Timeline Of A Transition

In a meeting with the media Thursday afternoon, WVU athletic director Oliver Luck revealed that Mountaineer head football coach Bill Stewart knew by mid-November that he would not continue in that position beyond the 2011 season.

That did not jive with Stewart's own assertions, both to the entire contingent of media that covers West Virginia University athletics on a conference call in late November and when he told the Blue & Gold News that reports of him considering retirement were "completely false."

According to Luck, Stewart had no such power to be making his own decisions about his future by the time those statements were made.

Outside his office at the Coliseum Thursday afternoon, Luck told a crowd of media members that he and Stewart, along with an "advisor" of the head coach and WVU's general counsel, had met on Nov. 14, the Sunday immediately following the team's 37-10 win over Cincinnati.

"At that point, Coach Stewart was informed that I was not satisfied with the direction the program was going in, and that changes would be made," Luck said.

On that date, Stewart's employment agreement with the University was altered. It included two possible outcomes for the Mountaineer head coach at season's end: either Stewart would retire at the end of the 2010 season or he would be retained for the 2011 season (and nothing beyond 2011).

That decision did not rest with Stewart. Luck had the power to determine which of those two options would be taken, and after West Virginia went on a four-game winning streak to end the season, the first-year athletic director opted to bring back the head coach for one more "transition year."

"The decision was mine, and that decision was made at the conclusion of the season," Luck said. "I thought Coach Stewart did a marvelous job in the second half of the year, and we went on a great win streak and I thought he deserved the head coaching position for the 2011 season."

By Nov. 23, Luck and Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen had met in person, as the athletic director, who was in Kansas City for the induction of WVU basketball great Jerry West into the College Basketball Hall of Fame, "made a side trip a little bit south and a little bit west to visit" Holgorsen.


Dana Holgorsen
Holgorsen ultimately reciprocated, visiting Morgantown and touring the West Virginia campus and athletic facilities recently. Luck declined to give an exact date of that visit.

Luck also revealed that Stewart and Holgorsen, who was officially named the Mountaineers' offensive coordinator and coach-in-waiting Wednesday, had previously met in person.

That ran counter to the head coach's insistence to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette earlier this week that he "wasn't aware of anything" and "had not been in touch with Oliver Luck" and "didn't even know who this Dana fellow was."

The Post-Gazette then ran a story Thursday afternoon that said Stewart had actually met with Holgorsen and Luck at a hotel in Houston on Dec. 9.

Further, the report states that Stewart was given a directive from Luck to inform current WVU offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen and offensive line coach Dave Johnson they would not be retained at season's end.

Stewart, according to the Post-Gazette failed to do so, and Johnson did not learn of his fate until placing a phone call to Luck, his former Mountaineer teammate, on Wednesday. In the meantime, the report from Colin Dunlap states Johnson turned down two coaching offers elsewhere, including a head coaching job at the Division II level.

Luck initially confirmed that the team's assistant coaches were not made aware of the decision before it was formally announced by the school's sports information office Wednesday evening just before backtracking.

"No," he said at first, once asked whether the assistant coaches knew about the Nov. 14 agreement between Stewart and WVU. "Well, I can't speak to their mental awareness. I certainly did not speak with the coaches."

Pressed further to confirm that was left up to Stewart, their boss, to do, Luck said, "Yes."

Regardless, Stewart will have the 2011 season to serve as the team's head coach and to prepare the football program for the transition to the leadership of Holgorsen.

Holgorsen will immediately have, in Luck's words, "authority, autonomy" with the team's offense, including the ability to make decisions about which (if any) current assistant coaches on that side of the ball will be retained and who the replacements might be for those who are not retained.

"He is in the process of talking to the offensive assistants today," Luck said.

"Those decisions will happen relatively soon. I know he's been on the phone with at least some of the offensive coaches, but I can't verify that he's talked to all of them."

Holgorsen will become WVU's head coach once Stewart moves into the Mountaineer athletic department after the 2011 campaign. Luck said Stewart's role in the department would be determined once it was time for the coach to move out of the head coaching position.

While some fans and other observers have criticized the move given Stewart's track record, including three consecutive nine-win seasons, Luck made his aspirations for the football program perfectly clear.

"I didn't believe we had an opportunity win a national championship with the direction of the program," Luck said. "At the end of the day, results matter. We weren't getting the results.

"And I think, as many of you know, there's a financial component to this. Our season ticket base has declined from Coach Stewart's first year to the present time. We've had, I think, only two crowds since 2004 under 50,000 at Mountaineer Field. Both of those took place in the last couple of years. Can you blame the weather? Sure. But to me, that is an indication that our fans aren't satisfied with the product, and that factors in as well."

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