By JOHN RABY and VICKI SMITH / The Associated Press
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Bill Stewart is being slowly forced out as West Virginia’s football coach because athletic director Oliver Luck believes the Mountaineers had become an also-ran instead of a national power.
Luck held a news conference Thursday to address the hiring of Oklahoma State’s Dana Holgorsen as West Virginia’s head coach in-waiting, scheduled to replace Stewart prior to the 2012 season. Holgorsen will serve as the Mountaineers’ offensive coordinator next season.
Just four months after he took over as athletic director, Luck said he met with Stewart on Nov. 14, the day after a 37-10 win over Cincinnati.
“I didn’t believe we had an opportunity to win a national championship with the direction of the program,” Luck said. “At the end of the day, results matter. And we weren’t getting the results.
“I want our Mountaineer program and expect us to compete at the highest levels.”
Luck said he first met with Holgorsen on Nov. 23. Holgorsen, whose hiring was announced by Luck in a statement Wednesday, has signed a six-year term sheet, but there is no signed contract yet as some details need to be ironed out.
Holgorsen, who will be paid be paid $800,000 in 2011 – which will increase to $1.4 million, plus incentives, in 2012 – could be introduced at a news conference next week, Luck said.
Luck said there were two options with Stewart, who is 28-11 and earned a Big East co-championship this year but no BCS bowl berth in his three seasons.
Luck said Stewart must resign after the current season, or he could stay on for one more year.
Rather than fire Stewart, Luck said he decided at the conclusion of the regular season to let Stewart keep his job next season after the Mountaineers finished with four straight wins. Stewart will take an undetermined administrative post in 2012.
“I think coach Stewart did a marvelous job toward the second half of the year,” Luck said. “We went on a great win streak, and I thought he deserved the head coaching position for the 2011 season.”
Luck said he doesn’t foresee a conflict between Holgorsen and Stewart next season.
“Bill Stewart’s the head coach,” Luck said. “There’s no question about that. Dana Holgorsen’s the offensive coordinator, just like Jeff Mullen was this past season.”
Stewart had not held a meeting with his players about the decision as of Thursday afternoon.
Luck said the defensive coaching staff will be retained. What happens to the offensive staff will be up to Holgorsen.
In Holgorsen’s hiring, Luck cited the addition of TCU to the Big East starting in 2012 that will create an entirely new challenge.
“I see a rapidly improving Big East,” Luck said. “The addition of TCU is going to raise the bar for all of us in the Big East and we need to respond to that and prepare ourselves. Because I believe eventually the road to the Big East championship will go through Fort Worth and we need to be prepared to go ahead and beat a team like TCU on the road, claim a Big East championship and get to national championship consideration.”
That also is expected to open up recruiting possibilities and Luck said Holgorsen will help identify potential recruits in both Texas and Oklahoma.
Wins and losses weren’t the only issue for the coaching change. Luck said season-ticket sales have declined since Stewart became head coach.
“We’ve only had two crowds since 2004 under 50,000 at Mountaineer Field,” Luck said. “Both of those took place in the last couple of years. Can you blame the weather? Sure. But that, to me, is an indication our fans aren’t satisfied with the product and that factored in as well.”
Luck said he’s modeling the transition to ones conducted when Bret Bielema took over at Wisconsin and Chip Kelly assumed control at Oregon.
“I’ve got no doubt that it will be handled professionally, as well as it was handled in the Oregon and the Wisconsin situations,” Luck said.
Luck’s biggest fear was that Holgorsen, whose name had cropped up for several coaching vacancies, could end up somewhere else, including with a WVU opponent.
“I wouldn’t want to prepare against his offense,” Luck said. “I wanted him to be at this university to lead us in the long term. He is, I think, one of the outstanding l coaches in college football today and I wanted him at WVU because I do think he can lead us to a national championship.”