USA Today Sports

Since its Orange Bowl victory capped Dana Holgorsen’s first season, West Virginia has gone 18-20.


MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Saying his leadership style “is not to come in just to make change,” Shane Lyons anticipates a three- to four-month evaluation period before plotting a course for West Virginia’s football program.

Coach Dana Holgorsen’s job appears safe for now after this season’s 7-6 finish, but West Virginia’s three-year record of 18-20 in the Big 12 era doesn’t mesh with a new athletics director bent on competing for national championships.

“I firmly believe the university has that ability,” Lyons said Monday afternoon. “It has the fan base, it has the support. It’s just a matter of being able to recruit and get the best players there.”

WVU photo

Shane Lyons says he’ll spend 90 to 120 days learning the WVU athletics department before setting priorities.

Lyons prioritized “helping Coach Holgorsen as much as I can” with regard to facilities and recruiting upgrades, a process that begins with 90 to 120 days where Lyons vows “to listen and learn what’s going on.”

Holgorsen’s current contract runs three more seasons through 2017, fueling speculation he might be granted at least a one-year rollover that extends through the four-year recruiting cycle.

For Lyons, who was a graduate student the year West Virginia lost to Notre Dame in the national championship Fiesta Bowl, the ultimate goal is “getting this program back to where we want it to be.”


His homecoming launched by a conference call, Lyons discussed coming full circle from 1988 WVU graduate to opening 2015 as the school’s new AD. He weaved recollections of growing up in Parkersburg, noticing  “the Flying WV” on every street and, of course, the mandatory references to singing John Denver’s anthem.

For 26 years, Lyons has climbed the ranks in the NCAA, weighed in on ACC decisions and, most recently, overseen the daily athletics operations for the University of Alabama. Throughout that career, he made at least two trips home each year. On the most recent Christmas visit, WVU president Gordon Gee met Lyons in Parkersburg for an informal interview that verified their mutual interest.

Now Lyons said his wife, a Wisconsin native, and their two children are “very excited to become part of the Morgantown community and part of Mountaineer Nation.”

Recalling the Chick-fil-A Kickoff game last August between the Mountaineers and Alabama, Lyons said: “You leave West Virginia but West Virginia never leaves you. It never ceases to amaze me, when you hear “Take Me Home Country Roads,” how the hair on the back of your neck stands up.”


Apprised in November of Oliver Luck’s pending departure for an NCAA post, Gee began researching candidates from across the nation and compiling a list of potential replacements, many of whom had no inclination they were being vetted.

“I will tell you very honestly and very candidly, Shane was at the very top of that list,” Gee said.

Lyons’ appeal went beyond his West Virginia ties.

“He’s had a tremendous national reputation,” Gee said. “People know him, and know him well. He has a network—he can make a telephone call to almost anyone in this country and they will answer it.”

Inclined to integrate athletics into the campus framework, Gee gave Lyons the shared title of associate vice president, a move that “grants him immediate access to all assets and aspects of the institution.”


Asked whether his leadership approach more closely mimicked Ed Pastilong’s conservative style or Luck’s revenue-driven tenure of rapid change, Lyons answered: “I think it’s in-between the two.”

Citing the importance of collaborative relationships, both internal and outside the department, Lyons said his job is to look at WVU athletics “not as it is, but what it should be in the future.”

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  • william

    First thing -
    How many Mountaineer fans are PROUD to have this guy head coach at WVU?
    How sad is it that everyone knows his days at WVU is over when that BIG MONEY contact is over?

    • Ray

      I am proud to call him our coach. He can and will win here the team is going in the right direction when you change up the playbook so to speak it isn't perfected overnight it taskes time.

    • jwwswvu

      I am proud to call him our coach. We had nearly bare cupboards and not depth. Remember the earth was not created over night.

    • CPA

      Who would you hire William?

    • Dana

      I'm proud to have him coach us. Go away William.

    • Alum

      Please crawl back into your mother's basement.

  • Mike

    Mr. Lyons, if you truly wish to compete for national football championships, then call Nick Saban and talk him into coming home.

  • Commenter

    I hate to be negative, because I'm sure he is a fine person and will do a great job, but I must be honest, I do not see WVU ever winning a national championship in any major team sport, just too small a state that doesn't produce any good college athletes whose population continues to dwindle. We should be happy winning 8 or 10 games a year in football and making it to the final four in basketball every 10-15 years.

    • El Supremo

      My deceased father voiced the same comment to me in 1960 after listening to Jack Fleming broadcast a WVU basketball game. The state does not have the population base to develop Power 5 Conference athletes.

      The ONLY major sport national championship claimed by West Virginia is the 1942 NIT Championship. In those days, the NIT only invited the top 8 teams in the country. WVU was the last team invited. In 1942, the NCAA tournament was not as big or as prestigious as the NIT. If you doubt my facts, do the research and learn WVU history.

      • beck

        You're wrong. WVU won the nit a few years ago.

      • Commenter

        You are correct in that WVU won the NIT that year, but I disagree that they were considered the national champions or that the NIT was more prestigious than the NCAA at the time. Along with WV, some of the other teams in the NIT field were Long Island, Toledo, Rhode Island, Creighton, W. Texas St., and Western KY.
        The NCAA tournament of 1942 included such teams as Kansas, Kentucky, Penn State, Illinois, Colorado, and the national champions of 1942 Stanford

        • El Supremo

          I requested that you do research (in depth). Simply naming teams that today have a big name does NOT equal 1942 ratings of teams.

          If you do go to the library and due diligence, look up Clair Bee and the team he coached. You will learn even more.

          • OLD TIN CUP

            in 1942the nit was considered the national champion ship

          • Commenter

            I'm telling you it is widely known, believed, and otherwise accepted that WVU has never won a national championship in any major team sport, especially in the modern era. The closest they ever came was a loss to California in the 1959 NCAA tourney.

    • Mike

      Common sense comment. Probably even more so to change the BB to every 30-40 years.

  • Billy

    It will take years to fix what luck broke, and get the football program back to where it was.

    • Nashville Kittykat

      You were happy on probation with Marshall recruits taking the program down, down, down?

    • TCFromDubVee

      Really? Explain it please. Remember the Big 12 conference is a lot better conference than the BE was.

    • CPA

      Please give examples Billy.......or are you just talking out of the other end?

    • Will

      The only thing Luck broke was the Pastilong ways of hiring an unqualified football coach (Stewart) and sitting around while the Big East crumbled around him. Luck had the long term vision (seeing there would be a Power 4 or Power 5 and making sure WVU got in one of those) where Pastilong couldn't see past the euphoria of one good night for Stewart. WVU would still be in the AAC winning 9 games a year in football which wouldn't even get you a Top 25 ranking if Luck hadn't been hired.

      • Usual suspects


      • Billy

        kool-aid drinker

        • Will

          You can't possibly think WVU was better off with Pastilong.

          • norm

            will oh moron the people of wva were

    • Red Dwarf

      What did Ollie "break" besides the good old boy network that was killing WVU athletics?

      • Billy

        Yep, and he started his own with drinking buddy Holgy.

  • holgie

    Great hire. I like this guy a lot.
    He hjas a lot of experience and he's a West Virginia guy.
    He knows what it means to be a wining program,.

  • Country Roads

    Welcome Mr. Lyons back home, to the place where we saying the song Country Roads after the victorys.

    Your resume passes in flying colors. You're very intelligent man, not much that anybody can say to you that you already don't know, and you are not going to please everyone. Your new job is like a politician, everybody takes sides, they like you or don't...... Well I like what you have said so far and I will support you as a person and as a fan. You have my congratulations. Welcome back to Mountaineer country.

  • richard

    please be faithful and stay longer than oliver. i knew he wouldn't be a long time stay. he cares for his career more than his goals for the university. but welcome Mr. Lyons.

    • TCFromDubVee

      You do know that from Luck in his new position can still help WVU being that he is overseeing the entire NCAA now in a position of power?

    • jwwswvu

      And if you were offered a better opportunity for your career and family you would turn it down? No way. Remember it's business and it's a job.

  • cutty77

    Wise move by Shane. If you need a Program to look at. Look now at The High and Mighty Big 10. MICHIGAN. Since 2008 Michigan has had 3 Different Coaches,WITH UNLIMITED RESOURCES TOO.

    • Country Roads

      @ Cutty77, I agree.

  • JustaFan

    The more I hear this guy talk, the more I like him, I especially like the "not as it is, but what it should be" statement.

  • Linda Hickman

    Welcome home Mr. Lyons to both you and your family. It will be so refreshing to have someone lead the Athletic Department who has your described reaction to hearing "Take Me Home Country Roads." All good wishes as you begin listening and learning - an admirable approach !

  • jon calvert

    Awesome hire! Local boy coming home to lead us into the future. Looking forward to the transition.

  • richard

    Welcome home, Mr Lyons. Now would you please get rid of Holgorsen and Deforest and bring in someone who actually cares about WVU and the state. I'm not even asking for championships, at least right away. Just bring in someone who isn't an embarrassment to WVU.

    • Will

      Stewart was an embarrassment. I'm not saying Holgorsen is great; I'm not sure he is "it," but Stewart certainly was not qualified to lead a major football program.

      • Will

        I fully agree with getting rid of Deforest.

    • Dana

      Im just curious what makes you think Dana does not care about the stare of WV? Maybe he doesn't. I don't know. Could you just give me some reasons. Thank you.

      • richard

        That's an easy question to answer. He came here to make a name for himself and quickly move on to a bigger job. And it all looked great to him up til right after the Orange Bowl win. Then the bottom fell out. Now there is not a program in the country who would want him. His wanting to succeed now has nothing to do with the WVU program. He knows no one would want him now until he can win something. Mark my words, if he ever is able to rebuild the program, he will jump ship asap. Also, if he does care in the least about WVU, he would fire Deforest today instead of protecting his worthless ass.

        • norm

          rich if he wins9 games next yea hes gone genius

        • Ricardo

          Richard, if you are going to make accusations about someone, you need to be able to back them with some form of evidence. Every word in this response are clearly your opinions.

          Your response is the equivalent of a forth grade kid telling the teacher he doesn't like another kid in class. When asked why, he reasons that the kid is just using the elementary school until his parents move him to another school, in a few years.

          Could his parents change jobs and cause him to move? Maybe. How would the little boy know? Speculation. Should this cause one little boy to not like the other? I would say no. Families move all the time, and friendships are separated. How would we want Coach Holgorson to remember us IF he were to move, voluntarily, or otherwise?

          • RodG

            Ricardo, It is a fact that the bottom fell out. Measure the win/loss ratios. It is a fact that not one other school has asked permission to talk with Holgerson. It is a fact the he is protecting DeForest because DeForest has had more responsibilities and reassignments than any other staff member. Someone said DeForest must be a tremendous recruiter to keep him on the payroll.......nothing from the HC to indicate that, plus one can see which player has been recruited by which coach.

          • richard

            I understand what you are saying and can fully understand how you would see my comments that way. But, I'm just asking you to take my word for it because it comes from someone who is on the inside and knows what is going on in the program. But I totally understand if you don't believe it. I just cannot name any names to prove my point.

        • Dana

          And there have been assistant coaches at WVU under previous head coaches that had no business coaching at this level. I refuse to name any names because I don't know who reads this and I would not want to offend any family members. But at that time the head coach thought they were good enough for his staff and that's his right.

        • Dana

          That's all speculation. There are no facts to support your opinions that he came here to make a name for himself. And if he does leave he leaves. Coaches come and go that's the way it is today. And the DeForest story is getting old. Was his contract too high? Yes. However he has been a division 1 football coach for many years so it's not like he hasn't proved he can coach.

      • Dana

        Correction...why doesn't he care about WVU and the state of WV.

  • Mark

    I have the same reaction every time Country Roads is played or sung. Just can't help it.

  • Diana

    Correction needed: when you here “Take Me Home Country Roads,”

    • Grammar police

      Correction to your correction, it's *hear

      • Grammar commissioner

        Correction to your correction of her correction: She was pointing to the error in the statement. That wasn't her correction of an incorrectly construed statement.

        • Grammar Mayor

          Correction to your correction of his correction of her correction. Unless it was changed, it reads hear. When correcting grammar, the accepted and established protocol is to write the word or phrase as it should be, preceded by an asterisk.

          • Grammar Governor

            It was changed. Commence onward now.

  • WV Grad

    Good article, Allan. A big welcome back to the Mountain State to Mr. Shane Lyons and his family.