NEW YORK — Dana Holgorsen will return next season at West Virginia, a point athletics director Shane Lyons confirmed Wednesday night to squash speculation the school might be joining the FBS coaching carousel.
Mountaineers assistants, on the road recruiting since Saturday’s 24-23 loss at Kansas State, felt confident about Holgorsen’s status for 2016. His return essentially became a formality after Holgorsen qualified for a $75,000 retention bonus on Tuesday.
Lyons, attending the IMG Intercollegiate Athletics Forum in Times Square, issued a statement claiming “continuity is best for our program.”
With a contract that expires in 2017, Holgorsen’s long-term job security remains tenuous, however. Head coaches typically work with at least a three- to four-year guarantee to ward off negative recruiting, but Holgorsen currently lacks the leverage to demand an extension. He’s 35-28 overall and posted a 25-25 record since West Virginia joined the Big 12.
In league games during that span, the Mountaineers are 15-21, including the still-fresh sting of blowing a 10-point second-half lead to Kansas State, which rallied despite receiver Kody Cook becoming an emergency replacement at quarterback.
That loss capped a streaky regular season in which West Virginia (7-5) dominated a weak nonconference schedule, lost four games in October against the Big 12’s best teams, and then rebounded to win four times in November.
“I know that Dana, his staff and everyone who supports Mountaineer football was disappointed with how our regular season ended, following a four-game winning streak,” Lyons said in his statement.
The Mountaineers—with a 2-5 record against bowl-bound teams this season—are headed to the Jan. 2 Cactus Bowl to face Arizona State.
While Lyons said he has been “evaluating our football program after the close of the regular season,” a source said the AD has yet to engage in contract renegotiations. One potential option involves granting Holgorsen one or two rollover years but adding in a buyout to mitigate the university’s risk.
After earning $2.8 million this season, Holgorsen’s salary climbs to $2.9 million in 2016 and 2017. The contract was negotiated by former AD Oliver Luck after West Virginia went 10-3 with an Orange Bowl rout of Clemson in Holgorsen’s first season.
When Luck departed for an NCAA post last December, Lyons was hired by his alma mater and inherited questions about the direction of the football program. Those questions have been postponed until next season.
“Dana and I will continue to work together to strengthen our football program,” he said. “No one wants to win more than Dana and I, and we will work together to ensure success.”