Posted by Chip Patterson
The publicity mess at West Virginia accelerated this week when Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writer Collin Dunlap told 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh that head coach Bill Stewart asked local media to "dig up dirt" on coach-in-waiting Dana Holgorsen.
Athletic director Oliver Luck joined the morning show on that same station on Tuesday. Initially planning to discuss the recent approval of beer sales at athletic events, Luck ended up opening by offering a few comments on the Stewart/Holgorsen soap opera.
"It's difficult to know what's fact and what's not," Luck said in response to the various reports. "Before I make any comments I need to figure out what the facts are, it's as simple as that. I think that's the only fair way to go about this."
Much of this began with a string of reports on Holgorsen's off-field behavior. More than a handful of incidents regarding gambling and/or alcohol have been mentioned in recent weeks, causing the university to take action. After finding certain flaws in the reporting, the school has begun an investigation into possible leaks from the football program. Leaks which many believe will lead back to Stewart.
"The investigation that I undertook to look into a lot of these allegations left me with a high level of confidence that, as the university put it, there were a number of 'blatant inaccuracies' in these allegations and I did not find any substantiation."
"I've got a high level of confidence in Dana, and his persona and his discipline," Luck continued. "I, again, have 100 percent confidence that he'll do the right thing. But unfortunately, some of the reports and some of the allegations are 'blatantly inaccurate,' and beyond that I can't say very much."
Luck went on to admit that while the "coach-in-waiting" scenario seemed like a good idea at the time, he was not sure if he would repeat the process again. The purpose of bringing in Holgorsen would give the young coach an opportunity to teach his offense for a season before taking over the reigns as head coach. Now depending on what the university decides in their internal investigation, Luck may have some tough decision-making ahead.
Hearing the vote of confidence from Luck makes me think that Holgorsen will not find himself a victim of anything more than the bad publicity. If the internal investigation reveals that Stewart played any part in the "blatant inaccuracies," he will likely be fired or forced to resign. However, if Stewart denies Dunlap's recollection of the "dig up dirt" phone call then the university will have to figure out a way to rebuild some torched bridges. The plan was for 2011 to be Stewart's last season, which is making it awfully hard for West Virginia fans to take his side considering the current reports.
But as we saw in the beer sales debate, Luck will not be swayed by the fans' will. He has no worries about the Mountaineers in 2011 on the field, and if he thinks that Stewart and Holgorsen can co-exist for that one season then that may happen. But judging by mud that has already been slung, I find it hard to see the two co-existing for much longer.