MORGANTOWN - Despite the uniqueness and the awkwardness of what West Virginia's coaching situation has just become, Oliver Luck on Thursday tried to make it seem somewhat commonplace.
It isn't, of course, but that didn't stop WVU's athletic director from comparing it to two others in recent years - Wisconsin and Oregon.
"If you look at both of those programs, Wisconsin and Oregon, programs that we want to model ourselves after, they are today two of the most successful programs in the nation,'' Luck said.
Still, the comparisons might be a stretch.
On Wednesday, Luck hired Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen to be West Virginia's offensive coordinator in 2011 and then the head coach beginning in 2012. Holgorsen has signed a letter of intent that stipulates his pay ($800,000 the first year and $1.4 million plus incentives in 2012) and the length of the contract (six years total, five as head coach). Other details, such as any buyout, have yet to be worked out.
In making the decision to bring in a new offensive coordinator who will then replace Bill Stewart as the head coach in 2012, Luck said he studied "coach-in-waiting'' transition models that closely parallel this one. He came up with Wisconsin, which moved from Barry Alvarez to Bret Bielema in 2005 and 2006, and Oregon, which went from Mike Bellotti to Chip Kelly in 2008 and 2009.
"Everywhere else, the coach in waiting is, well, waiting,'' Luck said. "In those two there was a timeline.''
Luck pointed out the success both programs had immediately, noting that Wisconsin went from 10-3 in Alvarez's last year to 12-1 in Bielema's first and Oregon was 10-3 in both Bellotti's last and Kelly's first seasons. Kelly's Ducks are in the BCS national championship game this season, his second.
Still, in both of those cases, the new coach had been on staff for a year before any transition arrangement was made. In both instances, the outgoing head coach was a long-time figure who then moved into the role of athletic director by choice.
Bill Stewart is going nowhere by choice and he is being replaced by a coach who was thrust upon him, but Luck insists that the move will not be problematic.
"I think those transitions were handled very professionally in a very transparent fashion. They were very comprehensive and inclusive,'' Luck said. "We have the same opportunity here. I think Bill Stewart is an incredibly smart, good person, a good quality person. I think he very sincerely loves this university and wouldn't do a thing to harm it. I think Coach Holgorsen is a very smart, aggressive, young coach and I expect nothing other than both of those guys - and others on the staff - handling it very professionally.''
But who, Luck was asked, is really in charge next season?