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WVU football: Holgorsen likes to keep it simple


By Mike Casazza

Charleston Daily Mail, W.Va.


March 29--MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Questions. Every day delivers a batch to Dana Holgorsen and every batch seems to offer a few West Virginia's new offensive coordinator hadn't considered before.

"Which is better?" he asked inside his office earlier this month. "The meatball sub at Varsity Club or the stuffed meatball at Stefano's?"

This is symbolic of nothing relevant to football, which he finally gets his hands on Wednesday in the first of WVU's 15 spring practices. This is comparing the merits of Morgantown's eateries and is not to be confused with mastering NCAA compliance or familiarizing himself with a new roster.

This is just the way Holgorsen has gotten to know a place that is still getting to know him ... and it's been a pretty important part of his new life.

"That meatball sub is pretty good," he said. "The stuffed meatball comes in a bowl by itself with some sauce. They call it an appetizer, but it's pretty much a meal."

The 2011 season is the appetizer for Holgorsen, but it, too, is pretty much the meal. Hired in December by Athletic Director Oliver Luck, Holgorsen, 39, will replace Bill Stewart as the head coach when the Mountaineers are done playing this season.

"This is a wonderful opportunity for me," he said. "I can't wait for the six years ahead of me. I've been in four different places the last four years. I'm tired of moving. I'm tired of living in a hotel -- and I know there's been a lot of speculation about that. I'm looking forward to this. I'm really excited about being here."

THE HOTEL could be the starting point for Holgorsen, but it could also be the conclusion because it illustrates so much.

He lived in one the entire time he worked at Oklahoma State. He still resides in a hotel in Morgantown. The explanation why is a window into philosophy on football and on life.

"I'm never there," he said. "Typically I get there anywhere from 10 to 12 at night and I'm there until whenever I wake up. Then I shower and leave and when I'm working, I'm working."

And when he comes home, the bed has been made, the floor has been vacuumed, the bathroom has been cleaned and the towels have been replaced.

"It's just easy," he said. "Convenience is a part of what I do. It makes sense. A lot of stuff that doesn't make sense is inconvenient. I try to live like that. That makes sense to me."

Holgorsen and his familiar offensive assistants vow to install the offense in three days the first week of spring practice. The next four weeks will be spent revisiting and refining ideas. It's the way he learned during stops at Texas Tech (2000-07), Houston (2008-09) and Oklahoma State (2010), and it's pretty convenient, as well.

"That's my approach offensively as far as just making sense of things," he said. "Life's hard. If you make it harder, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense."

WVU LOST to North Carolina State on Dec. 28 in the Champs Sports Bowl. A night later, Oklahoma State beat Arizona in the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio. Holgorsen, who is divorced and has three children, went from the bowl win to spend a few days in Houston with daughters McClayne and Karlyn and son Logan, and then made his move to Morgantown.

There was no football to be coached. Players were off limits.

He jumped into recruiting, but that was over by the first Wednesday in February. He hired his offensive staff -- Shannon Dawson from Stephen F. Austin to coach the inside receivers, Bill Bedenbaugh from Arizona to coach the offensive line and Robert Gillespie from Oklahoma State to coach the running backs -- but that didn't take long and was actually done way before national signing day.

Holgorsen couldn't do much else except get to know people in and around town and the program. He attended a men's basketball game in January and at halftime was led around the WVU Coliseum by President Jim Clements to meet fans and students.

He went to the Big East tournament in New York earlier this month.

In between, he was on his own to do his own thing. Sometimes he was working clinics and camps in different parts of the country. Other times he was sampling pizza across town and wondering who had the best chicken wings.

One night, some of the friends he'd made called him and invited him to Sargasso in the Wharf District. Holgorsen agreed and when he arrived he saw someone he knew about, but had never met.

Rich Rodriguez.

"A couple of his buddies who are supporters of the program, guys that I know obviously as this point, called me and wanted to know where I was. That's something that's not unusual," he said. "They were in town, coming back from a Steelers game, actually, and called and said, 'Where are you at?' I said, 'I'm in town.' So I stopped by and we chatted for a while. Simple as that. Happens all the time."

Holgorsen said the two coaches talked about stuff two coaches talk about. He wasn't worried about what others might have thought.

"It never entered my mind whatsoever," he said. "We talked about football and we talked about Michigan and Oklahoma State way more than anything that was about West Virginia."

Simple as that. Happens all the time.

Holgorsen was back in Houston last month for a one-back clinic. He figures about 75 coaches were there and a bunch of them "talk ball all day, go out and have dinner, maybe get some beers and talk some more football and bounce some things off each other."

Sometimes people don't quite understand it. Before the one-back clinic, Holgorsen was in Lubbock, Texas, to work another clinic.

"I found out Texas Tech was practicing so I went over to Texas Tech's practice and I sat there and watched practice," he said. "I talked to Tommy Tuberville on the 50-yard line for 15 minutes.

"A bunch of people took pictures and it was in all kinds of papers across the country. What's the big deal? It's two football coaches watching football and talking football."

WHEN HE worked at Oklahoma State, he'd travel from Stillwater to Tulsa to spend his free time. When he was introduced in December, he said, "It's no secret I like the city."

Morgantown isn't a big city, but it's big enough for Holgorsen. Stillwater was not. It felt a lot like his hometown, Mount Pleasant, Iowa.

"I kind of compare it to Stillwater, just as far as being the small kind of town I grew up in, a town with 10,000 people in Iowa that was about the same size as Stillwater to me," he said. "Stillwater had about 30,000 people, but it was retired people and rural people who lived way out in the country.

"With all those people living way out in the country, it felt like the same kind of town I grew up in. Not a whole lot of people, not a whole lot going on.

"When I found out Morgantown had about 40,000 people, I wasn't concerned with it. I was curious about it, but when I came to Morgantown, it's got the feel of 90,000 or 100,000 people. There are a lot of different things going on. The hospital brings in all kinds of people. The school brings in all kinds of people. It doesn't have the feel of a small town to me. It's got the feel of a pretty decent-sized town."

It's vital to Holgorsen because he's careful to live separate lives. When he's working, he's working.

And when he's living, he's living.

Consider what Holgorsen says is a normal week in the regular season. He works from noon to midnight on Sunday and from 8 a.m. to midnight Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

"Thursday, when practice is over, that's when you have to shut it down a little bit," he said. "There isn't a whole lot you can do after that. Thursday night is the night coaches go home and get away from things for a little while.

"That's why I would go to Tulsa every Thursday night when I lived in Stillwater. When I lived in Houston, there was all kinds of stuff you could do to disappear and get your mind away from football."

Holgorsen said his Thursday nights will be spent in Morgantown.

"There's enough to do here," he said. "You're going to have plenty of coaches around. We may go to someone's house to watch football and be a fan and have a cookout. It's just about getting away from the office and getting your mind off of it because there's just not a lot you can do at that point."

Holgorsen has put in those 60-hour weeks 12 times a year as an assistant and as a coordinator, but not yet as a head coach. The significance of every minute every day will change beginning in 2012, but his need to step away will not.

"That's why those Thursday nights are important," he said. "It's always been pretty much the same with the guys I've worked for.

"The hours have always pretty much been the same, but Mike Leach had a family and liked to go home. Kevin Sumlin had a family and liked to go home. Mike Gundy had a family and loved to go home. I worked for people that understand you've got to let your people get away.

"When you're working a lot of hours for a lot of weeks, it's the time in the offseason where there's not a lot going on where people try to do too much and burn out.

"When there's not a whole lot going on here, I'll still stay up here and look for things to do to disappear for a few weeks in the offseason. The kids have their routine. That's what the strength coaches are for."

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


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(c) 2011, Charleston Daily Mail, W.Va.

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