Many Mountaineer fans want athletic director Shane Lyons to pull the plug on West Virginia University football coach Dana Holgorsen after securing just his first eight-win season since joining the Big 12 in 2012.
Although he hasn’t surpassed the seven-win mark during the regular season in the Big 12 era and won only two bowl games, including a 43-42 thriller over Arizona State in the Cactus Bowl in January, the circumstances surrounding Holgorsen’s contract continue to raise questions about the state of the program.
Heralded defensive backs coach Brian Mitchell suddenly departed for Virginia Tech last week and surprised the entire college football landscape. His unit tallied 23 interceptions last year, the second highest total in the nation.
Mitchell left to join first-year head coach Justin Fuente, who guided Memphis to a 19-6 record during his final two seasons, coaching likely first round quarterback Paxton Lynch.
Mitchell’s departure comes just weeks before spring practice begins and two months before the spring game, leaving WVU without a coach in the secondary at a crucial point. It lost all but one of its starters in the secondary, with junior Dravon Askew-Henry the only returner.
Daryl Worley left a year early for the NFL Draft, and Terrell Chestnut graduated. KJ Dillon shined at the Senior Bowl and is a likely NFL Draft selection in April. Even Rick Rumph, who replaced Worley in the Cactus Bowl after Worley was academically ineligible, also graduated.
But Mitchell took his talents to Blacksburg, to a program in its first year without legendary coach Frank Beamer. Now Dana Holgorsen and WVU have to deal with the effects of losing one of the nation’s top position coaches.
And it could possibly be Holgorsen’s last season in Morgantown. His previous five seasons have resulted in a 36-28 overall record and a 20-23 showing in the Big 12, failing to execute in the latter part of his first four seasons.
Although a Cactus Bowl victory ensured his first eight-win season since an Orange Bowl season (his first year) in 2011 during the program’s final year in the Big East, it was his first bowl win in five years.
He and Shane Lyons failed to reach an agreement on an impending contract extension. Holgorsen’s uncertain future continues to affect the program in a multitude of ways, highlighted by the sudden exit of Mitchell.
The 2017 recruiting class has just one commit, the lowest total in the conference. Despite finishing the 2016 class strong in the waning moments before Signing Day, the upcoming crop of talent features one lone player from Morgantown, Maverick Wolfley.
Recruits struggle to choose a school where the future is up in the air and questions linger, especially when talks on a contract extension have ceased. It’s relatively early in the process and many have the Mountaineers near the top of their list, but unknown futures are what opposing recruiters and coaches feast on when talking to potential prospects.
In this day and age, coaches aren’t given long amounts of time to prove themselves.
They either find a way to win right away or the new home they found is a place they used to live. Holgorsen has one more year to prove himself and he likely needs to surpass the seven-win regular season mark to remain in Morgantown.
If the Mountaineers don’t surrender a 10-point halftime lead at Kansas State in the regular season finale, there may be little-to-no discussions surrounding Holgorsen’s future.
Instead, it’s led to halted contract extension talks that hinge on 2016’s success and a schedule that features Missouri and BYU in the nonconference slate.