It’s a weird time to be a West Virginia football fan.
At the beginning of the season, the idea was that Heisman candidate Will Grier and the Mountaineers would compete for its first Big 12 title. That never came to fruition and now, after three-straight losses to end the 2018 campaign, head coach Dana Holgorsen has gone from folk hero to expendable.
Holgorsen’s job security is in question. Not just by the fan base, either. There’s reason to believe his bosses (mainly athletic director Shane Lyons) are starting to play hard ball with the eighth-year head coach.
There are rumors aplenty floating around out there on social media, but don’t believe everything you hear.
Here’s a timeline breaking down what DubVNation has learned following the Mountaineers loss to Syracuse in the Camping World Bowl on December 28th.
Friday Night (Dec. 28th)
Following West Virginia’s loss to Syracuse, the Mountaineers fan base wasted little time voicing their displeasure of losing its fifth bowl game in six years. Houston, where Holgorsen served as the offensive coordinator from 2008-2009, was rumored to be in the hunt for a new head coach given it fired Major Applewhite following the Cougars 70-14 loss to Army in the Armed Forces Bowl.
Sunday (Dec. 30th)
Houston fires Major Applewhite after only two seasons and names Dana Holgorsen and Kliff Kingsbury as potential replacements. College football analyst Brett McMurphy reports that Kingsbury turned down a “lucrative contract” from the Cougars. It’s still unknown what that contract entailed, but would confirm the idea Houston is willing to pay up for a headline-grabbing hire.
During this time, DubVNation learned that Holgorsen did not travel back to Morgantown with the team following the bowl game. Not that this is unheard of or a telling sign of things to come, but it is worth noting Holgorsen traveled back with the team after the Cactus Bowl in 2016 and after the Liberty Bowl in 2014.
Late Sunday evening, DubVNation was contacted by certain recruits expressing concern over the situation. We were then told by an individual close to that situation that personnel inside of the program have confirmed Holgorsen would indeed accept the coaching position at Houston.
Monday Afternoon (Dec. 31st)
According to Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports, Houston has informed West Virginia University its intentions to interview Dana Holgorsen.
So, what’s really going on? And does it even make sense for Holgorsen to leave West Virginia for a “Group of Five” job?
First, you must understand that where there is smoke there is fire. These rumors are more than just keyboard warriors in search of attention. Holgorsen and Shane Lyons have a history of disagreement and have done very well keeping that relationship quiet. In 2016 and after Holgorsen guided the Mountaineers to a 10-3 season, Lyons awarded Dana a new, five-year contract worth 18.6 million dollars. Since the extension, the Mountaineers are only 15-11 and have not finished higher than fourth in the Big 12. That alone has disgruntled Lyons and may be the main reason Holgorsen is forced to explore opportunities elsewhere.
As Allan Taylor of WV MetroNews explained Sunday, Lyons and the athletic department are not interested in improving or extending Holgorsen’s current contract. And further more, it appears likely Lyons is more than willing to allow Holgorsen to resign.
It also shouldn’t be surprising that Holgorsen would move on from West Virginia given his strained relationship with Lyons and it’s even more plausible that move is made to Houston given his ties to the program. Houston’s billionaire booster, Houston Rocket’s owner and board of regents chairman Tilman Fertitta has been rumored to be capable and willing to shell out a earth-shattering contract to the right candidate. But given Dana’s frustration with his current contract and the negotiations that go with it, it wouldn’t be shocking if Holgorsen accepted less money to return to Texas.
Given both sides come to an agreement, expect an announcement Tuesday after Holgorsen’s buyout drops from $2.5 million to $1 million.