There is never a right time for a divorce, but after three years of ups and downs, the relationship between West Virginia and Jarret Doege was destined to end. And with him leaving, it magnifies a larger problem within college sports — the fans.
West Virginia quarterback Jarret Doege played for the Mountaineers over the last three seasons. He was the starter for two of them after playing in four games in 2019.
In three starts in 2019, Doege won two of those games, including a win on the road over the No. 24 team in the country, followed by a loss to the No. 22 team in the country by only seven points. Safe to say many West Virginia fans thought Doege was going to be the next successful quarterback and they displayed these messages on twitter.
Going back to the two week period between Nov. 16, 2019 and Nov. 29, 2019, fans took to social media to show their praise to their new quarterback.
“Doege is the real deal,” one fan wrote on Nov. 16, 2019. “Doege hasn’t played his best game today, but there’s something about him that makes you feel confident the game is never over when he’s out there,” another fan wrote after West Virginia’s 20-17 win over TCU. That same day another fan tweeted, “I know that Doege has made some poor decisions today, but the offense just seems to have life with him in there. Already can’t wait for next season!”
Fast forward to Dec. 31, 2021. After West Virginia got beat handily by Minnesota in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl, Doege was out, as he announced he was entering the transfer portal. While there are many reasons for this including an incoming four-star quarterback, Doege wanting a fresh start for his final year of eligibility, one of the reasons has to be because of the toxicity of a fanbase that failed to look past Doege’s inconsistent play on the field and see the person and competitor Doege truly was.
I will be the first to admit, being the quarterback of a power five program with the history and recent success that West Virginia has had is not for everyone, but attacking someone personally on twitter does not make it anymore desirable for future recruits to want to come to said school.
Soon after Doege announced his decision to transfer, many fans took to facebook and twitter to voice their pleasure with Doege moving on.
“We did it guys, we bullied him out of Morgantown,” one fan tweeted. Another tweeted, “greatest thing that has ever happened to WVU football.” Facebook brought out similar responses. One fan commented “we never loved him anyway… he probably knew he was going to transfer so he didn’t really care one way or the other West Virginia one [won] or not. Clearly I think most of us are glad he’s gone.”
Unfortunately, for the fans who say Doege did not want to be here or did not care about WVU, they have to look no further than Doege’s final game as a Mountaineer. Against Minnesota, Doege was sacked five times, hit another three times and continued to get back up and try to compete for his team.
The truth is the expectations for Doege were too high from the beginning, plaguing fans’ view of him. After 2018, many fans thought West Virginia was back on the map for football. They had a third round draft pick at quarterback who led them within a possession of making the Big 12 Championship. Before 2019, only two teams since the year 2000 at West Virginia had losing seasons, and in the midst of having a new coach, high amounts of roster turnover and a young offensive line, Doege struggled and therefore West Virginia struggled.
This season, Doege had his highs and lows. There were games like Virginia Tech where Doege would throw an interception late that would just seem dumb. But there would also be times where Doege went out and won West Virginia football games. Take Iowa State for example — Doege threw for 370 yards and three touchdowns and matched Iowa State the whole game, leading to a West Virginia win.
This season, West Virginia gave up 38 sacks, which puts them in the top 20 for most sacks allowed in the country. Doege easily could have said he doesn’t have much time in the pocket and therefore cannot complete the reads and throws he wants to. Instead, he would take responsibility and answer any and all questions about his play.
The problem is, being a fair weather fan is allowable if you are quiet about it, but bashing a player on social media who works as hard as he can and wants to win just as badly as anyone else is not how a good fanbase is built and how a program rebuilds itself.
Doege transferring is not solely because of the hate spewed towards him by the fans he went out and tried to win for every Saturday, but it could certainly be possible that is one of the reasons.
The point is this — there is a line between being critical of certain players, compared to going after their character and desire to play for and represent the school you cheer for. There are a majority of West Virginia fans who are passionate and care for student athletes, but are also critical of their play on the field. But the small percentage of fans who decide to attack a person’s character and toughness without actually getting to know the player is flat out childish and is not how you rebuild a winning culture.
Whether the future of West Virginia football is better or worse after Doege’s departure is to be seen, but Doege left his mark as being a reliable, hardworking and a competitor who all he wanted to do was win for the state of West Virginia.
Over the past season, I will be the first to tell you I have been critical of Doege’s play on the field at times, but if you think about it he was never supposed to be here in the first place. In 19 games at Bowling Green, Doege threw a combined 39 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. He was then brought to a power five conference, under a new coaching regime, with a young roster and in 27 games at West Virginia, Doege threw 40 touchdowns and 19 touchdowns.
Doege deserved better and college athletes deserve better. The narrative they don’t care about winning or losing for a certain school is just a way for fans to try and attack the athletes because they are unable to accept their team is having a down year. Now, Doege will transfer probably to a school that has an offense that fits him. Everyone wants to succeed, everyone wants to play their best ball, and Doege staying at West Virginia was not good for anyone, especially Doege, so he left.
Photo by Bryan Dougherty, Blue Gold Sports