money is not the prime commodity in our lives. Time is."
I've written all around the Bill Stewart situation since 2008:
September 21, 2008, after losing consecutively at East Carolina and Colorado:
"...after three games of watching WVU flop like a flounder on the deck of a pier, the faithful is ready to throw Bill Stewart out, the bum. Not so fast. Here's my suggestion: Keep him...[and tell him] this is major college football. The stakes are absolutely enormous...just make it work."
September 30, 2009, after losing at Auburn:
"On the surface, coach Stewart's position as the head [coach] looks stable and even growing as he and the state enjoys a 12-5 record during his tenure...Bill Stewart is an absolute nice guy who is optimistic to a fault..."
November 24, 2009, after the losses to the Big East's South Florida and to eventual Big East champion Cincinnati:
"Don't show Bill Stewart the door, but tell him what it looks like. Describe it to him, in great detail...It's too late for [his] Mountaineer pride. We're beyond just playing 'West Virginia football.' and hoping it will win. 'Out-blocking, out-tackling, and out-hitting' worked when WVU surprised the world in the Fiesta Bowl of the 2007 season. It's time to deliver."
December 17, 2009, two weeks before losing to 6-6 Florida State in the Gator Bowl:
"There is a 60,000 seat stadium that needs butts in the seats seven times next autumn. Wishing ill of Miami, Virginia Tech, Boston College, Marshall, Michigan, Democrats, Republicans, and whatever 'evil' lurks on the landscape will not work this time."
September 17, 2010, a week after barely beating Marshall in overtime:
"Because of [head coach] Kevin Sumlin's success at Houston, he is a white hot coaching prospect at schools like, perhaps, West Virginia...[Sumlin's passing attack] will do two things West Virginia football needs:
Houston's Cougar Ball exists. My vote is for Cougar Ball."
Time is indeed the prime commodity. West Virginia is 29 games of time into the Bill Stewart era. Can West Virginia Athletic Director Oliver Luck justify the risk of turning more ticks of coach Stewart's clock into money? Or, would another clock be more valuable?
The loss to Louisiana State is huge.
Optimists say they were impressed by WVU's defense. A population of Realists say the LSU offense has not played well in any game this season.
Optimists look optimistically at the even turnover number; not bad, they say! Realists are more realistic, calling the Optimists' attention to the fact that LSU converted their two takeaways to 10 points while West Virginia squandered their two.
Then, there was Patrick Peterson's punt return touchdown. The path of clover the LSU All-America skipped down was highway wide. How could a major college football program with ten major college football players running down the field allow coverage to be blown to such a degree?
Not only did no Mountaineer touch Peterson, no Mountaineer was within rock throwing distance of Peterson.
Finally, in this, the third paragraph devoted to Patrick Peterson, the four preseason college magazines I read told me all about his prowess as a punt returner. Peterson, earlier in the season, returned a punt against North Carolina 89 yards for a touchdown. And, after gathering all this information, I mentioned Patrick Peterson in two of my recent articles, all but using the word Danger! or placing that radioactive symbol beside his photo.
I think I had enough data to convince the punter to punt the football out of bounds.
Other realists agree.
I've been there—windowless office, closed door, just you and the supervisor who is getting ready to drop the hammer.
It was my fourth trip to a windowless office in nine years. The last supervisor wasn't so bad. He started off with, "You're a helluva nice guy."
Bill Stewart has represented West Virginia well. In the history of the state, he is one of Almost Heaven's greatest ambassadors.
He is a helluva nice guy.
The scope of West Virginia University football is immense. Looking at recent history, 2005 West Virginia won the Big East. No one saw WVU coming as the Mountaineers squeaked by SEC champion Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. After BCS bowl week, West Virginia finished fifth in the nation in the Associated Press poll, as in: Texas, Southern Cal, Penn State, Ohio State, and West Virginia.
In 2006, West Virginia finished second in the Big East, won the Gator Bowl over Georgia Tech, and ended the year with a number ten ranking in the AP poll.
In 2007, West Virginia was essentially one game away from playing for the national championship. A loss to rival Pittsburgh ended that season on a bittersweet note. WVU was the Big East champion, but instead of the BCS title game, the Mountaineers had to accept a bid to the Fiesta Bowl.
After Rich Rodriguez' departure, Bill Stewart was named interim head coach. Coach Stewart ended up leading a manhandling performance over heavily favored Oklahoma to the tune of 48-28. WVU finished the season in sixth place in the AP poll behind LSU, Southern Cal, Georgia, Ohio State, and Missouri.
In that three-year span, only four schools finished each year in the Associated Press Top Ten: LSU, Southern Cal, Ohio State, and West Virginia.
What can Bill Stewart do to save his job?
Finish the 2010 season undefeated. Well, Captain Obvious, maybe that'll do it. However, there is but one non-conference game remaining. It's UNLV, and it's not the early '90s and it's not hoops. The Runnin' Rebels rank ninth among the Mountain West Conference nine.
Win the Big East Conference championship. Looks good on paper, but in the USA Today coaches' poll for Week 5, West Virginia is the only league team receiving votes. So, that's nice, but the supervisors with the hammers need more than that. Lots more.
Win the Big East and the subsequent BCS bowl game. Now we're talking. At this point, I don't know which conference champion or which team from the Boise State/TCU pairing would get the Big East winner.
I do know that if WVU wins the league, do you think 2004 was bad? It's six years later and the litany will begin again. Every pundit and prognosticator with Internet access will be talking 100 percent ultra-pure garbage about West Virginia and how they don't deserve it yada, yada.
Bill Stewart will have to get his team and himself past those holly, jolly holiday weeks to the first few days of 2011.
He's done it before. Maybe he'll do it again.
He has to.
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