Who Will Decide?

A brief, two-sentence announcement from West Virginia University's Sports Information Office concerning the alleged incident involving offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen raises some thorny questions.

The release, in full, runs as follows:

"Athletic Director Oliver Luck and Head Coach Bill Stewart have been made aware of the alleged incident. Once they have all the facts they will deal with it appropriately."

The statement, of course, refers to reports that offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen was involved in a disturbance at the Mardi Gras Casino & Resort in Cross Lanes, W. Va., sometime around 3:00 a.m. on May 18. While details of the incident remain sketchy, it appears, at least from the view of local police departments responding to the call, that no laws were broken. No arrests were made, and Holgorsen was allowed to depart via taxi.

Were it not for the odd coaching arrangement that currently exists in West Virginia's football program, this story might have been a one-day wonder. However, given the fact that Bill Stewart is listed right alongside Oliver Luck as the two people who will "deal with the matter appropriately", it might run a bit longer than that.

Under ordinary coaching circumstances, the head coach would certainly be involved in any disciplinary action. But given the revised agreement that Stewart is currently operating under, does he really have the power to do so? Stewart's duties aren't spelled out explicitly in the revised agreement, so it might probably take a gaggle of lawyers to sort out his authority level, should he choose to press the issue.

Dana Holgorsen's offer sheet is only slightly more clear. (Holgorsen has never signed his contract, so he is still working under the terms of the offer sheet.) In it, he is given "managerial authority over the offense, including, but not limited to, offensive play calling, personnel decisions, hiring and firing of offensive staff coaches". The term 'personnel decisions' is clearly a broad one, and while it was probably meant to convey supervision of the offensive staff, it's now an area that may have to be examined. In effect, might Holgorsen have authority over himself? That's a stretch of course, but if he's not going to make a disciplinary decision that involves himself, who will? Stewart? Or Luck?

This background leads to the biggest questions. What was West Virginia thinking in listing Stewart's name with Luck's in the press release? Was it simply a rehash of the common statement that is put out by every school in response to incidents of this sort? Was Stewart's name left in on purpose, or was it an oversight? Was it meant to convey that Stewart is still the head coach, and has at least some authority over the offensive staff? And in the end, will Stewart really be the one who hands down any disciplinary action, if in fact it is required?

Officials at West Virginia did not have any additional clarification on these questions, so it's unclear as to whether or not the inclusion of Stewart's name was intentional or not.

The best guess at this point is that Luck will make the determination of any action, with minimal involvement of Stewart. Given the parameters of his current modified agreement, and the political realities of the current coaching situation, it looks as if this decision will fall on Luck, if any further action is indeed required. What it does, however, is serve once again to highlight the incredibly awkward coaching situation that WVU will continue to deal with for the next seven months.

Mutliple sources have indicated that further announcements on the situation could come from West Virginia as early as this evening.

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