Early December through the end of January marks a time in college football that places athletic directors, coaches, players and fanbases in limbo. It’s a time of decision and indecision.
Programs that struggle often fire their staff. Successful teams see their head coach jump to a better job or even leap to the NFL. Not only does the head coach move but a majority of the time, so does his staff.
In the past weeks Texas fired Mack Brown, who was replaced just a week ago by Louisville’s Charlie Strong. Some of Strong’s assistants are going with him, while others are staying in Louisville to work for rehired head man, Bobby Petrino. At Texas, Strong has also called on Joe Wickline, one of the best offensive line coaches in the nation, leaving Oklahoma State with a vacant position.
That’s just one situation.
What about USC? That historic program saw four different men – Lane Kiffin, Ed Orgeron, Clay Helton and newly hired Steve Sarkisian – have the title of head coach in the calendar year of 2013.
Think about the ripple effect Bill O’Brien leaving Penn State for the Houston Texans is having. Penn State has hired James Franklin, who reportedly will bring four assistants with him from Vanderbilt, which will likely include defensive coordinator Bob Shoop.
My point is after seeing what a mess some of these situations have been, West Virginia Athletic Director Oliver Luck made the right decision at the end of the 2013 season by giving a bode of confidence in Dana Holgorsen.
Holgorsen then made the right decision in keeping the majority of his staff together, with the exception of not renewing Erik Slaughter’s contract and hiring Miramar’s Damon Cogdell, leaving eight of nine staff members returning this season.
All the programs above are essentially starting over by hiring new head coaches. While I’m not saying these programs won’t be great again, I’m just saying they are in rebuilding mode for at least one season.
And although WVU didn’t have a good season this past fall, hiring a new man would have halted the direction in which Holgorsen wants to take the program. Staff continuity is good for everyone, including the assistants and the players.
Only 18 programs nationally returned its entire staff from 2012 to 2013 and it paid off: 14 of those programs reached a bowl game in 2013, including Baylor and Ohio State.
By the start of spring football, Holgorsen will have had a full calendar year with his offensive staff. Offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson and wide receivers coach Lonnie Golloway have been with Holgorsen since he got to Morgantown, but running backs coach JuJuan Seider and offensive line coach Ron Crook were thrown into the fire right before spring football started a year ago.
Defensively, and probably most importantly, there isn’t a scheme change. West Virginia will finally have the same defensive coordinator in back-to-back seasons. After Jeff Casteel and his 3-3-5 stack left following the Orange Bowl, Holgorsen hired Joe DeForest for the 2012 season. That version of the 3-4 defense didn’t work, and Holgorsen handed the defense over to Keith Patterson.
Like it or not, with Holgorsen and staff back for 2014, the Mountaineer players won’t have to adjust to scheme changes or see new faces calling plays.
No change in Morgantown is the best change for this program.