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When the fire escape becomes the main exit

June 13, 2011
Weirton Daily Times

West Virginia University did its best to supplant Ohio State University as the latest punchline of college football.

While the Buckeyes are going through a complete mess with NCAA violations stemming back, as some reports say, to 2002, the Mountaineers and Athletic Director Oliver Luck are going through a mess of their own.

No, it's not about cheating and lying and misleading, but it's still a mess all in itself.

At the center of each mess are two athletic directors - one whom drew a line in the sand only to erase that line and another who decided to follow the University of Texas and Florida State in naming a head coach-in-waiting.

The difference, Mr. Luck, was that Mack Brown and Bobby Bowden, in essence, named their successors, and you did not give Bill Stewart that opportunity.

No, I don't think Stew deserved that opportunity, but at what point did Luck truly feel that forcing a coach onto Stewart's staff, let alone his replacement in 12 months, was a good thing for the WVU football program?

It appears both institutions are coming in and out of their respective buildings through the fire escape.

It appears that things are a complete mess in completely different directions.

In Columbus you have an NCAA hearing in August and more and more stuff is being unearthed almost on a daily basis.

The Columbus Dispatch newspaper is not letting this one go.

ESPN's "Outside the Lines" on Sunday showed more things that just keep Ohio State's eyes black.

The NCAA has yet to put the "lack of institutional control" label on the Buckeyes' program, but my guess is that will be on the table come August.

If this goes back to 2002, and if it really appears that the football staff, led by former ex-head coach Jim Tressel, and the compliance office weren't really compliant with NCAA rules and regulations, the NCAA is going to drop the hammer on the Buckeyes.

Folks, it won't be pretty.

I am of the opinion that the day after Ohio State's final football game against Michigan in November, the entire coaching staff, grad assistants and all, should be dismissed.

Whomever the new coach coming in should have a completely clean slate in forming his staff and should not have to go through the motions to interview any current staff. That step by the university to clean house, so to speak, would be a great relief for the new guy.

I am already on record saying that OSU President Gordon Gee and Athletic Director Gene Smith also need to go.

If you are going to clean house, clean it all.

In Morgantown, Dana Holgorsen is now the guy because the Oliver Luck experiment was as successful as Michael Jordan's baseball experiment.

Stewart, accused of trying to dig up dirt on Holgorsen to get the guy kicked out of Milan Puskar Stadium before he saw the sidelines during a fall game, is no longer a part of the WVU program.

I know he was a loyal assistant. I know he wasn't the most dynamic head coach of a major school. I know what he accused of is not a good thing.

But, in the long run, Stewart and the WVU program are better off for not having to go through the charade as the lame-duck coach.

Luck's experiment failed for one major reason - the head coaches-in-waiting at Texas and Florida State were there to replace Brown and Bowden.

Holgorsen was hired to take Stewart's place and Stewart, unlike Brown and Bowden, had no say in the matter.

It would have been a lot better if Luck would have called Stewart in his office, handed him a severance check and said, "hand me your whistle. You are no longer the head coach."

That is clean, concise and every member of the football organization would then know whom to turn to.

Instead, Luck's mess had guys in the program not knowing if they should listen to the new guy or the old guy.

That's not a good thing.

Luck put both guys, especially Stewart, in a no-win situation.

"I think it was a combination of things," Luck said. "The program ... is more important than any individual, is more important than any coach, any player, and clearly, this was becoming a distraction for our football program.

"It was the right thing to do."

There was no hugfest in Morgantown.

This was irreconcilable differences waiting to happen. Luck set them up to fail.

I'm not saying Holgorsen is clean in all of this.

If 25 percent of what has been written about him is correct, it very well may not be the last time his name is in a newspaper with the word "casino" in the same sentence.

If that happens, Luck will be in another press conference to announce his resignation and that of Holgorsen's.

The Rich Rod talk can then begin again.

Well, it can continue in another direction because Mountaineers faithful still can't let his departure go.

In the meantime, head coach Brian Kelly and Notre Dame are sitting back, smiling, along with the University of Pittsburgh and coach Todd Graham.

For the most part, those who really don't care about all of this are the players. Sure, the Buckeyes will have a lot more to go through with the NCAA hammer hanging over their heads, but the Ohio State and West Virginia players just want to play football, win games and be kids. They are resilient.

Of course, regardless of what continues to happen, OSU and WVU will have successful seasons with wins over Michigan and Pitt, respectively.

I am looking forward to the U.S. Open this week at Congressional Country Club. It is a wide open race and should be really fun to watch.

We don't have to watch Tiger hobble along or quit after nine holes. (Talk about a guy whose main entrance and exit has been a fire escape).

I pick Nick Watney.

(Mathison, a Weirton resident, is the sports editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and can be contacted at

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