Stewart met with Holgorsen before West Virginia's move


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West Virginia's courtship of football coach Dana Holgorsen did not transpire as some have perceived or as current coach Bill Stewart had characterized it earlier in the week.

The operation was not one 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 more than a month and Stewart knew exactly what was going on.

On Dec. 9, Stewart 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 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Tuesday. When he was reached by phone on his way to a recruiting trip, 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 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 Thursday and told that the Post-Gazette had confirmed he had attended such a meeting in Houston last week, refused to comment.

Luck confirmed a few more gatherings.

In the pursuit of Holgorsen, the coach traveled to Morgantown and was given a tour two weeks ago of the campus and city.

Luck also 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 for the 2011 season, and then jump to head coach in '12. Casteel, and most, if not all the defensive coaches, will remain on staff even when Holgorsen becomes head coach.

Stewart will remain the coach in '11, then move to an administrative role in the athletic department thereafter until his contract runs out at the end of the '13 season.

Yesterday, Luck said of Holgorsen, "I wanted him to be at this university to lead us in the long term and that was my thought process because he is one of the great, outstanding coaches in college football today and I do think he can lead us to a national championship."

Perhaps that is why Luck went after Holgorsen, 39, with such ferocity.

Luck confirmed that 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 played out for the Mountaineers, who had three regular-season games left at that point.

A source 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, at the 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 fired at the end of this season -- which ends after the Dec. 28 Champs Sports Bowl against North Carolina State -- after he took the initiative Wednesday to call Luck, who was his teammate at West Virginia.

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.

WVU coach Bill Stewart told the Post-Gazette Tuesday that he "wasn't aware of anything" in regards to West Virginia's courtship of Dana Holgorsen.


Colin Dunlap: cdunlap@post-gazette.com


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