MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Claiming continuity is crucial to improving West Virginia’s football program, athletics director Oliver Luck reiterated his support for head coach Dana Holgorsen on Tuesday.
Three days after West Virginia concluded a 4-8 season with a 52-44 loss to Iowa State, Luck released a statement proclaiming the program “must get better” in 2014—expectations he said he shared with Holgorsen. The Mountaineers closed the season by losing six of their final seven games and failed to earn a bowl bid for the first time since 2001.
Holgorsen is 21-17 overall in three seasons at WVU, his first stop as a head coach. His 2011 team went 10-3 and captured the Big East crown, but two ensuing seasons have produced a 6-12 record in the Big 12.
With more than $11 million remaining on his contract, Holgorsen essentially is too expensive to fire, even if Luck had been inclined to do so. WVU’s athletic department, which was $13 million in debt during fiscal year ending 2012, netted a $4.2 million profit in 2013 but, according to Luck, projects a $50,000 shortfall in 2014.
Though they figured to be in rebuilding mode this season, the Mountaineers knocked off current league frontrunner Oklahoma State on Sept. 28. Things nose-dived the following week, however, West Virginia allowed 56 first-half points in a 72-43 loss at Baylor. Holgorsen’s job security became questionable when the Mountaineers lost at Kansas on Nov. 16, snapping the Jayhawks’ 27-game conference losing streak.
When only 33,735 attended the season finale against Iowa State, it marked the third-smallest crowd in the 34-year history of Mountaineer Field.
The full extent of Luck’s statement:
First, I want to thank all Mountaineer fans who supported our football team through a difficult and trying season. Though there were some high points this year, including our upset victory over No. 11 Oklahoma State and the inspired play from many first year student-athletes, there were far too many disappointments.
We have high expectations at West Virginia University for success on and off the field and as Coach Holgorsen has acknowledged to me, we are not meeting those expectations on the field. Coach Holgorsen and I met at length and reviewed this past season. We discussed the coaching staff, recruiting, player development, strength and conditioning, academic support, facilities, in short, all the components that make up a successful program. We are working diligently to improve our capabilities in all of these areas.
I strongly believe in our coaching staff, including the work that our strength and conditioning staff is doing. In my opinion, continuity is the key ingredient that will bring our football program back to the high level that Mountaineer fans expect.
We had plenty of challenges this season; nonetheless, we should not and will not use those as excuses for our performance. We simply must get better.
Coach Holgorsen and his staff are on the road recruiting this week, securing the future for a successful Mountaineer football program. We need to do our part as well by continuing to move forward with the facility improvements needed to compete at the highest level in our conference.
We have high expectations for the 2014 football team, and I have shared those with Coach Holgorsen. He and his staff are eager to get started to prepare for our opening game against Alabama. We are well aware that we have a lot of work to do.
We have tremendous student-athletes in our program and a very accomplished core of coaches who want to bring championships back to West Virginia University. We will do all we can to help them in that endeavor, and I ask for your continued support as we move forward to a brighter future.