West Virginia's football coaching situation takes strange, new twists
Dana Holgorsen, left, new West Virginia's football offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach receives a West Virginia pin from head coach Bill Stewart at a press conference in Morgantown, W. Va Dec. 22, 2010.
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West Virginia football players say they are doing their best to ignore off-field allegations that have muddied the Mountaineers' coaching situation and cast a pall over the program.
Mountaineers players spoke with reporters Tuesday afternoon at the Milan Puskar Center on West Virginia's campus at a news conference that had been scheduled to discuss summer conditioning. But most players spent a lot of time addressing questions -- or deflecting them -- about the controversy surrounding head coach Bill Stewart and head coach-in-waiting Dana Holgorsen.
The controversy heightened early Tuesday morning, when Colin Dunlap, a former reporter for the Post-Gazette who used to cover the team for the newspaper, said on radio station 93.7 The Fan that Stewart had asked him "and at least one other reporter" in December to dig up "dirt" on Holgorsen. Dunlap was a guest on Chris Mueller's late night show.
Stewart was not immediately available for comment, according to West Virginia athletic spokesman Michael Fragale.
"I don't care, we could have no coaching staff next year," said junior offensive lineman Jeff Braun. "We're still going to field a team, and I'm still going to go out there and play."
Holgorsen recently apologized for an alcohol-related incident in which he was asked to leave a casino near Charleston, W.Va. While a local news report said he was involved in other alcohol-related incidents, most of those have been refuted by the university, which has cited "blatant inaccuracies." None of the alleged instances violated any laws.
"We ain't focused on that right now," said senior defensive linemen Bruce Irvin. "I love coach Stewart and I love coach Holgorsen. It's unfortunate. You never want this type of publicity."
Braun said he has tried to ignore the situation and chalked up a lot of the attention surrounding the program to a slow news cycle.
"I understand it's June, and there's no football," he said. "I understand the fact that everybody wants something to talk about."
Some, Irvin included, are paying attention -- he was surprised to see West Virginia as the lead story on a national sports TV show. But he said it is not a constant topic of conversation among players.
The university, meanwhile, is trying to take control of the situation while trying to discover if anyone within the school leaked potentially disparaging information about Holgorsen. In an interview on The Fan later Tuesday morning, West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck called the latest allegations "serious," but said he needed to look into the situation more before commenting.
"I'd be the last one to deny we're in a little bit of a controversy," Luck said.
He was non-committal when asked if either Stewart or Holgorsen would be head coach come fall.
"I am not worried about the Mountaineers going into the season without a head coach," he said. "That will not happen."
In the interview, Luck also called into question his decision to hire a coach-in-waiting. He said he thought it would be a good idea, so that Stewart could mentor Holgorsen, and Holgorsen could focus on installing his up-tempo offense.
"In my mind I thought it made some sense," he said. "In retrospect, we can all second guess. ... Would I do it again? I don't know."
Luck, through Fragale, declined an interview request from the Post-Gazette. He released a statement shortly after his radio interview, in which he said he is aware of the situation and considers it a "personnel matter" that he will not discuss publicly.
West Virginia hired Holgorsen, 39, in December. He is supposed to be Stewart's offensive coordinator this fall. Holgorsen, the former offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State, is scheduled to become the Mountaineers' head coach in 2012 while Stewart, 58, will be shifted into a different role within the athletic department for the rest of a contract which runs through the '13 season.
"My expectations of all our coaches and staff have not wavered; that is to run a clean and honest program with the utmost integrity and professionalism," Luck said in the news release. "Anything less is unacceptable and will not be tolerated."
First Published June 8, 2011 12:00 am