- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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There still is no official confirmation on the Dana Holgorsen to West Virginia news, but unless multiple media outlets are wrong -- or is some unforeseen snag occurs -- this looks like a done deal.
That will mean that two Big East coaches who shared a piece of the three-way tie for the league title will either be shown the door now (Pitt's Dave Wannstedt) or given a pink-slip ticket that comes due at the end of next year (Bill Stewart). And while both Wannstedt and Stewart have had plenty of detractors during their tenures at their respective programs, let's take a moment to reflect on their records the past three years.
Wannstedt is 26-12 the past three seasons, and if Pitt wins the BBVA Compass Bowl with him at the helm (as of Tuesday afternoon, he was still undecided whether he will coach in that game), that will give him an average of nine wins over the past three years. Wannstedt put together easily the best three-year stretch by the school in almost 30 years.
Stewart is 27-11 the past three seasons, and if West Virginia wins the Champs Sports Bowl, that will give the Mountaineers a 10-win season. How many coaches have been told to hit the bricks after winning 10 games, without major scandals involved? I've heard comparisons to Ohio State's John Cooper, but Cooper won 25 games his last three seasons, including an 8-4 campaign his last year in Columbus. He also had a poor record against his chief rival, Michigan; Stewart is 2-1 against the Mountaineers' main rival, Pittsburgh. Stewart's record after 38 games is second best in West Virginia history, ahead of Don Nehlen, Bobby Bowden and Rich Rodriguez.
Though Stewart was named in the NCAA accusations against West Virginia in regards to practice-policy violations, most believe that the outcome to that case will be a minor slap on the wrist comparable to what Michigan received. Pitt and West Virginia had some players arrested in the past few years, but so did many programs in America. There was no whiff of impropriety by Stewart or Wannstedt in their personal behavior or how they treated players, and in fact you'd be hard pressed to come up with better ambassadors for either place. Their players graduated and achieved solid success in the classroom.
In the end, those accomplishments weren't enough for either school. They were hurt by some notable failures in big-time games, and for their inability to win the Big East outright title in what was a down year, and perhaps down period, for the league. Empty seats at both their home stadiums late in the year made an unfavorable impression, too.
It's important to remember that the men making the decisions on both coaches weren't the men who hired them; both athletic directors (Pitt's Steve Pederson and West Virginia's Oliver Luck) seem eager to make their mark with their own hire.
Just let the next coach know that the standards and expectations have been raised at both West Virginia and Pittsburgh. Averaging nine wins a year, taking a share of the conference title and gunning for a 10th victory apparently aren't enough anymore.
4hMax Olson and Brian Bennett