After a brutal four-game stretch that featured losses to Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Baylor and TCU — three of those games on the road — West Virginia appeared to right the ship a bit with wins over Texas Tech, Texas, Kansas and Iowa State. Sure, there’s only one bowl team among that last set of four, but four straight wins are four straight wins.
And then came Saturday’s regular season finale at Kansas State, when the favored Mountaineers squandered a 13-3 halftime lead — against a team with a wide receiver playing quarterback — in a 24-23 loss that was sealed when, instead of giving the ball to Wendell Smallwood (141 rushing yards), quarterback Skyler Howard was stuffed on fourth and two with 2 minutes 33 seconds left.
Thus, Coach Dana Holgorsen is again on the hot seat, according to the Charleston Gazette-Mail’s Mitch Vingle:
Now, though, there’s a decision to be made: fire Holgorsen or retain the coach.
As of Monday evening, the decision had not been made. All of the principals — [school president E. Gordon Gee, Athletic Director Shane Lyons] and Holgorsen — were in New York. The WVU basketball team is playing a high-profile game tonight at Madison Square Garden against Virginia. There are Big 12 meetings going on. There are College Football Hall of Fame ceremonies going on. Lyons is a speaker at a sports business clinic.
When reached Monday, Lyons said he had no comment on Holgorsen’s status. Reliable sources, however, have said the athletic director and coach have talked about the situation a couple times. Those discussions will continue in the coming days.
One sticking point might be the cost of firing Holgorsen and hiring a new coach: around $15 million. About $8.725 million would go toward buying out Holgorsen and his staff, an amount that will decrease some after the first of the year. It might be worth it for Lyons to wait until after the Mountaineers’ Jan. 2 Cactus Bowl game against Arizona State to make a move, especially considering the coaching carousel has passed West Virginia by anyway.
But there also are recruiting considerations, as West Virginia’s incoming class probably would like to know if the coach they agreed to play for will be around next season. Throw in a fan base dissatisfied with a 25-25 record over the past four seasons, and it’s a tricky situation, indeed.