MORGANTOWN - West Virginia University Athletic Director Oliver Luck said Thursday that he had given football coach Bill Stewart two options in a Nov. 14 meeting - resign now or resign after the 2011 season, but Luck denied Stewart was being fired or forced out.
Luck instead said the Mountaineers would be in a transition, one with Dana Holgorsen as a coach-in-waiting for one season. After that, the former Oklahoma State offensive coordinator would assume the helm of the WVU football team. Stewart, whose contract was modified following that fateful meeting, will remain with the University in another role.
"Coach Stewart is not being fired," Luck said. "Coach Stewart was informed that I was not satisfied with the direction of the program, and that changes would be made. My goal is to win a national championship, and I didn't believe we had the opportunity to win a national championship with the direction of the program."
WANTING?MORE?— WVU?Athletic Director Oliver Luck said on Thursday he wasn’t satisfied with the direction of the football program. He said his goal is to win a national championship. (The Inter-Mountain/File Photo)
Holgorsen, 39, has agreed to a six-year contract, though Luck declined to discuss the financial specifics of the deal. Earlier reports had Holgorsen making between $500,000 and $800,000 as the offensive coordinator in 2011, and that salary would jump to between $1.4 million and $2 million after that. Luck would not discuss any issues surrounding a potential buy-out clause in the contract.
Stewart made $900,000 last season, the lowest among the Big East Conference's head coaches. Ousted offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen made just $241,582.
Luck also declined to discuss whether boosters who donated large lumps of cash to the athletic department entered into Stewart's dismissal, though he did say that there was a "financial component" to the action.
"I'm not sure what a big donor is (because) a lot of people contribute to the Mountaineer Athletic Club, whether it's a seven-figure sum or a three-figure sum," he said. "Our season ticket base has declined from Stewart's first year to the present time. We've only two crowds since 2004 under 50,000, and both of those took place in the last couple of years. Can you blame the weather? Sure. But to me, it is an indication that our fans aren't satisfied with the product."
Luck also took heated questions from the room after saying that "at the end of the day, results matter. We weren't getting the results." Stewart's record after three seasons is 28-11, the second best record of any Mountaineer coach in the program's history. He was won nine games in each season, despite having to replace eight starters on defense for the 2008 season and having a different starting quarterback in all three of his seasons.
Stewart is also 2-1 in bowl games, and his team is preparing to play North Carolina State on Dec. 28 in the Champs Sports Bowl.
While Stewart was denying reports of his retirement following a win over Pitt, Luck was meeting with Holgorsen about the possibility of coming to Morgantown. Luck said he took "a side trip" to Oklahoma after going to Kansas City for Jerry West's induction to the College Basketball Hall of Fame on Nov. 21. Holgorsen later traveled to Morgantown to view the city, the campus and the football facilities. Holgorsen also met and chatted with Stewart, Luck said. The athletic director also praised his newly hired coach for taking Oklahoma State from the No. 61-rated offense last year to No. 1 in 2010.
"I think Dana Holgorsen is one of the great coaches right now in college football," Luck said. "As I looked at a guy like Dana Holgorsen, I thought to myself that he would be a head coach somewhere very soon, and I wouldn't want to prepare against his offense. I wanted him to be at this University to lead us in the long term. He believes he can win a national championship, and that's why he came here."
Luck said Holgorsen will have the authority after the bowl game is completed to say who will be on the Mountaineers' offensive coaching staff. Luck said the defensive coaching staff will remain intact, unless those coaches decide to leave on their own.
"Jeff Casteel and Coach (Steve) Dunlap, Coach (Bill) Kirelawich and Coach (David) Lockwood have built a tremendous defense," Luck said. "They're punishing, and they're physical. I think the combination of that defense, along with this high-powered, high-octane offense under the leadership of Bill Stewart gives us a lot of excitement about the 2011 season."