Faith, he explained, is believing in something even when it seems hard to believe. Faith is believing in those you trust, because they have proven so many times that they can get the job done. Faith is believing in something that you know to be true, even when other people are telling you it is impossible.
Listen up Mountaineer fans, the message was meant for you. Over the last month, since former West Virginia head coach Rich Rodriguez decided to listen to the advice of the Steve Miller Band and take the money and run, I have been amazed at how the faith in WVU's athletic department has crumbled. One coach who turned his back on the program after suffering through one of the worst losses in its history and one donor who performed in the role of Batman's Robin for that same coach and only supported the program once his superhero put on the ‘flying WV' cape, spoke negatively about the administration, and suddenly Mountaineer fans were picking up their rifles and going on a hunt for the guilty party.
With every coaching rumor, every defection and every comment from the two heroes-turned-villians, more and more WVU faithful joined the hunt, and even a Fiesta Bowl win and the hiring of a true Mountaineer could not turn away the advancement. Even today, the message boards were filled with soldiers in Batman's army, looking to add a few more Mountaineers to the infantry.
My question is simple. Why?
Over the past five seasons, West Virginia's athletic department has moved to the forefront of college athletics. The basketball team has played for a Big East title, advanced to the Elite Eight, played in the Sweet 16 a year later, won an NIT title and brought home one of the elite coaches in the game. The football team has won three bowl games in a row, captured BCS bowl titles in two of the last three seasons, produced two All-Americans in the same season and put two athletes in the Heisman Trophy running in the same year. The swimming and diving team won a Big East title, the men's and women's soccer teams are both among the nation's best, the women's basketball team is ranked in the top 25 and the wrestling and gymnastics programs are both perennial powers.
"Yes," you say, "but coaches are leaving at an alarming rate, and I don't have faith in their ability to replace them." Let's look at the last three major coaching hires the WVU program made before bringing on Bill Stewart. First there was Rich Rodriguez, a couple years later it was John Beilein and then after that th Bob Huggins. Those, my friends, were great hires, and in my eyes they have proven that the athletic department knows what it is doing.
Folks, there are a lot of athletic departments that envy WVU right now, and we should be proud of what we have in place instead of trying to break it up. Eddie Pastilong and his crew have West Virginia in the top rung of college sports, and because of that I have faith in their abilities.
Back to the sermon, the preacher continued on speaking about how those without faith often fail to enjoy the great moments in life because they are always concerned about what is going to happen next. Now I knew for sure. This preacher in Aiken, SC, had to have been visiting the Blue & Gold News football board. I searched through the user names for an SCpreacher, WVUpreach or MountainpreachEER, but I came up empty.
Whether or not he is a Mountaineer fan in disguise, though, his message certainly applies. Just moments after the game I logged onto the boards only to read messages like, "How are we going to mess this up now?" "Enjoy this while it lasts, because it won't happen again," and finally, "Shoot, now this will take a little bit of pressure off of Pastilong."
I couldn't believe my eyes. Just a few short hours ago a group of Mountaineer players, who had been through a month most of us could never fathom, had upset one of the most historic programs in college football on one of the biggest stages possible. The team had finished 11-2 and knocked off a squad that many "experts" had already labeled as the best team in the country. But instead of enjoying the moments, counting the blessings that come with being a Mountaineer and going out and buying some Fiesta Bowl Champion t-shirts, many WVU faithful were complaining and worrying.
I immediately turned off the computer and went back to my celebration, but now after hearing the preacher's words I felt compelled to dish out a sermon of my own.
These are the glory days of West Virginia football, and WVU athletics in general, and it is time to enjoy it. The fun of being a sports fan is celebrating the big wins and seeing your team accomplish things that many believe they can't achieve. Those moments make instances like the loss to Pitt, Rodriguez's departure, the Sugar Bowl loss to Florida and the blocked punt against Miami all worthwhile. But if a Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma is not met with glee and celebration, then what is the point of being a fan. Following sports takes a lot of time and a lot of energy, so if it only brings an individual pain and worry, I cannot understand why that person would continue to watch.
So my Sunday sermon to you, the readers of BlueGoldNews.com, is to have faith in those in charge, they have earned it, and take a minute to stop and smell the roses. You may find calling yourself a Mountaineer much more enjoyable that way.
By the way, next week, bring some cash with you. I will be passing around the collection plate.