So let’s put it all on the table. It is inevitable that in situations such as the one currently transpiring at WVU that everyone has a source and everyone has an opinion. In this article I am going to try to be as open and honest as humanly possible to try to decipher fact from fiction.
News of Holgorsen being interested in the Houston job first came to light this past Friday during the Mountaineers bowl game against Syracuse.
At that time it seemed to be pure speculation as Major Applewhite was still the head coach of the Cougars. Fast forward 48 hours and hell heck breaks loose.
As WVUWire reported on Saturday, Applewhite was staring down a potential pink slip as early as Sunday. Reports surfaced on Sunday that Applewhite had indeed been fired and Houston was in search of a new head coach with Dana Holgorsen and Kliff Kingsbury the top candidates. Now here is where it gets tricky.
Why is Holgorsen allegedly entertaining the Houston job? As we reported on Saturday as well, WVU is not willing to counter any offer from Houston at this time. Mike Casazza elaborated on this Sunday stating in part that the University and Holgorsen had been in negotiations that had broken down in December with neither side willing to budge.
Is Holgorsen using Houston as leverage to try to sway Lyons into renegotiating his current deal? It is entirely possible, remember Holgorsen was linked to the Houston opening in 2016. What transpired out of that? A contract extension at WVU. But with WVU coming off a season in which they underachieved it may not be in Lyons best interests to renegotiate. What standard would he be setting if every time Holgorsen showed interest in leaving Lyons extended his contract or presented him with a raise? Pete Thamel wrote an article on Saturday holding nothing back in regards to Holgorsen or Houston, you can read that article here. Did Holgorsen go to the well one too many times? WVU is 15-11 since Holgorsen signed the extension in 2016. Allan Taylor elaborates well on this topic here.
It is hard to fathom for many that Holgorsen would leave WVU for a G5 school. And on the outside looking in most would tend to agree.
The fact remains that Holgorsen and Lyons have not always seen eye to eye. And with Holgorsen’s desire to be in the state of Texas, Houston may be the best spot for him, or best available spot.
Most have already forgotten the Texas Tech rumors after Kingsbury was fired after this past season. Many reported that Holgorsen was the leading candidate. It was only after Texas Tech AD Kirby Hocutt publicly stated that Holgorsen was not even on the list that this possibility died. Dana has always wanted to return to the midwest and there is nothing wrong with that, Houston and Texas Tech were both once home to Holgorsen.
So what about money? I will preface this next section by openly stating this is not confirmed. Houston is allegedly willing to offer guaranteed money and a contract of upwards of 5 years to the right candidate. Guaranteed money is not very common in the current coaching landscape other than buyout clauses and the guarantee in this case probably is included in a buyout as well. While this is not confirmed, Brett McMurphy reported late Sunday that Kliff Kingsbury had turned down “a lucrative offer” from Houston on Sunday. So maybe there is something to this.
Lastly, why would Houston want Holgorsen? It is no secret that Dana is very close with billionaire Tillman Fertitta who is the chairman of the Houston board of regents. Fertitta is thought by many to pull all the strings at the University using his generous donations as leverage. Fertitta may be willing to pony up the money to get him there. Dana may very well be able to step in at Houston and return the Cougars to their winnings ways. Much like Tom Herman did when the Cougars went 13-1 winning the Peach Bowl over Florida State in 2015. While it has not been to the standards of many Mountaineer faithful Holgorsen has been successful at WVU. Furthermore, and this was addressed earlier, Holgorsen may have lost leverage with WVU. If Holgorsen is looking for something more longterm immediately WVU may not currently be the place for him.
Houston has also pined for an invitation to the Big 12. Adding a Big 12 coach to the staff may be a selling point in the future, albeit it a small one. Why else would two Big 12 coaches be atop the list of leading candidates for the job? Houston would be better financially to go after a G5 coach or a coordinator rising through the coaching ranks. No, they went big immediately. Could Holgorsen be selling point for Houston, he has a third of the Big 12 on his resume with successful tenures at Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, and West Virginia.
Only time will tell if Holgorsen is willing to leave Morgantown for a G5 program or if Lyons is, again, willing to step up and offer Holgorsen what he is looking for in a longer contract with more guarantees.
My guess would be this ship has sailed and that Lyons and Gee are already looking for Holgorsen’s replacement, maybe not this season but definitely in the near future. What say you?
I will leave you with this, if Holgorsen is to accept the offer from Houston expect it to happen quickly, and possibly as early as January 1st. Will Lyons and Gee counter? Or will they take the $1 million buyout Holgorsen would owe them and use that money to lure the next Mountaineers head coach to Morgantown?