The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

College Sports

December 17, 2010

Luck runs out for Stewart

WVU athletic director says he told coach of decision Nov. 14

Bill Stewart knew for a month that he was not going to be retained more than a year as West Virginia’s football coach, Athletic Director Oliver Luck said Thursday.

Luck told the media outside his office at the WVU Coliseum that he informed Stewart that he was going to make a move after the Mountaineers’ 35-10 win over Cincinnati.

Luck said he told Stewart he was not happy with the direction of the football program and he had two options for the coach — resign after this season or stay on for next season.

“Coach Stewart and I met along with coach Stewart’s adviser and our university general counsel on Nov. 14, the Sunday after the Cincinnati game, and at that point coach Stewart was informed that I was not satisfied with the direction of the program and that changes would be made,” Luck said.

“I thought coach Stewart did a marvelous job toward the end of the season and earned the right to coach in 2011.”

Luck hired Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen to be offensive coordinator next season and the head coach in 2012.

Luck said he believed the move needed to be made in effort to make the Mountaineers a national championship contender.

“I didn’t believe we had an opportunity to win a national championship (with Stewart at the helm),” Luck said. “At the end of the day, results matter and we weren’t getting the results.”

Stewart is 28-11 in three years at WVU.

Holgorsen signed a term sheet with WVU this week, but the amount of his contract — six years, five as head coach — is believed to be $1.4 million after he takes the head coaching job.

Luck said speculation that big-money donors were unhappy with the season did not influence his decision.

“I have a responsibility for this athletic department,” Luck said.

“I’m not sure what a big donor is; a lot of people contribute to the Mountaineer Athletic Club, whether it’s a seven-figure sum or a three-figure sum. I do talk to a lot of these people. But at the end of the day, I can tell you that I make the decisions that I feel are the best for this program and the university.”

But he said financial considerations did play a part.

“Our season-ticket base has declined from Stewart’s first year to the present time,” Luck said. “We’ve had only two crowds since 2004 under 50,000 and both of those took place in the last couple of years. That to me is an indication that our fans aren’t satisfied with the product, and that factors in as well.”

Luck said Holgorsen and Stewart have met, a claim Stewart had denied earlier in the week to a reporter from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

 Apparently they met in Houston Dec. 9.

“They’ve spoken and met, and I’ve been part of some of those conversations,” Luck said. “They’ve talked about a variety of topics and I’m sure those topics came up, as you would expect when coaches get together and talk about how they want to operate and do things.”

On Thursday, Stewart confirmed the meetings, as did Holgorsen.

Assistant coaches were not notified of the situation, according to the Post-Gazette. It said Stewart was told by Luck to inform offensive line coach Dave Johnson and offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen that they were not being retained at the end of the season, or after the Dec. 28 Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando, Fla. Luck said he would tell them if Stewart felt uncomfortable doing so, the paper said.

According to the paper, Johnson, who had a couple offers on the table, only found out when he called Luck, his former college teammate at WVU, on Wednesday.

“I can’t speak to their mental awareness; certainly I did not speak with the (assistant) coaches,” Luck said. “Holgorsen will have authority over the offensive side of the ball as offensive coordinator and those decisions will happen relatively soon. I know he’s been on the phone with some of the offensive coaches.”

Luck said the defensive coaches would be retained through the 2011 season and hoped they would stay longer.

Holgorsen, 39, will be in charge of who stays and goes on offense.

“Coach Holgorsen will have authority and autonomy over the offense, in consultation with coach Stewart, of course,” Luck said. “He is in the process of talking with the offensive assistants today, and at the end of the day it will be coach Holgorsen’s decision about what assistants are retained and what new assistant coaches on the offensive side he will bring in.”

Luck also said he expects a smooth transition and praised Stewart.

“Let me thank Bill Stewart for what he is doing for West Virginia University, for the football program,” Luck said. “He took over during a very challenging time back in 2007 and acted as the consummate professional, calmed the waters, and has done a marvelous job leading our team.

“I think because of his professionalism, I have all the confidence in the world that our transition year will work very smoothly. I look forward to having two great coordinators, coach Dana Holgorsen and coach Jeff Casteel, led by a great West Virginian and a great person, coach Bill Stewart.

“I’m very much excited about the 2011 season and beyond because I think we will have one exciting brand of football here at Mountaineer Field beginning in 2011.”

Luck said Stewart is assured of a position in the athletic department after the 2011 season.

“We have an agreement that we will sit and talk at the appropriate time and see what coach Stewart would like to do, what his interests may be, what services we may need here within the department. We have not talked in specifics about that yet.”

— E-mail: demorrison@register-herald.com

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