MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Dana Holgorsen has a contract at West Virginia that expires after the 2021 season. He could have a six-year fully guaranteed offer waiting in Houston, which partially explains why the head coach of a Power Five program would consider the atypical move of stepping down to one of college football’s mid-majors.
Holgorsen’s decision could boil down to whether he receives another extension from Mountaineers athletics director Shane Lyons. Sources told the Dominion Post that WVU administrators aren’t inclined to enrich Holgorsen’s current deal given the team’s disappointing 8-4 finish that featured a season-ending three-game losing streak. Picked to finish second in the Big 12, the Mountaineers settled for fourth.
Houston fired second-year coach Major Applewhite on Sunday, following an 8-5 season that concluded with a 70-14 loss to Army in the Armed Forces Bowl. Billionaire booster Tilman Fertitta reportedly pulled the strings on that dismissal and wants the Cougars to make a splashier hire by plucking Holgorsen from WVU, and busting the market on Group of Five salaries in the process.
West Virginia paid Holgorsen $3.7 million this season, a figure that increases by $100,000 each of the next three years.
The owner of the Houston Rockets and president of the Landry’s Corp. that oversees restaurant chains and casinos, Fertitta is an acquaintance from Holgorsen’s stints at Texas Tech and Houston.
Coincidentally, Holgorsen was linked to Houston’s previous vacancy in December 2016, within days of agreeing to an extension at West Virginia. Industry sources doubted Holgorsen’s genuine interest at the time — chalking it up to a leverage play — and Houston ultimately hired Applewhite.
Since signing that extension, Holgorsen owns a 15-11 record, the same mark Applewhite produced during his stint with the Cougars.
Sources said Houston wouldn’t make an official move until Jan. 1, the day Holgorsen’s personal buyout clause dips from $2.5 million to $1 million should he resign.
Holgorsen’s contract also compels him or his representatives to notify Lyons before discussing positions at other schools. As of Sunday morning, sources said Lyons had not been apprised of any discussions with Houston.
Thanks to Big 12 revenue sharing, West Virginia’s athletic revenue ranked 27th nationally by eclipsing $110 million. Houston brought in $57 million to rank 56th.
— Alex Hickey contributed to this report