MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WV News) — It was Mark Twain, a man who always had something to say, who once observed:
“If you have nothing to say, say nothing.”
West Virginia athletic director Shane Lyons must have missed that memo.
This is, of course, slightly different than the advice given by Thumper in the Disney movie “Bambi”, who said, “If you don’t have something nice to say about someone, don’t say anything at all.”
On Monday, Lyons issued a statement to the Associated Press’ John Raby in response to a story he wrote that noted the disappointment growing around the program’s 0-2 start with close losses to Backyard Brawl rival Pitt and to Big 12 opponent Kansas.
“... fans are in an uproar over two close losses and the Mountaineers’ first 0-2 start since 1979, with many pleading for a coaching change,” Raby wrote.
Lyons felt it was necessary to issue a reply, but it neither backed Brown nor challenged him.
In effect, it said very little, if anything, at all.
“I know and deeply care that our fans are frustrated with the start of the football season, but so are our coaches and student-athletes, who have busted their tails getting ready for the year,” Lyons began.
If we take this part of the statement alone, Lyons is saying that Brown and his players worked hard to get ready and are frustrated with the results ... but for more than $4 million a year it is reasonable to expect at the very least that of the coach.
And certainly, with the Backyard Brawl to open the season, one might expect that the student-athletes — a phrase Lyons prefers for image reasons rather using the term players — would bust their tails to get ready, especially now that not only are playing for their school but for their NIL sponsors.
“As athletics director, I am as disappointed as the fans, and I see how much our coaches and players care and want to win and make our fans proud,” Lyons went on.
Again, considering that Lyons hired Brown to replace Dana Holgorsen, one might expect that he would be disappointed that there has been only one winning season in three years and a record of 17 wins and 20 losses, while being picked to finish eighth this season in the Big 12.
Lyons reputation, you see, is as much on the line as Brown’s and, while it is too early to be thinking this far into matters, should he not be more than just disappointed and frustrated in what has transpired to date in what most agree is the season when improved performance is necessary for Brown to keep his job?
Lyons, of course, gave Brown an extension that wasn’t really necessary for anything more than showing an expensive amount of confidence in Brown.
With $16 million owed, who would Lyons be criticizing if he were to offer a harsh statement at this time?
“Everyone knows that the on-field results have not met expectations and absolutely no one is satisfied,” Lyons continued.
Again, this is simply stating the obvious. An 0-2 start leads the entire Mountaineer nation to belt out a chorus of the Rolling Stones “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction.”
Lyons went on to not that “there are 10 games left in the season and the focus is still on getting the results that we all expect.”
So ... ?
Doesn’t it make sense that the athletic director should be looking for something to change? After all, it’s been said that definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over and expect to get different results.
In the end, the statement did nothing but acknowledge that he and the fans were frustrated and disappointed along with the coaches and that the results had not met expectations.
But there was not so much as a hint that they won’t be tolerated should they continue and there was suggestion of what might transpire should the direction of the program not change rapidly.
It was simply a request for patience being given to a fan base that expects and deserves so much more than a sub-.500 team that celebrates being invited to a minor bowl with a .500 record.
College football has currently arrived at a crossroad in rebuilding its power structure and it would not be to WVU’s advantage to go into it as a fringe player in a conference that hasn’t yet etched out its own spot in the hierarchy.