WVU's Stewart assisted in courtship of new coach

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West Virginia's courtship of football coach Dana Holgorsen didn't exactly happen as some have perceived or as current coach Bill Stewart had characterized it earlier in the week.

It wasn't an operation carried out solely by athletic director Oliver Luck. No, the pursuit of Holgorsen, who was named the Mountaineers' head coach in waiting Wednesday, had been in the works in an official capacity for over a month and Stewart knew exactly what was going on.

On Thursday Dec. 9, Stewart even took a trip to Houston and, with Luck, met with Holgorsen at a hotel there to talk about the transition.

This is in direct contrast with what Stewart told the Post-Gazette on Tuesday. When he was reached by phone on his way to a recruiting trip on Tuesday, Stewart told the Post-Gazette 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."

In an interview on Wednesday night with the Tulsa World and Post-Gazette newspapers, Holgorsen was asked if he had spoken to Bill Stewart. Holgorsen confirmed that he met with Stewart and Luck last week in Houston.

Luck also confirmed the meeting.

Stewart, when reached today and told that the Post-Gazette had confirmed that he had attended such a meeting in Houston last week, refused to comment.

A source with knowledge of the situation confirmed that Luck arranged another meeting in the past month between Holgorsen and West Virginia defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel. The two met at an undisclosed location to talk strategy and the impending transition from Stewart as head coach to Holgorsen. Holgorsen will be the offensive coordinator and coach in waiting during the 2011 season and then elevate to head coach in 2012. Casteel will remain on staff even when Holgorsen becomes head coach.

Stewart will remain coach in 2011 then move to an administrative role in the athletic department thereafter until his contract runs out at the end of the 2013 season.

Luck confirmed today that on Nov. 14, the day after West Virginia played --- and defeated --- Cincinnati at home, he made Stewart aware that a change was imminent no matter how the remainder of the season was to play out.

A source close to the situation confirmed that Luck also told Stewart that, under the plan, Holgorsen was the intended target, had been for a few weeks already and West Virginia offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen and offensive line coach Dave Johnson would not be retained at the end of the season.

Luck instructed Stewart to break the news to his two staff members. Luck also told Stewart that if the head coach was uncomfortable doing so, he would tell them.

Stewart assured Luck he would inform them.

According to the same source, Stewart did not break the news to Mullen and Johnson, even though Holgorsen, during their meeting in Houston, told Stewart and Luck that, under no circumstances, would he keep Mullen or Johnson on staff.

Johnson only found out he would be terminated at the end of this season --- which ends following a Dec. 28 bowl game --- after he took the initiative to call Luck, who is his former teammate at West Virginia, on Wednesday.

In the interim, between the time Stewart first found out that Johnson was going to be let go, Johnson passed up two coaching opportunities that were extended to him --- one as a Division II head coach.

It is unclear if Stewart has yet to deliver the news to Mullen.

Colin Dunlap: cdunlap@post-gazette.com


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