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Oliver Luck says he expects West Virginia’s football team to be better in 2014, though that may not lead to an increase in wins.



MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Oliver Luck spent time on the set of WOWK-TV’s “Decision Makers” this week, an aptly titled news program considering the West Virginia athletics director could soon face a difficult decision regarding his football coach.

The Mountaineers, reeling from a 4-8 season that marked their first losing record since 2001, are entering Year 4 under Dana Holgorsen. He joins Charlie Weis as the only two Big 12 head coaches facing a hot-seat situation, and local opinions vary on just how hot Holgorsen’s seat is.

It seems a tad less dicey based on Luck’s most recent comments in this clip from Sunday:

“I think we’re going to be a better football team. I hope that’s reflected in our record, but given the strength of our schedule this year, it very well may not be.”

His tone seems pretty clear: With Alabama, Maryland and the nine-game Big 12 schedule on deck, a 4-8 repeat could be construed as progress. (Heck, by these relaxed standards, a .500 season might be cause to name the new team room Holgorsen Place.)

You’ve got to give Luck this much: He certainly isn’t over-promising. Instead, he’s establishing an early narrative designed to reset expectations for 2014. Why paint himself into a corner by establishing benchmarks when he can leave himself wiggle room to justify retaining Holgorsen?

Fact is, it would cause Luck severe gastritis to go coach-hunting next season—would be particularly ignominious given the muddled and clumsy manner in which Luck handed over the reins from Bill Stewart to Holgorsen. Create disharmony to bring in a winner, and the fans will champion the forward-thinking logic. Make a mess to bring in a coach you fire after four seasons, and Luck will be reminded how the situation was cursed from the get-go.

Firing Holgorsen also would be expensive—almost prohibitively so. He will be owed $8.6 million after next season for a contract that extends through 2017. While Texas and Oklahoma can shrug off that kind of payout, most Big 12 schools would feel the pinch. (Recall that West Virginia athletics netted $4.2 million last year, a figure that would have been in the red if not for a $4.4 million subsidy from the university.)

It’s hard not to agree with Luck’s primary point—a four-win team this fall could be markedly better than the four-win version of 2013. Thing is, the 2013 version was absolutely rancid by some metrics. At 2-7, West Virginia produced its second-worst conference record ever on the FBS level. It lost by 37 points to a Maryland team that closed the season precisely one spot higher in the Sagarin ratings at No. 73. It lost at home to No. 72 Iowa State. It lost by double-digits at No. 119 Kansas.

Yes, there was a magical September ambush of Oklahoma State and the overtime gut-punch against Texas. Few fans, however, will cherish beating a four-win TCU team, and fewer still will tell their grandchildren about victories over William & Mary and Georgia State.

Yes, the injuries escalated as WVU limped through the season’s second half, but until the NCAA outlaws tackling, that will be an annual peril.

“Clearly last year was a disappointing season for me, for the coaches, for the student-athletes, for our fan base,” Luck said this weekend. “But I do think this team has made some significant improvements over last year.”

And if we are to oblige Luck’s preseason warning, improvement needn’t necessarily manifest itself in a bowl bid.

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  • Chris

    Good to see unbiased reporting from the kids at Metronews.

    • College Ave

      This is a commentary, not a report.

      WVU will go undefeated. WVU will win the national championship game 50-0. No one will ever again say a bad thing about our state. Every living person who moved away from WV will return, declaring there is nowhere on the planet that can compare to WV.

      All better now?

      • Chris

        News Flash...the Western Virginia Metronews offices move to Harrisonburg to become the voice of JMU - Go Dukes!

  • ThatGuyOverThere

    Years of bad recuiting put us in this position...1 year of bad recuiting in college football can doom a team for 3 seasons...We have turned the corner on recuiting, we have better position coaches, better leadership in the part of the AD, head coach, Defensive Coordinator, etc. Dana ain't going anywhere...get used to it. we will have a good season this year...with some huge upsets...

    • notorious

      Bullocks. You just buy every excuse Holgorsen gives for being completely inept.

      • ThatGuyOverThere

        I don't buy any excuses, I do my research....have you looked at the new coaches? The shifting of coaches? The upward trend in rank of recruiting classes? Talent coming to WVU? Obviously not...Time will tell Mr. Armchair-notorious...I don't profess to be able to coach/manage a college football team like 95% of the commenter's on this website, I just look at the facts...We lost 2 overtime games last year, each of those games could have went either way...We absolutely gave Oklahoma the game, we didn't show up for Maryland, and we didn't show up for Iowa State... Easily could have been an 8 win season...Flame away, I really don't care, I'll follow WVU to hell and back, bandwagon fans or not.

        • notorious

          Another lemming buying the "recruiting is better" myth. Scout.com Recruiting Rankings:

          2006 - 56; 16 signed
          2007 - 18; 27 signed
          2008 - 37; 25 signed
          2009 - 22; 26 signed
          2010 - 29; 21 signed
          2011 - 54; 22 signed
          2012 - 27; 28 signed
          2013 - 28; 26 signed
          2014 - 40; 22 signed

          This class is ranked 24 as of today. In April it was top 5. That rank is dropping fast. We typically fall in the top 30-40. Please quit touting improved recruiting. If the recruiting was going so well, we wouldn't have 3 qbs on the roster that no other D1 school wanted.

          • notorious

            I love that acknowledging the fact the program just isn't very good right now makes you a MU fan. Keep drinking the kool aid.

          • Steve

            Notorious you sure do know a lot (or think you know a lot) about Mountaineer football considering the fact that you are a Marshall fan. Thanks for proving my point that most Marshall fans are obsessed with everything WVU.

            Take your negativity somewhere else. True WVU fans don't jump ship after 1 bad season in 12 years.

          • notorious

            I'm not a football coach. I don't pretend to be. Oliver Luck has done a wonderful job as AD, but has erred with the handling of the football program

            Its not fun being this bad and people are grasping for hope. But let's at least try to find something to hold on to that isn't a bunch of bunk like the so called improvement in recruiting.

          • ThatGuyOverThere

            If you are so smart why aren't you coaching the team? Obviously you know more than Oliver Luck and Dana Holgerson...

      • squad

        holgo is not inept, please. we are on the way depth-wise to be competitive regardless if its him Bradley or Rich Rod again. its a matter of having ENOUGH personnel to withstand the defections injury and wear and tear of playing all big guys all the time (which we were not in the big east) no need to blame- it was a new level that we NEVER HAVE BEEN AT before. yes we beat some bcs teams IN ONE GAME. we did not go a whole season with the read offense in the B12. you cant do it without getting broken in 2. so everyone just face where we are at and things will get better no matter what direction we go. in short, a HUGE part of it was getting numbers of sizable players who can play in the B12. we're getting there.

  • CaptainQ

    "Luck says 2014 improvement may not be ‘reflected in our record’"

    Interpretation: "We're probably going to have another losing season this year."

    Well, thanks for being honest about it, Ollie.

  • notorious

    What Luck really wanted to say: "I let Holgorsen sign the worst contract in the history of contracts, so it is going to cost WAY too much money to fire him. However, I am confident that we will sell enough tickets and $9 beer to turn a nice profit, even though we could be fielding the worst team in the Big 12."

    Settle in, Mountaineer fans. We have at least two more years of this. I'm interested to see if youth and depth remain the go to excuses this year.

  • william

    Only way to FIX IT -
    Fire Dana "The Man in Black" Holgerson
    It's just a matter of time till this guy is fired.
    It's a SAD time to be a Mountaineer fan wherever you may be!

    • Wenkev


      Can you provide me with your place of work? I want to tell them everyday that the only way to fix their business is to fire you! Or, do you not work and just live on my tax dollars? If so, then you are welcome!

    • AJ

      shut up William. Go back to Huntington.

      • cutty77

        William would need a Mapquest to find Huntington. lol

  • WVU1

    And the excuses start. Great effort to cover for Luck's horrible hire and his horrible (for WVU) contract.

    • Steve

      No excuses. Last year was an awful year. Most fans realized it would be especially after losing your three best players to the first three rounds of the NFL draft. This year expectations are higher.

      Question for you is why are you reading or posting on WVU articles? It's obvious you're not a mountaineer fan. Why do you care so much? Is the real team that you root for so irrelevant that there's really nothing to read about our comment about them?

      I'm sorry that Marshall is a have not and irrelevant, But do us all favor and quit posting on WVU articles. WVU will be fine. They always have been. Three BCS bowl victories in the last eight years buddy. Enjoy!

      • JimJim

        No, Ohio State does quite well!

  • TruthTeller

    Well it could be worst. We could be Marshall.
    enough said.

    • Master of One

      Untruth Teller...

      I look at the Marshall schedule and say...

      "It will be fun to win them all, have a national ranking and go to a major bowl"

      I look at the WVU schedule and say...

      "It will not be any fun to lose them all and not receive a bowl bid"

      It is what it is...get used to it and move on!

      • Steve

        What major bowl do u think Marshall is going to selected to play in with that pathetic div. 2 schedule?

        I'm sure it will be real fun to watch MU beat Rhode Island and Dominion..probably as fun as it was to watch them lose to pathetic schools like mid Tennessee state and the pounding by Rice.

        Wow what a big time schedule that is LOL.

    • The Real Truth

      Yea. You could be coming off a bowl win over Maryland and going into the 2014 season being ranked in the top 25 in some publications. Not to mention having a coach from the state that truly cares about his community. But IT is better to be a program that claims to be the 'flagship' for the state. Yet seems to embarrass the state when they are national television. Enjoy your 3 or 4 days this fall "When it's Great to be a Mountaineer". Marshall will enjoy about 10 more.

      • Aaron

        I'm not sure what you mean by "claims to be the flagship University." That's accepted by all but 13 people along 8th Ave on the other side of the tracks in Huntington.

        • Get it right

          The "" was on flagship not claim. Thus, the question is not whether or not WVU is the flagship University (it unquestionably is) but whether or not it is living up to the "flagship" status. So, what has WVU done lately to thump it's chest in carrying the banner? As a side note, for someone who is always on here (and I mean always) I expect more from you than feeding the anti Marshall trolls. The only one who interjected MU was a WVU fan and then someone came to defend. Now who's supposed to have a complex about who?

          • get it right

            Again Steve you prove my point. Name one person who would legitametly argue that MU has done more than WVU. Yet post after post people who love the flagship university are finding ways
            to talk smack about a "non-rival". Let me ask it this way: do you think Alabama (a flagship inst.) concerns itself with UAB? Why? If WVU was living up to " flagship " status, MU
            would never come up.

          • Steve

            To answer your question about what WVU has done lately, Well they beat one ranked team in football and several and basketball. That's what they done lately and I can assure you WVU fans are nowhere near close to being satisfied. Since you're a Marshall fan what the heck have they done lately? Beat Maryland? Congratulations! Now go beat them seven straight years like WVU did.

          • Aaron

            You should see the construction going on around campus, particularly I'm Evansdale.

      • Tom

        Remind me again...How many times has Marshall beaten WVU in football?

  • TruthTeller

    Is OL trying to be Obozo? It better be reflected in our record or fair weather fans will be jumping ship.

  • Ron - from Morgantown

    DH will show improvement on the field this year because he has already shown improvement off the field . When DH arrived we had 63 on scholarship , now we have 85 . DH quickly realized after season 1 that the asst coach mix wasn't conducive to winning esp re to recruiting . He changed that and its much better now and the uptick in the recruiting is proof the changes are working . The latest rankings for 2014 has the WVU class at 21 . Luck is aware that recruiting is going well . Also transfer students are COMING to WV to play as opposed to LEAVING ,which is the case for BH . So that shows stability . Also I notice that DH is more comfortable in his own skin these days , I think he is maturing as a HC. When Luck downplays the record , he is talking 5-7 and nothing worse . Mark this down, at 5-7 DH will definitely be brought back. If fact - he will be given a contract extension . Yep , gonna happen . Wait and see . And I agree it should happen . But I also agree that it won't be an issue because we will go 7 -5 this year . More depth , more experience and a QB who memorized the playbook . Yes the big buyout is in play here , just like a 0$ buyout hurt Stew and as a result was easily to replace . Everybody asks where will the wins come from ? Actually I see a lot of opportunity - even that first game is in play . Im not a sycophant . If I thought otherwise , I would say so .

    • WVU grad in central MD


      You are spot on with this year, but I just don't like DH. Even if he went 12-0, I don't trust him. He's here just for the money and would jump ship if he could. He's not a people person, but he's in the people business. He should learn from Tom Bradley how to work with people, but I don't think DH cares to.

      • Diaspora

        Yes, but what happens if Holgerson would go 12-0? If he goes 9-3 the following season he will be labeled a bad coach, a horrible recruiter, and totally unprepared for the future. There is absolutely nothing, including any marquis coach that could be hired, that will change that fact for WVU. Ask Mac Brown about how it feels to go 12-0 at Texas? Ask Don Nehlen how it feels to go 11-0, twice in 6 years. Ask Bob Huggins about a final 4 appearance. Ask Gale Catlett about taking WVU to the sweet 16 after just a handful of seasons in the Big East. Believe me... Talk to Nick Saban in a few years about his National and SEC Championship runs.

  • Shannon

    Again the unbiased reporting of Allan Taylor continues. Really used to enjoy some of your articles before you put yourself in the middle of the JR/OL love fest. Journalism is much better without slanted views...

    • Joe


      I think the reporting has been much better of late. Sometimes the truth hurts. We true Mountaineer fans just have to learn how to accept it.

      • Aaron

        I can accept the truth regarding the programs at WVU. I do not accept a reporters opinion as gospel, particularly one that has a beef with the entity he is covering.

  • FNP

    Everybody in the country sees the task we have in front of us this year. If we go 6-6 then it could be considered a good year.

    • WVU1

      6-6 should never be considered a good year...EVER!

      • Randy

        Especially when old Master Luck felt 9&3 should get you fired.

      • Aaron

        Is winning the most important aspect of a college football team?

      • FNP

        You're right. But after last year and with schedule, we may be looking at a 6-6 or 7-5 record and that is improvement on last year. I think this team is capable of a lot more and I think its possible to see a 8-4 or 9-3 record.

  • Mike

    I'd like Holgorsen more if he were just more likeable.

    • good discussion

      Mike, how can you not like a guy who ends up drunk on a curb outside a Casino in his first year as head coach? The guys a perfect fit with Hug.

    • WVU1

      I'd like him more if he would win.

  • len

    This the same guy who said 9 wins wasnt up to wvu and his expectations. I guess he has much lower expectations for a much higher paid staff. i hope they shock everyone and get back to 9 wins. I think having Bradley on staff will make a difference.

  • Aaron

    Every time I see a writer or fan calling for a coaches head in just a few seasons, I go back to Virginia Tech and their athletic department which ignored the outcry from those wanting to replace Frank Beamer after 4 losing seasons in his first 6 years.

    While I don't know if Holgorsen has what it takes to turn this program around particularly after the last season collapse, I don't 3 years is enough to restore stability.

    As to Luck's handling of the Bill Stewart dismissal, he admits he should have never went with the coach in waiting mistake and simply replaced Stewart. No matter what happens with Holgorsen, the fact that Stewart needed replaced does not change.

    • TweedleDee

      How is it that you start out saying "everytime I see a writer calling for a coach's head in just a few seasons...I remember Frank Beamer's 4 losing seasons" and end with "the fact that Stewart needed replaced does not change." What happened to 4 losing seasons and a chance to turn it around? The man got 3 winning seasons and it was determined he didn't win enough. You can't reconcile the two statements you made.

      • Jay

        Great answer. If AD didn't think we could compete in B 12 then why did he move us. Even Tony and other saying a 6-6 is a win for us this year.

        Well it's not acceptable in my book and if it's worst then change should be made. Doesn't matter who the head coach is.

      • Aaron

        I thought about it coming into work and you are right, I cannot reconcile the two statements. As I said, I felt Stewart was not head coaching material and still believe his recruiting (or lack thereof) is the biggest reason WVU has slid in the manner it has, hence his departure was necessary.

        I understand there are those who have legitimate complaints regarding Holgorsen and as such, have every right to call for his dismissal as well. I guess my gripe is with those who want him gone simply because Oliver Luck hired him but at any rate, could I remove my comment, I would.

        • Grant

          I agree with you 100% on both issues. Plus we must remember, in the BE that Stew coached in, WVU was the premier football program; whereas in the BIG 12 we are fighting to get to 3rd. I am not sold on Dana at all, but expecting miracles this season (8+ wins is crazy). I see it this way:

          3 "guaranteed losses" (just make us look competitive): Bama, OU, and Baylor

          3 "wins" (with us none are gimme's but you better win): Towson State, KU, and ISU.

          That leaves basically a 6 game season. With 3 wins, I think it is reasonable to expect 2-4 more wins from the other games. I say we finish 5-7 to 7-5. (7 would be great in my opinion)

        • TweedleDee

          Appreciate the retrospect. I get tired of the double standards. With explanation, fair opinion.

          • good discussion

            Good discussion guys, keep it up. You don't see people talk much anymore without putdowns and nastiness. You both actually got me thinking. I appreciate that.

      • Aaron

        That's a valid point. My comments are based on my personal opinion that Stewart should never have been hired as the head coach and his inability to recruit is as much the reason for WVU's slide as anything else.

        While I am not sold on Hogerson's ability to be a head coach, his recruiting is much better than Stewart's, that's the comment regarding Beamer.

        • Larry

          Stew couldn't recruit. I'm guessing guys like Geno, Tavon and Steadman were here because of our stellar academics?

          • Aaron

            Ed Pastilong gave him a boat load of money and made him the Associate Head Coach, mainly because he is an excellent recruiter.

            None of that changes the fact that the cup boards were bare when Holgorsen took over, notably due to the loss of scholarships.

            Anything else?

          • notorious

            Robert Sands, Bruce Irvin, Will Clarke, Terence Garvin.

            7 NFL players in 3 recruiting classes. That's not bad. Why is it treated like a bad thing that Stew hired Doc? He's an excellent recruiter.

          • Aaron

            If by stellar academics you mean Doc Holiday then yes Larry, that is exactly why they were there. You've listed 3 guys out of 3 years. Who else you got?

      • Tom

        Good call.

  • Yogi Wahoo

    That sounds great for ticket sales !!

    • Hop'sHip

      Build a campaign around the message "We're not THAT bad; it's just that our opponents are THAT good."

      • Steve

        Good to see that the Marshall fans are all reading WVU articles. Hey guys welcome to the big leagues of college football.

      • isn't that

        "We're not THAT bad; it's just that Twinkies are THAT good. Hi, I'm Coach Holgorsen and that's why I always get my Twinkies at my local Little General store, ain't that right Hug?"

      • WVU1

        Add that to "Just wait until next year" and we have a solid marketing campaign.

      • Mike

        LOL. Great post!