West Virginia's coaching situation is, to put it as mildly as we can, a total clusterfuck. Whoever in the athletics office thought it would be a good idea to hire Dana Holgorsen as head-coach-in-waiting, while still keeping current coach Bill Stewart around for another year, ought to find themselves out of a job soon — possibly along with both the current and future coaches. With Holgorsen's highly-publicized belligerence at a casino, and a slew of not-so-publicized alleged incidents with alcohol, and Stewart (or his wife) possibly feeding the local media the dirt, the Mountaineers have created a mess on the Monongahela.
When Rich Rodriguez left WVU prior to the 2008 Fiesta Bowl, not everyone was on board with the hiring of assistant Bill Stewart. One prominent booster said "he is so overmatched it's not even funny...I want Bill Stewart to win and I want our program to be successful. But I feel bad for our future. I'm very concerned."
Three disappointing seasons later, the school had had enough of Stewart. In December, not even waiting for their bowl game, WVU brought on Dana Holgorsen as the next head coach, but didn't hand him the reins right away. Instead, he was named offensive coordinator, with the expectation that he would learn and serve under the lame duck Stewart.
"I think the transition year for coach Holgorsen will be very beneficial to the football program, and the opportunity to learn from coach Bill Stewart should not be underestimated," athletic director Oliver Luck said in a statement.
Another likely reason: Stewart still has three years to go on his contract, and if he is fired, WVU would owe him $850,000 a year. But if Stewart were to quit to take another job, he would owe the school $1 million. There was every indication that the school was willing to ride out a year of turmoil by putting pressure on Stewart to quit of his own accord, saving the program $2.7 million dollars for 2012 and 2013. But they got more turmoil than they expected.
In the early morning hours of May 18, Holgorsen was involved in an incident at the Mardi Gras Casino near Charleston, W.Va. Reportedly drinking and confrontational, Holgorsen was detained by casino security, who called 911. Holgorsen was escorted from the premises, and no charges were filed.
It was not, we would soon be told, an isolated incident. In an explosive piece in the Herald Dispatch on May 28, columnist Chuck Landon recounted six separate alcohol-related incidents that Holgorsen has been involved in over the last six months.
There was the Mardi Gras Casino situation. There was Holgorsen allegedly being asked to leave a Wheeling hotel, and later that same day a nearby casino. There was Holgorsen allegedly being asked to leave a Bridgeport, W.Va., golf club. And there were reports of three separate incidents at the Morgantown hotel where he lives — he's supposedly banned from the hotel bar.
The column was a hit piece, and it dug deep, also highlighting a 2008 incident in which Holgorsen, then a Houston assistant in town to play Marshall, was kicked out of a Huntington, W.Va. bar.
Landon's column was not sourced, but from the scope and detail of the incidents reported, it is clear that whoever is feeding Landon his information has a vendetta against Holgorsen. Suspicions naturally fell on the Bill Stewart camp.
Rewind to December, just after Holgorsen was hired. "Karen in Morgantown" called in to local talk radio, an older woman near tears about the lack of loyalty shown to Bill Stewart. Immediately, fans identified "Karen in Morgantown" with Karen Stewart, wife of the outgoing coach.
Yesterday, shit hit the fan. HailWV.com, a fan site, is reporting rumors that Karen Stewart was also the one behind the Herald-Dispatch hit piece, feeding Chuck Landon the stories of Holgorsen's drinking. Everyone else thinks it was Bill himself.
Today, the school has put Stewart's contract severance talks on hold while they "search members of the entire football program as well as other athletic-affiliated organizations" for spreading news and/or rumors about Holgorsen. It's clear who the school is standing behind, calling the stories "blatant inaccuracies" and "fabrications. If WVU can fire Bill Stewart "with cause", they will.
But even if AD Oliver Luck, by hiring one coach before firing another, hasn't created a situation where the family of one is exploiting the drinking problems of the other, he's done the next worse thing: he's created a situation where people believe that's what's happening. Small town drama on a national stage.
Luck and WVU must be seriously hamstrung by money to keep Stewart on this long, because the coach-in-waiting strategy has never worked. And you'd better believe that if the media and fans are taking sides in this acrimonious power-sharing agreement, the players and staffers will too. West Virginia has become toxic and untenable, and they have their two coaches to blame.