If you had told us this morning that today might rival the past two days as far as drama goes, we wouldn't have believed you. We also would have been wrong.
To recap, here's what has happened today.
- Oliver Luck's press conference wasn't as smooth sailing as one would have liked. And, besides the incorrect reference of a 1990 national championship game appearance, none of that was Luck's fault. He was in complete control. But the media reaction, a lot of it less focused on tough questions and more focused on personal emotion (this from a few, select journalists), created a tense environment.
Colin Dunlap greatly expanded on the timeline Luck provided in the press conference. Stewart was informed of the overall plan back in November and was kept apprised of it as it progressed into where we are today. He even flew to meet Holgorsen a week ago in Houston, though he denied it to the media between then and now.
- Stewart, though he was informed of the moves in November, failed to tell both Jeff Mullen and Dave Johnson that they would no longer be employed by WVU after the bowl game. This is the most puzzling of all the revelations, as it flies totally against what Stewart has stood for in his three years as head coach.
So, those are three not-so-small revelations on what should have been a comparatively slow news day in and around Morgantown. What do they all mean in context of what we know already? We try to parse through it all after the jump.
Luck's press conference was interesting television. As mentioned above, Luck consistently came across and calm, cool, and collected -- a man that was 100% sure that he was making the right decision. That decision, however, is a very controversial one. At this point, Stewart's time as head coach is numbered. Anyone arguing that he should have continued as head coach is making a moot point and waste both their own and our time.
What can be argued is the decision to keep Stewart on for one more year rather than fire him right after the bowl game. A lot has been written about the potentially awkward scenario that is going to exist over the course of the next 12 months. I was of the belief that it could work, that it was implemented to sooth raw nerves of fans angry of disposing of a coach that could potentially have a double-digit win season. It would also allow Holgorsen some on the job training before stepping fully into the limelight of head coach. Unfortunately, the events of today -- well, more specifically, the events we learned of today -- make that a more tenuous situation.
After the Cincinnati game, Bill Stewart was informed by Oliver Luck that major changes would be made in the program. Whether that means he learned he was going to be fired, one can't be certain. But even Bill reading between the lines would have come close to that conclusion. At that time, he was also told in no uncertain terms that Jeff Mullen and Dave Johnson would be not be retained. It was Stewart's responsibility to inform both men of this fact, one that he confirmed to Luck that he would complete. It was not completed. Both Mullen and Johnson were forced to discover for themselves that they were no longer employed past the bowl game. This after Johnson turned down two other coaching positions in the interim.
After that meeting with Luck, Stewart's teams put up big points, won football games, and things looked to be back on track. All the while, Stewart was hiding the truth from assistants that would have likely preferred to know their future job status. It's as if Stewart figured that if he ignored the situation -- if he won games, just as he did -- that Luck wouldn't follow through on his previous statements. Of course, as we found out today, Luck was and is a man with a plan, and that plan was to make a major change to try to guarantee West Virginia's relevancy nationwide in the coming decade.
Maybe it was Stewart not fully coming to grips with the gravity of the situation back in November. After all, the team had just dismantled Cincinnati -- surely, in his mind, a few more convincing wins would right past wrongs (in fact, it probably did buy him a year's reprieve, as without those wins, Luck would have likely removed Stewart after this season). Still, there was an element of subversion in Stewart's tactics since that initial meeting. If that element is still present next year, this arrangement surely can not work. If he has now come to accept the situation as is, then the careful succession plan will have an opportunity to work.
So, what are your thoughts? Do the events of today make your more confident in the choices made by Oliver Luck? Do you feel Bill Stewart was in the wrong for not informing his assistants promptly? Or do you believe that no matter what has happened, there is still an element of back-stabbing that has occurred? Let us know in the comments.