Assistants Race Up Next, and Holgorsen/Houston Hold Pocket Aces
When Dana Holgorsen accepted the head coaching job at the University of Houston, he also took possession of a big advantage that accrues to all new hires – the leverage to take members of his previous staff without an immediate counter offer. This is important because there are assistants from the 2018 Mountaineer staff that it would be desirable to keep, but which could be put under pressure immediately to accept a guaranteed new job.
It works like this: Holgorsen, now in place, has already begun making offers and talking to those assistants from the West Virginia staff that he would like to have join him. WVU, on the other hand, is almost certain to leave those decisions to its next head coach. It’s not unheard of for the school where the coach just left to tell the assistants that they will be considered for spots under the new boss, but guaranteed jobs are extremely rare.
Holgorsen took wide receivers coach Tyron Carrier with him to Houston, where the pair appeared at a UH basketball game. It’s a foregone conclusion that Carrier, a Houston native on Cougar alumnus, will make the jump. Holgorsen even allowed him to talk to the media, something that he cut off midway through WVU’s 2018 season in which he only permitted the offensive and defensive coordinators to speak.
Holgorsen will also have a respectable amount of money to work with in attracting a new staff. The Cougars not only broke the bank and blew up the Group of Five coaching salary scale for Holgorsen, courtesy of mega-booster Tilman Fertitta, but they are also reportedly making available up to $4.5 million for on-field assistants, strength coaches and other staffers. That does sound like a lot, but will Holgorsen pay more than what previous staffers received in order to attract some of WVU’s staff to the southwest? Will that, and the personal ties developed during their time at West Virginia, be enough to tip the scales?
What are the odds on other coaches departing for the big lights, but smaller football stage, of Houston? Here are some of the names to consider:
Offensive line coach Joe Wickline (2018 WVU Salary $501,000): It seemed a foregone conclusion that Wickline, whom Holgorsen brought to WVU in 2016, would follow him to Houston. However, there is some indication that he might not be among the top group of coaches targeted to join him in H-Town.
Cornerbacks coach Doug Belk (2018 Salary: $251,000): Holgorsen can’t ignore the recruiting chops the Georgia native has quickly developed. He’s excelled in the Atlanta area, and that alone will make him one of the top targets on the staff.
Running backs coach Marquel Blackwell (2018 Salary: $251,000): The head of WVU’s best returning position group, Blackwell has also done well in recruiting. He has been at six different colleges in the last decade, and has had one-year stops at four (WVU, Florida, Western Kentucky and USF). He does have two young daughters, which might obviate against a move in terms of stability, but the uprooting process is one that every coach’s family has to be prepared for.
Associate AD For Football Alex Hammond (2017 Salary: $204,000): The duo came to WVU joined at the hip. Hammond is a graduate of the University of Texas. It’s hard to imagine a scenario where he doesn’t continue on with Holgorsen.
Director of Player Personnel Ryan Dorchester (2017 Salary: $115,000): Dorchester has done an outstanding job in moving up from student manager to his current position heading recruiting and player issues. He’s quickly assimilated all of the changes in the recruiting game, and managed Holgorsen’s transition to transfer recruitment as a major factor in building the roster. While not a name that every WVU fan knows or first thinks of, he’s a foundation piece whose value to Holgorsen would be immediate.
Assistant AD For Strength and Conditioning Mike Joseph (2017 Salary: $363,000): Will Hogorsen offer? And if he does, would Joseph’s ties to West Virginia (he’s a Fairmont native) be enough to keep him here? There don’t appear to be quite as many personal ties between Holgorsen and Joseph as will some of the other staffers listed above. The hope within the program, without question, is that Joseph would stay.
The one thing West Virginia has in its favor is that it is a Power Five conference school, while Houston is not. The circumstances that make understandable Holgorsen’s willingness to make a move down don’t apply to most of the assistants, so any that follow might be looking for either an appreciable salary bump or an increase in responsibilities to justify it. Otherwise, it could be viewed as a blip on their resumes the next time they are in search of jobs.
Unfortunately, the countering circumstance is just as strong, if not stronger. It’s one of the bird-in-the-hand variety. If Holgorsen makes an offer, that’s job security for the coach coming year, and with families to support, that’s a huge consideration. Without knowing West Virginia’s position, those who get reasonable offers may have no other choice but to accept.