A soap opera?
Things remain interesting in Morgantown, at least within the athletic department and football program. Not that I know anything about soap operas, but recent news reports, columns, blogs and internet chatter indicate a messy state of affairs may exist in the athletic department.
To get up to speed, we start with the story that broke late last month that West Virginia University’s head football coach in waiting, Dana Holgorsen, had to be escorted by police from the Mardi Gras Casino near Charleston. There were no arrests and Holgorsen was compliant with the police officers. A complaint had been made by casino security when Holgorsen complained when he was refused service by a bartender.
Certainly not the kind of publicity the university wants from any employee, let alone an employee with as high a profile as Holgorsen possesses. Holgorsen apologized, saying it will not happen again. Athletic director, Oliver Luck, admonished Holgorsen’s behavior and no more statements were issued. If Luck and Holgorsen thought that would be the end of it, they were sadly mistaken. The story has taken on a life of its own.
Several days after the report of the Holgorsen incident was reported a Huntington columnist wrote a column suggesting that Holgorsen had already had as many as six alcohol related incidents since he was hired last December. The columnist, Chuck Landon, has recently been in attack mode on Luck for the WVU AD’s stance on renewing, or not renewing, the Marshall football series. If you think I am a WVU homer, and I am, Landon beats a Marshall drum louder and longer than anyone I’ve observed who writes about the Mountaineers.
But this recent column was a little different in that he was making accusations that he attributed to unnamed sources. Accusations that seemed very personal since none of them had been reported. Among them were incidents at Oglebay Park and Wheeling Downs. An incident at the Waterfront Place in Morgantown where Holgorsen currently resides. Landon mentioned an incident at the Pete Dye Golf Club in Bridgeport. Landon also said WVU president Jim Clements ordered Luck back from the Big East meetings in Ponte Vedra and that Clements threatened to fire Luck if he didn’t get a handle on Holgorsen.
Other newspapers and ESPN blogger, Colin Dunlap, a former WVU beat writer for the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, tried to verify the claims in the Landon column and not a single one could be verified. WVU spokesperson Becky Lofstead denied any such threat from Clements to Luck and said Luck had been scheduled to return when he did for over three weeks and had an itinerary to support it. It is believed that WVU is considering legal action.
While the Landon column festered among the WVU faithful last week the saga took another turn on Sunday and Monday with reports that WVU believes Landon’s source is someone in the West Virginia athletic department and that the university is stepping up its effort to find out just who the source is. Bloggers were running with this on Sunday and on Monday Charleston Daily Mail writer, Mike Casazza, broke a story about head coach Bill Stewart having not yet signed his contract that provides his exit plan. In the same piece Casazza mentioned WVU’s stepped up efforts to find its “leak.”
It is obvious that if Landon had a source, that source was out to undermine Luck or Holgorsen, or both. If that source is from within Luck’s own department, well that source needs to be shut off. The wild rumor on Sunday suggested that the source was Stewart or his wife. That rumor was fueled by a couple bloggers that presented that info as solid.
Personally, that seems very un-Stewart like, but Casazza’s piece on Monday did little to put out that fire. Actually, the fact that he put the delay in the contract signing in the same piece with information about the renewed search for the leak was taken by some as a connect the dot story.
One thing is certain, true or not, the second-guessing of Luck’s decision to keep Stewart on an extra year will pick up in earnest. Very few thought a lame duck head coach and a head coach in waiting would work. Still, many agreed that if it could work, Bill Stewart was the man that could make it happen. Stewart, or his wife, could be completely innocent of this, but damage has been done. At this stage it is difficult to imagine this arrangement making it through the season.
In breaking news, Dunlap went on a KDKA late night talk show early Tuesday morning in Pittsburgh and told the audience that Stewart asked him in December to “dig up dirt” on Holgorsen.
“He (Stewart) tried to flame-throw the guy (Holgorsen) in December by calling me and at least one other reporter, because the reporter and I discussed it. He said, can you get the word ‘scumbag’ tattooed on the front of the sports page?” Dunlap said.
So, whether or not Stewart, or the Stewarts, were the source for Landon’s column, it looks like Luck will be forced into action. An action that will likely mean that Stewart’s days on the WVU sideline are over.