MORGANTOWN - Chances are by now you have heard that Dana Holgorsen had some rather pointed things to say at his Tuesday press conference about the fan support - or the lack thereof - for West Virginia's football program.
If not, here's the Cliff's Notes version, and we'll expound on it in just a moment:
It sucks. You think this is big time? Think again.
Notice there are no quotation marks there. We're paraphrasing, folks. But even if those weren't the exact words, they convey the thought.
Now, we're not going to jump right into what Holgorsen actually said because, before we do, there is a certain relevance to an even larger issue here that I am obliged to point out. I don't need to condense it to the Cliff's Notes or Readers Digest version because it is really quite simple:
At a point in its evolution when West Virginia's athletic program is doing everything in its power to market itself to bigger and better conferences than the Big East, this is the unsaid. We can debate and lament until we're blue in the face about WVU's academics, its relatively small budget, its stadium size and other facilities, it's television market and the small size of the state in which it is located.
The fact of the matter is, many of those ills can be overcome by a large, rabid fan base. But the bottom line is, while you may include yourself as rabid, you are not large. You say you are, but you are not.
Or, better yet, let Holgorsen say it.
"We're all talking two weeks ago about how much difference the fans and the crowds make to the LSU people,'' Holgorsen said. "Well, LSU played well in front of 62,000 of our people and then turned around and went home and played a 1-4 Kentucky team at noon and had 95,000 people there. You want to talk about an elite program, that's one. I don't know about this place.''
Ouch. That hurt.
But it is absolutely and without a shred of doubt an issue.
You want numbers? Fine. Here they are. I didn't even have to look them up because I wrote about them just a few weeks back.
In the 10 seasons prior to this one, West Virginia played 65 home games. While some were technically sellouts, the actual attendance at only 19 of those 65 home games was at or above the stadium's capacity of 60,000.
In 2002, the Mountaineers were 9-4 and didn't draw a capacity crowd for a single game. In only two of the last 10 years did the school draw more than two crowds of 60,000. And even in those two seasons - 2006 and 2007 - there were four games where the attendance was below capacity.
This year? Well, for the past three seasons everyone complained that Bill Stewart had wrecked the program, in large part because he and Jeff Mullen drove an exciting, high-powered, score-at-will offense off a cliff. Enter Holgorsen. Problem solved. Not only is West Virginia 4-1 and ranked No. 16 in the country, the offense absolutely could not have done more of an about-face. You want passing? Two quarterbacks in the country have thrown for more yards than West Virginia's Geno Smith. You want running? No back in the country has run for more yards in a single game than Dustin Garrison did for the Mountaineers last week.