Out of the one book(s) I’ve read this past year, the
only ,most interesting, book would have to be “The Signal and the Noise” by stat guru Nate Silver. It’s essentially a book that talks about why humans are, and always will be, horrible at predictions. Silver himself has become one of leaders of data analysis after election night 2012 when he predicted every single state correctly. Since then he’s become an analyst from just about every news organization right down to ESPN.
What Silver says in his book is very simple, humans put bias on everything. We are not great at reading information because we only pay attention to the things we want to believe and ignore the things we don’t care to believe. This applies to just about anything, but Silver uses it to explain why predictions are often wrong, and wrong by a mile. People in general have a hard time seeing the truth, the signal, between misinformation and their own bias, the noise.
As West Virginia football sits at 2-2 on the season, and reeling from a very humbling 37-0 destruction by a Maryland team we have owned in recent years, our fans are now trying to figure out what went wrong. On November 30th 2007 we were packing our bags for a National Championship game against an Ohio State team that had no shot at matching our speed. On December 2nd 2007 everything had changed. Not only had it changed but it had continually declined all the way to the lowest point we’ve seen in years, this past Saturday.
If West Virginia fans do anything well, its reacting. We can react with the best of them. The only problem is its rarely a rational and well thought out reaction, its typically instant caveman style reaction. From burning couches to burning coaches in effigy, we will let you know how we feel the minute we feel it. The instant Bill Stewart failed to score 30 points and squinted on the sidelines, we reacted. “He’s ruining the program!” we yelled. Only he wasn’t. He was winning decent amounts of games, just not like we had in the past. Good but not great, that sums it all up. Ruining is a far cry from good but not great.
After we managed to get Bill Stewart fired, we hired Dana Holgorsen and the reaction was “Greatest thing we’ve ever done!” and “Do we build the statues of Holgorsen and Luck on the East side or the West side of the stadium?”. Only neither had really accomplished anything yet. At the time on the Exit 155 Podcast, I said over and over “lets let Holgorsen do something before crowning him the best coach ever”. Hell within a week of him taking over people started to wonder how long it would be until he left us for Texas, surely they’ll be calling soon.
Seems like a long time ago now.
No, now the question within the fan base is how long do we give Dana before we show him the door. The answer to that question isn’t up to me, or you, but it can found if you can understand the root of the problems. Here’s where the noise comes in.
Its Bill Stewarts lack of recruiting!
Seems like warchant that is starting to quiet a bit. You can say Bill Stewart didn’t recruit at an elite level, however you would also be ignoring that no WVU coach ever has, and Stewarts classes were a couple of the highest rated classes we had in our history. Also it was much more Stewarts team when we put up 70 in an Orange Bowl win, however those blaming him for the talent on this team now, weren’t giving him the credit for the talent then. No, it was all about the wunderkind Holgorsen at that point. Can’t have it both ways.
Holgorsen is out with his drinking buddies too much to care!
I’ve only heard of one incident with Holgorsen, at the casino, and nothing more that would suggest any issues. When we’re winning everybody loves the idea of a young energetic, hard partying, coach. When we’re losing that persona is “the problem”. Interestingly enough for the lack of evidence that Holgorsen parties a bit too much, there is mountains of evidence Huggins has an actual problem, and he’s our most beloved state employee. Must be because Huggs is “one of us” right?
Holgorsen is just an offensive coordinator, shouldn’t be head coach!
Maybe, but even if he was just the OC, that shutout against Maryland would’ve happened. Hard to say that the coach only knows offense, when the offense seems to be the problem.
HIRE SABAN! or BRING BACK RICH ROD!!!!
Neither is going to happen.
All of these things are just noise. Distractions from the truth. We build these false arguments to try and ignore the reality of the situation.
West Virginia football is not elite.
That’s the signal you’re missing.
I’m proud to be a Mountaineer, damn proud. It’s all I’ve known about sports since I was a kid. I remember as a child my Dad ignoring every phone call on Saturdays for fear that it would be about the WVU game that was on tape delay after the news later that night. It wasn’t about being elite then, it was about being proud of this little, nothing university tucked away in some mountains, in a state most people didn’t even know was a state.
Somewhere between the 2005 Sugar Bowl and the 2007 near title game, we started to believe something different. We started to believe we were the same as Ohio State, and Texas, and USC. I mean look at our record, its the same! We won a bowl game over Georgia, that means we’re better, right! Wrong. We’re still the same little, nothing university tucked away in some mountains, in a state most people didn’t even know was a state. Our perception of us may have changed, but our reality hasn’t. West Virginia football had some success, but it never changed, it can’t. We changed. That’s our problem.
West Virginia has no recruits. None. The best recruit out of our state in years was Ryan Switzer, who is now a spot player on North Carolina. Just another average quick guy down there. He was the best our state had to offer. Every meaningful player we get, we have to get them from somewhere else. Do you think kids from Baltimore grow up just DYING to play for WVU? How about kids from Florida? Do you think kids in Texas could even point to West Virginia on a map? You can’t be an elite program with zero in state recruits.
West Virginia has no major markets. None. You know how you always think the national media ignores WVU? We’ll its because they do. They do, not because they dislike us, but because they’re a business that only cares about ratings, and talking Tebow and Texas always means 10 times the ratings than talking WVU. Its a state of 1.7 million people, which is less than the greater Pittsburgh area, which in itself is considered small in the national media. Do the math. You don’t come to West Virginia for the publicity. Can’t be elite if nobody cares to pay attention to you.
West Virginia doesn’t have a history of winning. Sure we have the “team with the most wins to never win it all” thing, but we often forget whilst bragging about it, that its a bad thing. Go back to the 70′s, go back to the 60′s, go back to the 50′s. We weren’t good. At times we were less than not good. Do you know in the 80′s we beat Penn State once and even today it ranks as one of the best wins in program history. Why? Because Penn State KILLED US ALWAYS. ALWAYS. Penn State doesn’t remember that game, it wasn’t some kind of classic. They thought of us the same away we think of East Carolina. Oh them? Yeah I think we might have lost to them once. When that is your “history” you can’t be elite.
Look around the nation at USC, Texas, Alabama, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Michigan, Florida, Florida State, Oklahoma, and so on and so on. All those things we don’t have, they have in spades. That’s why we’re not them. That’s we could NEVER be them. No matter how many 10 win seasons and BCS wins we can pile up. People are telling me today that Rich Rod was “run out” of Morgantown by Pastilong and those other guys who hated winning. No he wasn’t. Rich Rod was a realist. Alabama called and he listened. Michigan called and he listened. He knew what we’re all denying to ourselves.
If anything, what ran Rich Rod off is was us. Our demanding him to make us one of those elite programs, when no man could. Why put up with that pressure with no chance of living up to it, when you can just go to an elite program and put up with the pressure when its appropriate?
Our bias has led to the noise that has clouded the signal from us.
We were good once, damn good, and we will be good again. One day. Just not today. Not this past Saturday. We will never be great forever. We will always have to come back down to earth for a few years, and that time is now. Is Holgorsen the right coach? I don’t know. There’s issues there, but the issues are not Bill Stewarts recruits and they’re not Dana’s partying. All I know is we’re not going to get someone better to come here to coach. Not right now. Not when we demand perfection in such an imperfect situation.
Truth is, frustrated or not, Holgorsen is the best hope we got. We need to rally behind him, and take the lumps this season with him. Let him feel a part of this, and let his pride build this back up. Don’t pay attention to the wins and losses, and just look for glimmers of what may be in the future. We flew close to the sun and fell back to earth. We’re not going to regain that altitude overnight. It’s going to be a slow climb, wing flap after wing flap. Realize that the era of WVU football that you once knew, is over. The next era of Mountaineer football is starting right now, and get on board. Let’s enjoy the journey without only focusing on the payoff.
Remember those home night games in 2003 when we beat Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh? Some of the best nights I can remember. We weren’t perfect that year, far from it. It was the joy of the journey. The knowing that this little nothing university tucked away in the mountains of a state most don’t even know is a state, was now forcing the nation to pay attention. We fought for that, we didn’t demand it. We’re weren’t entitled to it.
Be patient and let it build again. Leave the expectations of the past in the past. Set new ones and let them grown over time. Ignore the noise. If you can manage this you just might like WVU football again. Hell, you just might fall in love with it all over again.
This team may struggle the rest of the way through but those are the teams that need everyone to rally behind them and support them the most. Time for the fans to step up and stop just saying we have good fans and actually go out and prove it.