West Virginia: Stewart promises 'smooth transition' with Holgorsen


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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- The news conference inside the West Virginia football facility Wednesday served as the simultaneous playing of "Taps" and "Reveille" -- something ended, something else began.

The gathering was a preview of what the Mountaineers program will look like for one season.

Wednesday afternoon, West Virginia coach Bill Stewart, who will coach the team through next season, and Dana Holgorsen, who will serve as offensive coordinator in 2011 before becoming head coach in '12, made their first public appearance together flanked by the man who devised this arrangement, athletic director Oliver Luck.

As Holgorsen walked to the podium to speak for the first time, Stewart, 58, detached a 'WV' logo lapel pin from his own jacket, stood face-to-face with Holgorsen, 39, and fastened the pin to Holgorsen's lapel.

"Here you go, buddy," Stewart said as the two firmly shook hands.

Holgorsen, who will relinquish his offensive coordinator position at Oklahoma State and begin at West Virginia the first day of '11, is the architect of some of the most potent offenses in college football, at Texas Tech and Houston. He stood nonchalantly at the podium, left hand in his pants pocket and spoke glowingly -- in a gravelly voice -- about what will eventually be his first head coaching position.

He agreed to a six-year deal that will pay him $1.4 million annually, with incentives that could reach about $2 million annually.

"This is a wonderful opportunity for me," he said, already adorned with a university necktie. "I can't wait for my six years ahead of me. I have been at four different places in the last five years and am tired of moving. ... I am looking forward to making this my home and I'm really excited about being here."

The first question to Holgorsen was about how next season will work, and if there could be a delicate situation with both he and Stewart on the same staff. Luck has said that Holgorsen will have full control of the offense from the time he arrives in Morgantown, and with defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel being retained, it renders Stewart largely powerless.

"If I thought it was a problem, I wouldn't be here," Holgorsen said. "I have a lot of respect for coach Stew and what he's done. I know what kind of person he is."

Stewart, who departs with the Mountaineers today for bowl week preparation in Orlando, Fla., as they ready to play North Carolina State Tuesday in the Champs Sports Bowl, sees no problems on the horizon.

"This will be a very, very smooth transition," Stewart said. "The direction of West Virginia is good. It is in great hands and will continue to be in great hands."

How this all came to be, how West Virginia went from a program that didn't appear to be seeking a new coach two weeks ago to one that introduced Holgorsen Wednesday, is a tale that began in mid-November after Luck had decided the direction of the program had to be shifted away from Stewart's command.

Holgorsen said his hiring by West Virginia likely wouldn't have been announced until "about nine days from now'' -- after the bowl game -- but persistent media reporting forced the school to go public sooner.

Holgorsen refused to talk about reports linking him to the then-vacant Pitt coaching job.

"I don't talk about that," Holgorsen said. "I didn't talk about this one and I don't talk about the rest of them. I don't ever shop myself around. I don't think that is necessary. I think the people who do shop themselves around have agendas and they are not really focused on the task at hand. ... I don't shop jobs and I don't talk about jobs."

What he wanted to talk about was football and his philosophy.

"I never want to go to work and not have fun," Holgorsen said. "And I never want these kids to go out to practice or go to a game and not have fun. Having the philosophy of keeping it loose and letting the guys be themselves, but on top of that, making sure you do things right. Making sure you play smart and you play hard and you play fast and it gives you a chance to be successful."


Colin Dunlap: cdunlap@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1459.


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