I wrote today about the situation with West Virginia football, repeating and elaborating on what I’ve said and what we’ve discussed before. Namely, I think Shane Lyons has stepped into the batter’s box and taken his stance, but I also think that in the absence of edicts we’re not quite sure we know what’s good, what’s acceptable and what’s not over at the Puskar Center. The headline is, “Uncertain times for WVU football,” and that’s fair.
But the timing was curious. For starters, it’s February. There’s a lot of time between now and the start of the season, when contract talks would be a distraction, but the conversations are done.
You wonder if there’s any sort of future together. You wonder if negotiations ever really started and progressed if they ended so soon. You wonder how close Lyons was to guaranteeing no money and how adamant Holgorsen was about getting much more than that.
Of course, there’s another side of this that we ought to cover, because what I think is only one side of the story, and what I think really only matters a little.
Some things are undeniable and I hope understood. They should serve as the backdrop for all conversations about this topic. For starters, Lyons inherited a tricky situation. The football program is still blending into the Big 12, but it’s also been in the league for a while. It’s had time. It needs more time.
There are a lot of elements involved in all of that, and good luck sorting them out and then jamming them into containers so you can evaluate them when that time comes. Either side of the bargaining table can retrieve and manipulate one of them or many of them in a convenient manner, and the argument can make sense.
In short, it isn’t easy for Lyons to take decisive and popular action, and there are benefits to discretion and patience. That tact can be rewarded with success, and shortcomings can justify subsequent decisions. Say WVU wins 10 games next season. What follows is logical. And if WVU loses eight games next season, the response is just as obvious.
This is unusual, but I feel like it’s important to say that Lyons was not hired to keep Dana Holgorsen. A contract extension was not something he promised or was ordered to do.
On top of that, there’s the matter of the contract. Holgorsen’s deal is slanted sharply his way, which can happen when an extension is granted following a BCS bowl win and when a team is about to move into a new league. It’s the intersection of achievement and ambition, and the financials are no doubt a part of all of this.
But it was not Lyons’ doing, and I’ve heard many times from many people that he knew right away that the contract was going to be something he’d have to deal with sooner rather than later … even if the occasion to visit the contract was to extend it.
Look, the current edition might be hard to exit from, but it also created expectations for future arrangements. Lyons couldn’t have been comfortable with that.
That’s a part of what happened here. There’s a lot we don’t know that has become part of the discussion — Would Lyons have fired Holgorsen after a bowl loss? Could Holgorsen have received an extension with Kansas State and Cactus Bowl wins? Does Lyons have a coach up his sleeve for after the 2016 or 2017 season? — but that muddies everything. What we know matters.
Team Lyons and Team Holgorsen did talk about a contract extension, and both sides know additional years are hollow without a financial commitment, which is to say guaranteed money. Team Lyons had a figure. Team Holgorsen had a figure. The teams never reached a compromise. That is the essence of negotiation, and that is why there is no extension today.