WVU’s Holgorsen Prepared For Sideline, Decorum Changes
By Kevin Kinder
The video clip of WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen vigorously protesting a call in the Texas game in 2017 was a highlight of Walt Anderson’s “State of Officiating” address at Big 12 media days last week, but that, like most things that get attention on the Internet, wasn’t the whole story.
In the clip, Holgorsen goes onto the field to protest a call, and that was used to highlight the national point of emphasis this year on coaching decorum on the sidelines. Coaches that come onto the field to debate calls have always been subject to unsportsmanlike foul calls, but this year it will be adjudicated with a stricter hand.
Holgorsen acknowledges that there’s a new line, both figuratively and literally, that he’ll have to avoid crossing this year, but also explains that the new point of emphasis is about more than just a coach’s behavior.
“It’s not about me. I can control myself just fine,” he said after a conversation with Big 12 Supervisor of Officials Walt Anderson. “I know the one time I flipped out, but I didn’t get flagged because I was right. Now with that said,if I do that this year I’m probably going to get flagged because it’s an emphasis right now.
“There are a lot of things on that rule that we need to pay attention to. It’s players, it’s coaches, it’s doctors, it’s trainers, it’s managers. They want to get us back [off the field and the sidelines].”
That broader perspective wasn’t the one that was shared by Anderson during his public presentation at Big 12 Media Days, but it has apparently been discussed as information on the goals of the new push have been shared with schools. Anderson noted later there are exceptions to the rule against being on the field, including, for example, a coach signalling a play call to his team on the field. In that instance, a couple of steps off the sideline are ok, so long as the coach then immediately retreats afterward. It also figures that coaches will, during timeouts, be able to address officials while huddling with players, but the emphasis on cleaning up language and keeping those discussions civil, without histrionics, will remain.
In terms of keeping the sidelines clear, Holgorsen noted that a team effort may be needed.
“Where we’ve had one ‘get back coach’ we may need to have five spread out over the course of the whole sideline to keep everybody back, because they are going to be paying attention to it,” he said. “I’m going to have to do a better job of paying attention to it as well.”
WVU Director of Strength and Conditioning Mike Joseph, who has served as the de facto “get back” coach over the past few years, said there has been some mention of that over the summer, but that formal plans haven’t been put in place yet. Noting that many strength coaches across the country seem to have those duties fall upon them, he acknowledged that some modifications may be in store.
“I think that we kind of fall naturally into those roles, because we spend a lot of time with the players and have earned their respect and trust,” he said of his duties in helping keep the sidelines clear. “The coaches, with all they have to do, just can’t have that as an area of focus. They have so much going on with communicating with the players, and on the headsets, and keeping track of everything in the game, it’s not something they have time for. It’s on us to make sure to communicate that to the players, and help keep the sidelines clean.”