A small rift gained legs this week as many thought that Dana Holgorsen’s days were numbered at West Virginia.
Word started with Mitch Vingle of the Charleston Gazette-Mail. His column published on Tuesday sparked a debate and led many to believe that WVU Athletic Director Shane Lyons was about to pull the plug on the fifth-year head coach.
"“When reached Monday, Lyons said he had no comment on Holgorsen’s status,” Vingle wrote. “Reliable sources, however, have said the athletic director and coach have talked about the situation a couple times. Those discussions will continue in the coming days.”"
Vingle’s story was picked up by national media outlets including The Washington Post.
"“One sticking point might be the cost of firing Holgorsen and hiring a new coach: around $15 million,” wrote Matt Bonesteel of The Post. “About $8.725 million would go toward buying out Holgorsen and his staff, an amount that will decrease some after the first of the year. It might be worth it for Lyons to wait until after the Mountaineers’ Jan. 2 Cactus Bowl game against Arizona State to make a move, especially considering the coaching carousel has passed West Virginia by anyway.”"
Lyons and some WVU brass, including well-liked President E. Gordon Gee were in New York City earlier this
Nov 28, 2015; Morgantown, WV, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers head coach Dana Holgorsen is seen in the offensive huddle during the fourth quarter against the Iowa State Cyclones at Milan Puskar Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports
week for a private meeting of the Mountaineer Athletic Club, as well as the Mountaineers basketball game at Madison Square Garden.
Whether the higher ups of the university gathered to meet in NYC or back in Morgantown is not truly known, but the group collectively came to a decision, which is Holgorsen will be the Mountaineers’ mentor in 2016.
Beyond that remains to be seen.
"“After evaluating our football program after the close of the regular season, I believe that continuity is best for our program,” Lyons said in a statement. “I know that Dana, his staff and everyone who supports Mountaineer football was disappointed with how our regular season ended, following a four-game winning streak.”"
Plus, the West Virginia season is not over. The tough 24-23 loss on the road at Kansas State on Dec. 5 is what first forced Lyons to decide on Holgorsen’s future. Losing a very much winnable game against the Wildcats did set the Mountaineers back and showed the Holgorsen couldn’t coach his team to victory.
But he gets another chance. The bowl game against a 6-6 Arizona State team should be very winnable, also. If Holgorsen can regain control of the team and fire them up to pull out a win, he’ll not only secure confidence from Lyons and Gee, but he’ll also win back a large potion of the fan base he lost with the defeat at Kansas State.
Prior to that game, even as the Mountaineers were in the midst of a four-game winning streak, Holgorsen wanted to see improvements from the offense. By not reaching the next level against KSU, Holgorsen failed again.
Holgorsen does have a winning record over his five seasons at WVU, 35-28. Though that’s only a 55.5 winning percentage. Former head coach Bill Stewart was forced out after three seasons and a 70-percent winning percentage.
His hiring made sense. Holgorsen was needed to navigate West Virginia’s new journey into the Big 12. He had experience and contacts there and could make the transition easier.
So far that hasn’t been the case. Still, Holgorsen needed a sixth year for recruiting purposes and to maintain stability. However, a six-win season will punch his ticket out of Morgantown. A 10-win season in 2016, then Holgorsen deserves an extension.
He can start building for double digits with a win in the Cactus Bowl.