Jim Justice was elected governor of West Virginia five months ago. Ever since, he’s been campaigning to oust Marshall football coach Doc Holliday in favor of his longtime friend and former Marshall coach Bobby Pruett, according to a report from the Charleston Gazette-Mail this week.
Pruett, who was head coach at the university from 1996 to 2004, appeared in a round of campaign ads for Justice last year. Justice reportedly began trying to fire Holliday and install Pruett as early as December, in a meeting he took with university president Jerome Gilbert as governor-elect. Neither Justice nor Gilbert would comment directly on the subject of their discussion.
“It was not a meeting to say, ‘Fire the coach and hire Pruett,’” a Justice aide said in a statement to the Gazette-Mail Wednesday evening. “It was a meeting to say, ‘Ratchet up your game and do something to get yourself back to greatness.’”
Three months later, Justice called several members of the school’s board of governors for a meeting—this time reportedly asking them not only to fire Holliday, but also to fire Gilbert and athletic director Mike Hamrick for their role in hiring Holliday and keeping him around.
Holliday has been the head coach of Marshall since 2010 and has overseen the team through an up-and-down last few seasons—a top-25 finish in 2014 compared to a 3-9 record last year. Pruett, now 73, said he was retiring from college football after a one-year stint as Virginia’s defensive coordinator in 2008.
Justice graduated from Marshall, as did his wife and daughter.
Update (9:45 p.m.): Holliday commented on the reports this evening.
“I’m sad. I think it’s sad, to be honest with you, sad day for everybody. That being said, I’m only concerned about this football team. My job is to coach this team … to be around these kids, love them and get them better so that we can become a better team. That’s the only thing I’m worried about.”