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Holgorsen takes over as coach at West Virginia
CHARLESTON, W.VA. (AP) - Last December, Oliver Luck brimmed with confidence that offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen, a night owl, and lame-duck coach Bill Stewart, an early riser and family man, could work together in a unique arrangement for the 2011 season.
Unhappy about the Mountaineers’ lack of production, West Virginia’s athletic director hired Holgorsen away from Oklahoma State, where his offense had put up ridiculous numbers. Holgorsen would run West Virginia’s offense while Stewart would coach the team one final season before slipping into an administrative job.
Six months later, the arrangement had fallen apart, and now Holgorsen, two weeks shy of his 40th birthday, is a college head coach for the first time.
“At the time, I thought it made a lot of sense,” Luck said Friday night. “I thought it was good management practice. With hindsight, folks could certainly disagree.”
Stewart resigned Friday during a meeting with Luck, clearing the way for Holgorsen’s promotion and capping a tumultuous two weeks in which both Holgorsen and Stewart made headlines for the wrong reasons.
An intoxicated Holgorsen was escorted out of a casino last month, although no charges were filed. More recently, a reporter said Stewart had approached him shortly after Holgorsen’s hiring to “dig up” dirt on his eventual successor.
During a news conference in Morgantown, both Holgorsen and Luck tried to sidestep questions about the issues that had gotten the university plenty of media attention. Luck said the recent developments had to be addressed.
“I think it was a combination of things,” Luck said. “The program … is more important than any individual, is more important than any coach, any player, and clearly, this was becoming a distraction for our football program.
“It was the right thing to do.”
Holgorsen will carry dual duties as offensive coordinator and head coach in the upcoming season and will hire an offensive coordinator down the road.
“This is the chance of a lifetime. I understand that,” Holgorsen said.
He said he had yet to talk to his players but said nothing has changed as far as focus goes.
“Kids are resilient,” Holgorsen said. “Change is tough, but it’s least tough on kids. The one thing that will be preached every day is unity.”
Growing up in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, Holgorsen recalled watching the teams of WVU Hall of Fame coach Don Nehlen, who led the Mountaineers to two undefeated regular seasons and retired after the 2000 season.
“He set the standard for what it’s like here, both on and off the field,” Holgorsen said. “And I look forward to living up to those standards as well. … I understand what the expectations are to wear the blue and gold, you know, and those expectations both on and off the field are something I look forward to living up to.”
Luck said Holgorsen is ready for this challenge and understands the enormous responsibility that goes with it.
“I have 100 percent confidence in coach Holgorsen and in our offensive and defensive assistant coaches,” Luck said.
Stewart, who turns 59 on Saturday, will be paid a severance sum that Luck said remains confidential and Stewart’s ties with the university have been severed after 11 years, including three as head coach in which he went 28-12 but failed to produce a Bowl Championship Series berth.
“As I said on the day I was appointed head coach, what is best for WVU is my first priority,” Stewart said. “Today, I am doing what I believe to be in the best interest of the Mountaineer Nation.”
Associated Press Writer Vicki Smith in Morgantown contributed to this report.
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