"When you out there and all the coaches are barking the orders, you have to figure out who you are going to listen to because a lot of times they are going to tell you different things, and they don't realize they are telling you different things," Keith Tandy said a day after WVU's abrupt coaching change. Stew might tell you this, Holgorsen tells you that, and you say 'Dang, which one do I listen to?' This eliminates it, and a lot of tension gets relieved."
While mixed messages from coaching staff members aren't frequent or intentional, they do happen. A position coach might give one instruction, only to be contradicted by a coordinator moments later. Those aren't deliberate attempts to confuse, of course – they are simply natural mistakes that can occur, as the do in any other walk of life. The reasons for those sorts of contradictions are many, but usually they are quickly straightened out – often when the player points out the discrepancy.
In this case, however, players clearly felt some discomfort with having what amounted to two bosses on the field. While Holgorsen didn't appear to be trying to wrest control of the program away from Stewart, the fact that both were giving directions served to put players in the middle of a muddled situation. For that reason, the immediate feeling Tandy and many of his teammates felt was relief.
"When we came in to lift after it happened, it felt like a weight was off your back," Tandy explained. "I like Coach Stewart, I think he is a real good guy, and I'm sorry for the way it ended. But I feel like it's definitely better for the program, and now you don't have the tension between the players. You just feel better. More relaxed."
Aside from those factors, however, Tandy pointed out that position coaches are typically closer and more involved with players than the head coach is.
"Since I have been here, I always reported to Coach Lockwood, or if something happened I went to him, so it wasn't that big a deal to me," he said of the change.
Tandy also expressed some relief that he won't be receiving nearly as many communications from friends as family as he has over the past couple of weeks.
"People from back home were calling and asking what was going on, and people around here are trying to figure out what's going on, and I'm telling them that I'm finding out the same way they are. They aren't telling us any secrets where they said not to tell [the media]. We're watching ESPN just like you. I'd be watching ESPN and it would pop up and I'd get three or four text messages from the players and a call from my mom back home. And I'm just shocked, I didn't know what to believe. I was just sitting back and waiting to see how everything shakes out."
Tandy thinks that relief and improvement in atmosphere will also extend to the coaching staff, although he said he didn't see any evidence of that in spring practice. He also offered a prediction for the rest of the summer, and the running of the program under Holgorsen.
"Everything was going well during spring ball, but it is definitely more relaxed now. I would think things stay the same because I don't think [Holgorsen] will have time to change much."
Stewart, in his goodbye message to the 15-20 assembled players, didn't have a great to say – or, at least, much that Tandy would share publicly.
"The main thing he told us he would still be a Mountaineer. He said he'd still wear gold and blue on Saturdays, and that the only difference is that on Friday he'll be wearing red white and blue for his son (Blaine, who plays for Morgantown High School)."
Tandy considers himself a bit wiser now in the ways of college sports, although he's certainly no stranger to the ins and outs of the business. He will now be playing for his third head coach at WVU, and his primary recruiter, Butch Jones, has also moved on.
"I've learned it's definitely a business. Things are going to happen, and money is going to determine a lot of things. If you aren't making it, you better watch out."