West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck explained his decision to hire Dana Holgorsen as the successor to Bill Stewart on Thursday afternoon, and his comments were very interesting.
Luck said that ultimately he "didn't believe we had an opportunity to win a national championship with the direction of the program [under Stewart]. At the end of the day, results matter and we weren't getting the results." Stewart is 27-11 in three seasons, including 9-3 this year, but has not led the team to a BCS bid.
Luck said there was also a financial reason behind making the change.
"Our season-ticket base has declined from Coach Stewart's first year to the present time," he said. "We've had only two crowds since 2004 under 50,000, and both of them took place the last couple of years. Can you blame the weather for some of that? Sure. But that, to me, is an indication our fans aren't satisfied with the product."
So why bring Stewart back as head coach in 2011 instead of making the transition now?
"I thought Coach Stewart did a marvelous job toward the second half of the year and thought he deserved the head-coaching job for the 2011 season," he said.
Luck said he told Stewart on Nov. 14, the day after the team beat Cincinnati at home, that he wasn't satisfied with the direction of the program. He met with Stewart and legal representation and presented Stewart two options: resign after this season or stay for one more year. His contract was changed to reflect that.
Luck first talked with Holgorsen on Nov. 23 after attending Jerry West's induction into the College Basketball Hall of Fame in Kansas City. The two had never met before despite the fact both had worked in Houston at the same time.
Luck called Holgorsen one of the nation's brightest young minds whom he thought had a chance to win a national title. As for that potentially awkward 2011 transition year, Luck said he is using two models of succession plans: Wisconsin's move from Barry Alvarez to Bret Bielema and Oregon's from Mike Bellotti to Chip Kelly. Both the Badgers and Ducks are in BCS games and ranked in the top 5.
Of course, neither Oregon nor Wisconsin forced their head coaches out the door for a successor. But Luck said he's confident there will be no issues, calling Stewart "a consummate professional."
"I expect a smooth and very professional transition," Luck said, "and I have no doubt we'll accomplish that because our guys are very professional guys."
The entire defensive staff will be retained through 2011, and Luck said he'd like them to stay for "a long period of time." Holgorsen will have authority over the offensive staff and is meeting now with current and prospective assistants on that side of the ball.