WVU Director of Athletics Shane Lyons confirmed the rumors were true: head football coach Dana Holgorsen is returning to the University of Houston.
“I want to thank Coach Holgorsen for his eight years at West Virginia,” Lyons said in a statement Wednesday. “We wish him and his family all the best at the University of Houston. Our national search for his replacement has already begun, and I know it will be a successful one. A proven record of competitive success, a passion for the student-athlete, emphasis on academics and a strong work ethic are among the qualities that I will be looking for in our next head coach.
“We will move quickly to bring him to Morgantown to continue our strong winning tradition and solidify our place in the Big 12 and on the national scene. We are looking forward to this new and exciting era of Mountaineer football.”
Holgorsen, who had three years left on his contract, will owe WVU a $1 million buyout. But he’ll also reportedly be the highest non-Power 5 coach — by far — after signing a $20 million, five-year deal with the Cougars.
Where does WVU go from here?
Troy’s Neal Brown or Cincinnati’s Luke Fickell are the most common names mentioned as possible hires, with a few outliers thrown into the mix, like Mike Leach (currently at Washington State) and Mike Norvell of Memphis.
Whoever comes in will have a challenge in the short term. Holgorsen was 61-41 in his eight years at WVU, but key talent on both sides of the ball is leaving, like quarterback Will Grier, wideout David Sills and linebacker David Long Jr. — all of whom will be playing on Sundays soon.