Dana Holgorsen: Is He Building a Foundation, or a Golden Parachute?

Dana Holgorsen: Is He Building a Foundation, or a Golden Parachute?

From the moment that current head football coach Dana Holgorsen was hired as offensive coordinator and head coach in waiting at West Virginia University, Mountaineer Nation has been waiting for the fall. Before Holgorsen even stepped foot in Morgatown, West Virginia, fans have been anticipating his departure.

Mike Casazza of the Charleston Daily Mail authored a book titled “Waiting for the Fall”. The book detailed the WVU football program from Rich Rodriquez’ time as head coach through Holgorsen’s hire. The word play of the title is both ingenious and accurate. Mountaineer fans can’t wait for the fall sport to start every year, at the same time they expect the program to fall into the great abyss.

As a Mountaineer fan, if you haven’t read Casazza’s book, it’s past time to correct that oversight.

Holgorsen was forced to replace three of his coaches from the offense this off-season due to defections to other programs. All three departures only fueled the underlying concerns ever present among WVU fans.

Offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh left for Oklahoma to reunite with the Stoops brothers that he had a history. Quarterback coach Jake Spavital left to become co-offensive coordinator at Texas A&M and to coach Johnny Football. Robert Gillespie left WVU to coach running backs at Tennessee, the same position he coached at WVU.

The hiring of JaJuan Seider was an upgrade over Robert Gillespie, not that Gillespie was a bad coach, Seider is a better fit and a better recruiter. The same applies to Lonnie Galloway, the new receivers coach that also happens to be the former receivers coach at WVU.

Holgorsen’s staff changes were about coaches using WVU as a stepping stone, the new additions are coaches with a history at WVU and should represent a more stable coaching staff for the future.

College football is on the verge of major changes in the coming years. Just what those changes might be is still undecided, even the commissioners of the five power conferences can’t seem to agree on anything other than change is needed.

The day is approaching that college athletes will become paid athletes, that pay will come in the form of a stipend. Just how much that stipend will be is still in debate, anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000 dollars. The idea of a stipend itself doesn’t even seem to be the biggest hurdle for the commissioners or the NCAA.

That hurdle is just how to separate the Football Bowl Subdivision into two distinct classes.


There’s a need to recognize there are Division I schools with $5 million athletic budgets and $155 million athletic budgets, and trying to find a model that fits all of them is the enormous challenge right now.” – NCAA president Mark Emmert

(Quote provided by Tom Fornelli CBS Sports)


It is often said that there are only 32 ultimate coaching positions in football, as a head coach of an NFL team. The commissioners of the five power conferences and the NCAA are about to create their own version of those positions within college football. The number might be different, but the end result is the same; an ultimate coaching position part deux.

Lest college football fans forget, these proposed changes are in addition to all of the changes brought on by conference realignment. Realignment that nobody can say with any certainty is completely finished.

The same realignment that brought WVU to the Big-12 and should see it’s revenue from athletics, and it’s athletic budget mushroom to over $100-million. Essentially, for possibly the first time in it’s history WVU athletics, and it’s football team, will be part of the have’s of college athletics.

The fact the athletic department will be working with a budget that size is a debate for another day.

Staff stability should begin to settle down. Position coaches getting hired for head coaching positions is not necessarily a bad omen. It creates the perception that a coach can use a job at WVU to get a head coaching position at another school. That attracts the best position coaches for any opening that may arise. The potential division of the FBS could translate into a position coach at WVU  earning a larger salary than a head coach at another FBS school.

Holgorsen has molded the best staff of recruiters that has ever graced the Puskar Center. Holgorsen appears to be building a future for himself at WVU. At the very least he has hired coaches that would think twice before deciding to leave.

The head coaching title at WVU is not the same position that Rich Rodriquez left in December 2007. The same can be said for the assistant coaching positions that Holgorsen filled this past off-season. With the move to the Big-12, and the new IMG deal WVU and Luck have positioned themselves to remain competitive for Holgorsen or any coach that they target.

The landscape of college football is continuing to change and the shocking part is those changes aren’t incremental, they’re monumental. Mountaineer Nation should find solace in the fact that they are part of the future of those changes.

There will be bumps along the way and continued changes in the coaching staffs of all the major sports at WVU. The fundamental difference, the Mountaineer athletic department owns a top seat at the proverbial table and finding replacements for those openings are no longer the biggest concern.

Perhaps, Mountaineer fans everywhere can simply wait for the fall, or the start of football season. Secure in the knowledge that meaning is now singular. Mountaineer fans everywhere should prepare themselves for an extended stay by Holgorsen, he has.

About the Author

Jeff Woollard I was born and raised in Parkersburg, WV. I've been going to WVU games since the late 60's, when Jim Carlen first began complaining about the roads in WV. jwoollard@wvupressbox.com, twitter @wvupressbox