This time of year is the part of WVU athletic director Shane Lyon’s job that is not envious. Now days after West Virginia’s season finale at Kansas State, Mountaineer fans are still reeling over the loss. Every message board and social media page dedicated to WVU football is full of negativity and you can rest assured that Lyons is hearing all of it.
For Holgorsen it was right back to business after returning from Kansas. He spent the last few days on the recruiting trail and will be in New York tonight alongside Lyons supporting coach Bob Huggins and the West Virginia Mountaineers basketball team as they play Virginia in the Jimmy V Classic.
At this moment there are no indications that Holgorsen will not be back next season as WVU’s head football coach, however it would be untrue to say a definitive decision has been made. Lyons is currently evaluating the entire program just like he had promised during the season. Although it is unknown at this point if Holgorsen will return in 2016, it is unlikely that an extension will be offered — at least not yet. Or will it?
While a re-negotiation of Holgorsen’s contract would be in the best interests of the university, selling more years to an upset fanbase would be a tall task, one in which Lyons may not be inclined to attack just yet. However, this option has been on the table for some time. Even before Lyons took over as athletic director.
There are multiple reasons, though, that a contract extension is a smart move if Lyons does decide to stick with the fifth-year coach. Repeated stories of Holgorsen on the hot seat and a contract that is set to expire in 2018 does not bode well from a recruiting standpoint. Further, the one-sided contract former AD Oliver Luck approved has handcuffed Lyons in more ways than one. A re-negotiation of that contract would have to require more years — it simply would not be lucrative any other way.
But a contract extension would guarantee Holgorsen for years to come, right? Not necessarily. All indications are that Lyons will try to undo what Luck had done, and that is make the contract more favorable to West Virginia University. A significant decrease in the buyout would be a foregone conclusion if an extension was agreed upon.
In the end, though, this may all be for nothing. Lyons may decide it is time for the program to go in a different direction now. Although, the longer there is silence, the more probable it is for Holgorsen to back at the helm in 2016. This holds especially true after the bowl game. It is possible the Cactus Bowl could be a make or break game for Holgorsen’s future. The eight win threshold was discussed HERE back in early November.
The true unknown here is Lyons, though. Fans knew what they were getting with Luck, but he jumped ship before a decision of this magnitude took place — well sort of. The handling of Bill Stewart’s removal is still very clear in the minds of Mountaineer fans. And while the fanbase was split over Stewart’s tenure at WVU, Lyons must take that incident into consideration.
Making a major coaching change at a power school like West Virginia can be a career-altering decision. Many applauded Luck for ousting Stewart, now many of those same people are upset at the terms of Holgorsen’s contract. While Luck was very private in his dealings at WVU, Lyons may be more so.
It is hard to fathom that neither Lyons nor WVU president Gordon Gee have given the situation with the highest-profile position at the school any thought. It would be even harder to grasp that a one-point loss to Kansas State was the final straw. This decision could have very well been made a month ago but announcing Holgorsen’s return after an 0-4 October would have been a bad move. It would have been easier to wait until after the season. It would have been much easier had WVU pulled out a victory over Kansas State.
But as many reasons as there are to keep Holgorsen there are just as many that favor taking the program in a different direction. Holgorsen’s win percentage, that is only second to Frank Cignetti, is the worst in WVU coaching history. And while stats are just stats the argument that the Mountaineers schedule is exponentially tougher than prior coaches has started to fall on deaf ears with the fan base.
Questionable coaching decisions have also hindered Holgorsen’s favorability with the WVU fan base. While honesty is a virtue many coaches struggle to grasp Holgorsen has a tendency to be truthful about mistakes. It is an admirable trait to be able to stand in front of the world and own a mistake. Unfortunately repeated admissions of guilt eventually will result in criticism instead of understanding. This seems to be the case with Holgorsen.
Expectations were set very high for Holgorsen, not by Holgorsen himself but by Oliver Luck and the media. It was truly not until this season that Holgorsen was confident enough to boast improvements. That has seemed to backfire on him as the Mountaineers finished the Big 12 4-5 on the season.
One aspect of this situation that many have not touched upon is the fact that Dana Holgorsen and Shane Lyons have a prior working relationship. Lyons was the associate athletic director at Texas Tech during Holgorsen’s early years in Lubbock. Indications are that this relationship has worked, and is currently still working in Holgorsen’s favor.
In the unlikely event that Lyons announces Holgorsen’s contract has been terminated, expect a replacement to be named almost immediately. (As a side note there is only one coach being remotely mentioned and it is truly not worth discussing further at this time) But also do not be surprised to hear of a possible contract extension, either. No matter Lyons decision it will be met with scrutiny.