MORGANTOWN. W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice reiterated his nostalgia for “the glory days” of Marshall football under Bob Pruett, but said he won’t push for his longtime friend to replace current coach Doc Holliday.
Justice appeared on Friday’s edition of “Talkline,” two days after MetroNews revealed that he met with Marshall president Jerome Gilbert on Dec. 4 and board of governors members on March 28 to suggest a coaching change.
A Marshall alumnus, Justice said the meetings were motivated by his desire to see his alma mater “be absolutely great in every way.”
Holliday reacted to the news after Thursday’s practice, saying “it’s sad” the governor tried to intervene.
The Herd fizzled to a 3-9 record last season on the heels of going 33-8 the previous three years under Holliday.
“Doc hit it right on the head when he said it’s sad,” Justice told “Talkline” host Hoppy Kercheval. “But Doc is right. Doc is our football coach.”
Holliday’s contract extends through the 2020 season at an annual salary worth $725,000. His overall record stands 53-37 after seven seasons, including a 4-0 bowl record and one Conference USA champinship.
The 73-year-old Pruett retired in 2005 with a 94-23 record in nine seasons as a head coach, all at Marshall. His 1996 team won the Division I-AA national title before The Herd transitioned to the FBS level by making seven bowl appearances over the next eight seasons.
The program also encountered NCAA sanctions in 2001.
Pruett campaigned for Justice leading up to last year’s election.
“If I could wave a wand and go back to the glory days of Bob Pruett, well I’d wave that wand in a second,” Justice said.
“We have got to restore some real, live energy back in to Marshall. Sports, as you know, kind of puts you on the cover of the Rolling Stone, kind of puts you out there. And our image is we’re stagnant.”
Justice referenced a 60-6 loss to Western Kentucky in last November’s season finale, an ESPN game that drew a quick-dwindling crowd of 17,397 to Joan C. Edwards Stadium (capacity 38,227).
“I hated like crazy the Western Kentucky performance that we had, and there was nobody in the stands and on national TV,” he said. “It was an embarrassment.”
In calling for leadership to raise Marshall’s profile, the governor said he believes Holliday, Gilbert and athletics director Mike Hamrick all share that vision. He pointed to the template in Morgantown.
“Gordon Gee and WVU are knocking it out of the park, and I love it,” Justice said. “I love to see that.”