After almost three decades assisting someone else's program, John "Doc" Holliday became a college head coach yesterday.
Holliday, the associate head coach at West Virginia, was introduced as Marshall's new head coach, replacing Mark Snyder, who resigned Nov. 29 after going 22-37 in five seasons.
Holliday, 52, a Hurricane, W. Va. native, started to wonder if he would get an opportunity to lead a Division I-A program.
"There's only 120 of them," he said. "Until it actually happens, you're never sure."
Known as a fabulous recruiter -- particularly of players in talent-rich Florida -- Holliday signed a five-year contract worth $600,000 per season.
Holliday, who grew up 30 miles away from Marshall's campus, played linebacker at West Virginia from 1976-78. He spent 20 seasons as an assistant under former West Virginia coach Don Nehlen and again for current Mountaineers coach Bill Stewart the past two years. In between he spent five seasons as an assistant at North Carolina State and three seasons as associate head coach for safeties under Urban Meyer at Florida.
"I would like to congratulate Doc Holliday on becoming the head football coach at Marshall," Stewart said. "Doc has been a friend of mine for the past 30 years and these last two years have been really great to have him on our staff. His loyalty has been special for me and West Virginia University.
"He has provided two years of dedication and hard work to the Mountaineers. Now he gets a chance to lead his own program, which is what every coach aspires to. That said, we can be proud that this environment helped cultivate a leader and new head coach. We will be ready for him and his team when we square off next season."
West Virginia will immediately begin the process of searching for a successor for Holliday's now-vacant position.
Holliday was passed over for the West Virginia head coaching job after Rich Rodriguez left for Michigan in 2007. He was hired by Stewart as recruiting coordinator and associate head coach and was one of Division I-A's highest paid assistants at $406,000. In that capacity, Holliday was in charge of tight ends and fullbacks this season. He also has served as a coach of safeties, linebackers and wide receivers at West Virginia, but all along has been paramount in the Mountaineers' recruiting efforts.
Heading southwest from Morgantown to Huntington, Holliday immediately will be met with drastically differently circumstances at Marshall than he had at West Virginia -- on a number of levels.
Marshall saw a steady decline in attendance under Snyder; Marshall's stadium was half empty for its final three home games and the team averaged 22,236 fans this season, the lowest in Snyder's five seasons.
In tight financial times, Holliday also will have to tackle the issue of Marshall's lack of an indoor practice facility.
And then there is this: He must deal with skeptical fans who loathe his longtime ties with cross-state foe West Virginia.
"I'm a Marshall guy now," Holliday said. "They'll get to know me. I'll work my tail off."
Marshall still has a game to play this season, as defensive coordinator Rick Minter is the interim coach for the Thundering Herd (6-6) against Ohio (9-4) in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl in Detroit Dec. 26. Holliday does not to plan to attend the game.
He also said he will not coach West Virginia (9-3) in the Gator Bowl Jan. 1 when they take on Florida State (6-6).
Holliday will get reacquainted with the Mountaineers soon enough, as next season Marshall's first game is at Ohio State before the Thundering Herd play host to West Virginia.