West Virginia University claimed another Big East football championship. Don’t expect to see too many fans or players celebrating though. That is because the title will be shared with Pittsburgh and UCONN. Worse is that the Big East’s automatic bid to the high paying Bowl Championship Series bowl game has gone to UCONN. WVU dispatched Rutgers Saturday and then had to await the result of Saturday night’s game between UCONN and South Florida to find out just which team would claim the automatic BCS berth.
It was a hard watch too. USF got the ball to the Huskies five-yard line very late in the game. A Bulls touchdown there likely would have punched WVU’s ticket to either the Fiesta or Orange bowl. A run and two miserably failed fade routes led to a USF field goal and a 16-16 tie. Connecticut was able to get into position to kick a 52-yard field goal as the clock wound down. Because Pitt, UCONN and WVU all have 5-2 league records and the Huskies beat both Pitt and WVU they are on their way to the Fiesta Bowl.
West Virginia will settle for playing North Carolina State in the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando. That game will be played at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, December 28. Four lost fumbles on a Friday night in Connecticut five weeks ago went a long way in determining the Mountaineers fate. One of the hot topics for debate last week was the status of head coach Bill Stewart. Despite going 9-3 and rallying the team to finish with four straight wins, there is still talk that the coach could be in his last season. Interestingly, one of the names being tossed around is Alabama coach Nick Saban.
Back to the cyber debate which has become emotional at times. As usual, Stewart has the WVU fan base at odds with each other. This one has been brewing for a while. On the one side there are the guys who simply can’t understand how WVU could fire a coach that wins nine games every year. The other side of the fence are those who never understood the hire in the first place and want Stewart to fade away into the WVU athletic department in a fund raising capacity.
Before we go further, it should be made clear that there is no documented evidence that WVU athletics director Oliver Luck is even entertaining thoughts of making a coaching change. There is, however, plenty of smoke suggesting that at the very least, some of the money players have made known a desire for change. Either way Luck finds himself in a tough spot in his first season as the AD.
Those who want a replacement, sooner, rather than later, were in good shape following those back-to-back losses to Syracuse and UCONN in October. The offense was making many mistakes and doing so at an alarming rate. Thoughts of winning even two of the remaining four games at that point seemed remote, but win all four is what the Mountaineers did. The naysayers point to the Mountaineers stellar defense and suggest that this team should be no worse than 11-1.
Of course the more rational people point to the 9-3 record and say WVU can’t demand a coach do better than that or lose his job. A reasonable and good point. Still, the other side rightfully points out that Stewart has been the head coach at West Virginia three seasons and has no BCS bowl to show for it. Demanding a BCS bowl every three years may also seem to have the bar a little high too, but factor in the level of the opposition in the Big East over that period, especially this year, and that goal seems attainable.
I have no idea what is happening behind the scenes on this thing, if anything at all, but there is plenty of buzz about it. Could make for an interesting December.