WVU athletics director Oliver Luck covered all bases in his statement on the status of Coach Dana Holgorsen following a poor 4-8 season.
First, Luck accurately evaluated the 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.”
Second, Luck gave Holgorsen and his assistant coaches an unequivocal statement of support… at least for next season.
“I strongly believe in our coaching staff, including the work that our strength and conditioning staff is doing,” Luck said in a prepared statement released Tuesday. “In my opinion, continuity is the key ingredient that will bring our football program back to the high level that Mountaineer fans expect.”
Third, Luck set down some markers for what’s expected next year.
“We simply must get better,” Luck said. “We have high expectations for the 2014 football team, and I have shared those with Coach Holgorsen.”
Luck did not quantify those improvements, but it’s reasonable to believe that they translate into at least a non-losing season and a bowl game. Considering West Virginia opens with Alabama and plays eight other teams it lost to this year, that’s not going to be easy.
It’s also worth noting that Luck specifically identified high expectations for next season, avoiding a nebulous reference to “the future.”
You can almost hear the questions being asked one year from now: Does (insert record here) constitute fulfilling high expectations? Did WVU get better? If not, what are the consequences?
The wording definitely has a “one-more-year-to-get-better-or-else” feel to it.
Fourth, Luck called on the fans to hang in there. “I want to thank all Mountaineer fans who supported our football team through a difficult and trying season… I ask for your continued support as we move forward to a brighter future.”
Coaches like to say they put more pressure on themselves than anyone else possibly could. I suspect that’s true, but no coach ever fires himself. Coaches always believe they’re a couple players away or a couple bad calls from being successful.
That’s why coaches have bosses, individuals with the power to hire and fire, who themselves are also held accountable for the successes and failures of a program. Luck bet on Holgorsen, inserting him through an ill-fated coach-in-waiting maneuver.
The two are intertwined. Based on Luck’s statement, the outcome of next season may determine for just how long.