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WVU football: Spavital may have found a home

MORGANTOWN - There was a time when Jake Spavital had a full complement of furniture. He was a college graduate with a business degree from Missouri State and everything he needed to sit, eat and sleep in comfort. The family business was coaching and started out on his own as a graduate assistant at Tulsa.

Today, as the quarterbacks coach at West Virginia, he has got a suitcase and a standing reservation at a local hotel.

"It's been a long three years," he said.

Indeed, Spavital has been a GA at four schools, starting in 2008 with Tulsa and current Pitt coach, Todd Graham. A year later, he moved on Houston, where his older brother Zac is the secondary coach. Then it was Oklahoma State in 2010 and WVU this past winter.

"My first year at Tulsa, I brought all my stuff from college and I had all my furniture and all that," he said. "Then I go to Houston and that diminished by about 50 percent. When I went to Oklahoma State, it went down to about 10 percent. I just packed up a suitcase when I came here and decided I was going to start all over."

There's a common denominator - WVU Coach Dana Holgorsen. In 2009, Zac told Jake about a "brilliant" offensive coach he needed to get to know. That was enough to make him leave the Golden Hurricanes, who had a bright, young assistant named Gus Malzahn, who helped coach Cam Newton and the Auburn offense to the Bowl Championship Series title in January.

Holgorsen and Spavital have been inseparable ever since.

"I've hitched my wagon to him and gone spot to spot with him," Spavital said. "I pretty much sold my soul to him."

He had a purpose from the start. Coaching is what the Spavitals do. Jake's grandfather, Jim, was a fullback at Oklahoma A&M and rushed for 120 yards in the Cotton Bowl win against TCU in 1945. He was a first-round draft pick by the Chicago Cardinals in 1949 and still has the NFL's fourth-longest run - a 96-yard touchdown for the Baltimore Colts in 1950.

He made his name as a coach, though, and was an assistant in college at Oklahoma State, in the NFL and Canadian Football League and a head coach in the CFL and World Football League. He was even a general manager in the CFL and United States Football League and helped construct the Michigan Panthers, who won the first USFL championship in 1983.

His son, Steve, is the head coach at Broken Arrow High School, which is the largest high school in Oklahoma. He also was a defensive coordinator at Broken Arrow for three years and at Tulsa Union High for 14 years, when he saw Zac and Jake pass through the program and won state titles in 2002, 2004 and 2005.

Steve stayed put because he didn't want to bounce around like his father and constantly move his family. Jake's a little different. He's single and he's lived on couches and with roommates. He's living in a hotel right now because "it's the cool thing to do," an inside joke that's gotten out now that people know Holgorsen's preference for living in a hotel.

Spavital plans to get his own place and knew long ago he had a chance at something more permanent with Holgorsen at WVU.

"We talked about it before we got to West Virginia," said Spavital, who was working with the quarterbacks and doing essentially the same job as a GA. "The whole transition, we knew it was going to happen the whole time. It just happened sooner."

Initially, Holgorsen was to work this season as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach and replace Bill Stewart in 2012, when Holgorsen would hire a quarterbacks coach. Stewart resigned in June and Spavital was promoted last month.

"He's just competent," Holgorsen said. "I will be trying to get a script together and he already has three-quarters of it put together.

Spavital had all the requirements for the job - a bachelor's degree, a driver's license and skills relevant to the position - but his work toward his master's degree sputtered because of all his moves.

"The credit hours don't transfer, so I started over every single time I went to a new school," he said. "I feel like I should be a doctor by now."

Spavital finished one semester at WVU toward his master's in athletic coaching education, but said he'll have to table it for a while to focus on the job. The time demands are much greater as a full-time assistant coach.

"No classes and the paycheck are the biggest differences," said Spavital, who was going to school for free and making $14,000 as a GA, but is not making $75,000 in a six-month position.

He could get a standard coaching contract, as well as a raise, when the current deal expires.

He plans to finish his master's when he has time. Spavital is just 26, though that's more of a convenience than anything else.

"I see him a s a coach," quarterback Geno Smith said. "He's a young guy and he's fun to hang around with, but at the end of the day, he's my coach and I respect that."

*  *  *

DIRECTOR OF FOOTBALL Operations Mike Kerin will resign at the end of the month.

Kerin, who has been at the school for almost 32 years, learned in May his contract would only be extended through the end of the football season. He has accepted a job at Mylan Park.

Kerin started at WVU in 1980 as the equipment manager, became the administrative assistant in 1988, the director of football operations in 1998 and the assistant director of athletics for football operations in 2008.

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymail.comn or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.


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