Holgorsen, facilities and football future for WVU
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Cleaning out a crowded notebook and a cluttered mind while wondering what the future holds for Dana Holgorsen and the West Virginia football program:
And I suppose the real question is how long the two remain tied together.
Holgorsen, of course, is proceeding as if his employment will continue, at least for the foreseeable future. And I can't say that he's wrong. We'll get back to that, though.
In the short term, WVU's third-year coach is talking like a guy trying to build a program instead of one concerned about his job. At his Tuesday press conference, Holgorsen touched on facilities.
"There's a list and I don't think I'm being unreasonable with the requests that I'm asking for,'' Holgorsen said. "And we're working hard on trying to get out there and raise the money that we need to raise to make some of this stuff a reality.''
Raising money in the midst of a 4-7 season, of course, isn't easy. Then again, the money raised by the Mountaineer Athletic Club during the mess that has been the last six years (record amounts even during two messy football coaching changes) has been fairly amazing, so who knows?
There are essentially three big-ticket items on Holgorsen's short-term list, the first of which - a new weight room - is done. Next he wants another remodel of the Puskar Center that will provide a better full-team meeting room, along with turf on what is now a grass practice field.
I can't say that either is, as he said, unreasonable. The team meeting room hasn't changed much in three decades and is woefully inadequate. And that grass practice area - it's not one field, but rather about 11/2 - pretty much is wasted. It was once a nice idea to have both grass and turf on which to practice (the turf being the stadium itself), but with the advances in turf technology there's really not much difference now. Having all that grass just means watching weather reports before practice every day.
Then, down the road, the next step would be addressing the indoor practice building, which has been inadequate from the start. Holgorsen calls it "dysfunctional'' and he's right. It's less than full length, has block walls too close to the sidelines and the ceiling is too low to work on the kicking game.
"You've got to blow it up,'' Holgorsen said. "If you want to use it the way people want to be able to utilize your indoor, safety is key. You need run-off [adequate sideline space] and you need a proper length, and if you want to do the kicking game in there it has to be a little bit higher.
"It's dysfunctional. We use it for some offseason stuff, but it needs to be a little bit more functional.''
Of course, Holgorsen isn't the first coach who has pushed for renovations and improvements. The only difference between him and Bill Stewart or Rich Rodriguez or even Don Nehlen is the specifics. There's always work to be done and a wish list.
But is Holgorsen going to reap the benefits of any changes or is he simply tidying up the place for the next guy?
Well, I can't imagine any scenario where Holgorsen doesn't get at least one more year. To make a change after this season would seem to carry an $11.6 million price tag. Holgorsen's contract is, in fact, so one-sided that - at least according to the way my untrained legal mind reads it - if WVU were to fire him merely for being unsuccessful it would still owe him, in addition to $11.3 million in salary over the next four years, a $300,000 retention bonus due in the spring. Even if he wasn't retained.
Yeah, it's one-sided. If he were to pick up and leave it would cost him just $2 million.
This is much more than just a money issue, though. There is an argument to be made that Holgorsen is in the early stages of building what he wants. While you can rail on that the product on the field has done nothing but decline during his three years - it has - you don't get to decide if he seems to be on the right track or not. That's for Oliver Luck and the WVU administration to decide.
On the flip side, though, if you do decide he's not on the right track and you stop coming to games and revenues drop - and big-ticket donors rebel - well, then the finances involved in buying out a huge contract are obviously mitigated.
I can't see that happening, though, for at least another year.
That's not to say that changes won't be made by - or forced upon - Holgorsen.
As Holgorsen himself pointed out, Luck is a sharp football guy. Will he look at Holgorsen or his staff or anything else about the program and "suggest'' changes? Could be.
What those changes might be is anyone's guess. I can't see a wholesale changing of the guard as far as assistant coaches are concerned because that's been going on for three years. There's only one assistant coach, offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson, remaining from Holgorsen's first staff. When this season began, only defensive line coach Erik Slaughter was in the same position as the year before.
There's always the sticky question of Joe DeForest, of course, raking in $500,000 to coach special teams after his failed experiment as defensive coordinator. DeForest is under contract through next season, as are most of the assistants.
But shaking things up there - if for no other reason than as an appeasement to those who want to see something, anything changed and who still vilify DeForest for last year's defensive disaster (and his salary) - wouldn't seem far-fetched.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.