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Holgorsen, WVU agree to six-year contract

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Twenty months after West Virginia hired him as an assistant football coach and 14 months after he was promoted to head coach, Dana Holgorsen has signed his contract.

It's a new one, too, finalized Wednesday morning with strokes from separate pens belonging to Holgorsen and WVU Athletic Director Oliver Luck. Holgorsen, 41, will be paid up to $20.5 million in salary and incentives for the six-year term through the 2017 season.

"There are a lot of exciting things happening at West Virginia, not only in the football program, but with the athletic department and the university as a whole, and this adds to it, I think," Holgorsen said. "This not only affects me, it affects my children, it affects my whole staff, and not only the assistant coaches.

"We're working hard to make it better around here in the football office and the football program on a daily basis and this will expedite the process to help us achieve what our goals are."

WVU and Holgorsen had been bound to a terms and conditions sheet that he signed in December 2010 and wasn't amended once he became the head coach the following June.

"We began to talk seriously in the offseason," Luck said. "There's no specific reason for it taking this long. We set a goal for camp, before the season starts, to have a full contract finalized. It takes a while to get done, but we're all delighted that it's finished."

Holgorsen, who was went 10-3 with a share of the Big East Conference regular season championship and a victory in the Orange Bowl, was to be paid $1.725 million this season. He's now at a prorated salary of $2.3 million.

He'll receive a $100,000 raise after the second and third seasons and then a $200,000 raise after the fourth and fifth seasons. Holgorsen will have a $2.9 million salary in 2017 - $1.1 million more than former Coach Rich Rodriguez made in his most lucrative season.

Additionally, Holgorsen will receive a $75,000 retention incentive every Dec. 8 that he is the team's head coach through 2017. On March 1, 2013, he'll receive a separate $50,000 retention incentive. On, March 1, 2014, he'll receive another separate retention incentive, that one for $300,000.

Between the $200,000 raise to a $2.7 million salary and the pair of retention incentives, WVU will dangle $575,000 before Holgorsen to keep him as the head coach for the 2014 season.

"It's a very fluid market and I believe that Coach Holgorsen is going to be a coach who will be in demand," said Luck, who hired Holgorsen from the Oklahoma State coaching staff in December 2010 and immediately made him WVU's coach-in-waiting. "He's young, innovative and has a great track record of success in a very difficult conference at Texas Tech and Oklahoma State, and even the University of Houston (in Conference USA).

"These are all pieces that go into making sure he feels that this is his home for the long term."

If that is not the case, the Mountaineers protected their commitment with a $2 million buyout. If Holgorsen decides to leave for another job, WVU is due that money within 30 days of the move. If WVU fires Holgorsen for any reason that doesn't have to do with breaking rules or laws, it owes him whatever salary he would make through the rest of the contract.

The contract does not prevent Holgorsen from leaving WVU for a job in the Big 12 or at any other school.

"I don't worry about that too much," Holgorsen said. "I didn't even have a contract or a buyout as an assistant coach. A lot of this stuff is new to me. We just made a commitment and (a buyout) is kind of what you need to make a commitment."

Holgorsen, divorced with three children, was the first coach in school history to win 10 games in his first season. He transformed WVU's offense from a group that ranked No. 78 in scoring offense, No. 67 in total offense and No. 67 in passing offense in 2010 into one that finished Nos. 13, 15 and 6 in 2011.

He'll be rewarded for similar successes, and others, with a list of performance incentives. He's eligible for up to $600,000 annually for winning between 8-12 games, selling 34,000-38,000 season tickets, finishing first or second in the Big 12 standings, appearances and victories in bowls and BCS games, top 25 and top 10 rankings in the final coaches poll, a first-place or top-five finish in total offense, conference and national coach of the year awards, a team GPA of 2.6, 2.8 or 3.0 and better and a team Academic Progress Rating score of 930 or 950 and better.

Holgorsen also secured rewards for his assistant coaches and guaranteed an annual salary pool that will begin at $2.6 million. It's to grow by no less than 3 percent every year and at least 5 percent if WVU plays in a bowl.

"I never viewed it as far as having any question what my commitment was," Holgorsen said. "I wake up, come to work and try to make it better. I'm sure Oliver and the administration gets tired of me asking questions about how we're going to get things better on a daily basis, but my opinion never changed.

"When the university commits what it's committed to me and vice versa, it's a positive. The assistant coaches view this as stability and they're going to want to be here. The players are going to view this as stability and want to be here."

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at or 304-319-1142. His blog is at


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