One of the most bizarre coaching changes of the 2010 season has taken another interesting twist.
Contrary to the original belief that West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck blindsided coach Bill Stewart with the news that Stewart would be done coaching the Mountaineers after 2011, it’s now been confirmed that not only did Stewart know of his release for a month, but that he helped recruit his successor, Oklahoma State OC Dana Holgorsen.
Let’s take a moment on this …
During interviews with the Tulsa World and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Hologorsen mentioned that he had met with both Stewart and Luck in Houston last week, contradicting a comment from Stewart on Tuesday (also from the Post-Gazette) claiming he “didn’t even know who this Dana fellow was.”
Luck, on the other hand, confirmed the meeting with Holgorsen , as well as a trip Holgorsen took to Morgantown two weeks ago for a tour of the campus and city.
Additionally, Luck arranged another meeting within the past month between Holgorsen and WVU defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel, who will be retained in 2012. According to the Gazette, “The two met at an undisclosed location to talk strategy and the impending transition from Stewart as head coach to Holgorsen.”
Finally — and this is where it gets interesting — after Stewart learned of his impending dismissal, he was instructed by Luck to inform offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen and offensive line coach Dave Johnson that they would also be released following the end of the 2010 season, and that if Stewart felt uncomfortable doing so, Luck would do it for him.
Rick James‘ “Cold Blooded” comes to mind …
However, according to a source close to the situation, Stewart never broke the news to either Mullen or Johnson, despite the fact that Holgorsen apparently made it very clear in his meeting with Luck and Stewart that he would not retain either assistant. Johnson learned of his dismissal only after calling Luck on Wednesday.
Now that more information has been released, there are obviously a few layers to this story.
First, Luck’s actions seem more justified. Sure, he’s cut-throat, but by having Holgorsen meet with Stewart and Casteel, it appears Luck has thought this through enough to try and neutralize what could (and what still may) be a very awkward situation. Personally, I still don’t agree with the decision 100-percent, but I understand it.
Second, the whole “coach-in-waiting”, meet-and-greet shindig with Holgorsen wouldn’t have happened with any other coach. Stewart is painfully loyal to the program and, even in getting the very short end of this stick, he is doing what he can to make things work. Stewart is a well-known nice guy. It’s been his greatest attribute, as well as his greatest downfall.
Third, how much does (or did) Mike Gundy know? A trip to Morgantown? A meeting in Houston? Surely, Gundy knew his OC was a hot commodity, but for Holgorsen to be as involved with WVU over the past month as he has been, it’s hard to fathom that Gundy didn’t know what was up.
Like the developments at West Virginia, it will be interesting to see Oklahoma State’s side of the story as things progress.