West Virginia football has a pretty heartbreaking history as the winningest college football program without a national championship. Rich Rodriguez’s final game at the helm of the Mountaineers in the Backyard Brawl against Pittsburgh was just the tip of the iceberg. 20 years before the Mountaineers loss which denied them a national championship bid there was Major Harris’ shoulder injury which limited him throughout the ’88 National Championship against Notre Dame.

Bil Stewart’s inspirational win over Oklahoma in the 2008 Fiesta Bowl was so emotional it compelled the Mountaineers to hire the 56 year old Stewart as their new head coach.  Three years later, the Mountaineers have yet to return to a BCS bowl and despite a 12 win season, Mountaineer fans sorely wish to remove the “best program with a title” moniker from the thoughts of outsiders.  While Bill Stewart was a capable head coach, he was simply an intermediary before they could attract the next young coaching phenom to Morgantown.  It was obvious the Mountaineers were drifting from the nation’s elite and new West Virginia AD, Oliver Luck confirmed this himself by stating, “I didn’t believe we had an opportunity to win a national championship with the direction of the program,”

This was just an awkward way of doing it.  The comparisons I’ve heard have compared the West Virginia coup as a Conan-Leno debacle-in-waiting.  Basically, Oliver Luck offered Holgersen the Late Late Show for 2011 and Late Night with Bill Stewart in 2012.  Except, instead of being separated by 3,000 miles Holgerson will be sitting in Kevin Eubanks seat.  However, It’s more reminiscent of another NBC show.NBC has a show called Undercover Boss.  Each episode revolves around a high ranking executive going undercover as an entry-level employee within their own corporation.  Next season, West Virginia’s assistant coaches will be coaching alongside their future boss or the man who’ll fire them in 12 months.

There are those who’ll tell you coaches-in-waiting are a bad idea.  Truthfully, there are no absolutes.  Coaches-in-waiting have mixed results.  Having an appointed coach-in-waiting is the equivalent of a married man, telling his mistress he doesn’t really love his wife, and that one day he’ll marry her. Occasionally, he does but sometimes that mistress ends up breaking up a marriage and everyone ends up alone.  Right now, West Virginia has moved their mistress into the pool house and is giving their mistress a week to get her affairs in order, pack up and go and a financial settlement to not cause a scene with the neighbors. At some point, this season, we’re bound to see them arguing on the lawn.(I just pray the Mountaineer’s musket is locked up.)

Chip Kelly arrived at Oregon in 2007 and was eventually named Belotti’s successor.  In two years since the smooth transition, Kelly has taken Oregon to consecutive BCS bowl games including January’s national title game.  Wisconsin’s handoff of the Badgers program from Barry Alvarez to Bret Bielema has also been drama free.

But for every Wisconsin or Oregon there is a fumbled handoff such as the ones at Maryland, Florida State or Texas.  Most famously, Jimbo Fisher was named as coach-in-waiting at Florida State in 2007. However, once it seemed Bobby Bowden was eyeing another decade, he had to be pried from the reigns in an ugly ending to an otherwise harmonious era.

Texas defensive coordinator/coach-in-waiting Will Muschamp’s stock was never higher than after the 2009 season but dipped to an all-time low during the 2010 season. Rather than wait for Mack Brown or the athletic department to change their minds and rescind his future job, Muschamp finally took destiny into his own hands at Florida.

Meanwhile, less heralded Maryland offensive coordinator/coach-in-waiting James Franklin leapt at a chance to coach Vanderbilt rather than wait for Ralph Friedgen to walk away with the swiftness of a turtle. Not only was Franklin on track to purge much of Maryland’s staff after a 8-4 season but as a result, Maryland has pushed out Ralph Friedgen, reigning ACC Coach of the Year.

However, in the case of West Virginia, next season’s awkwardness could result in substantial gains in the future.  Holgerson was evidently on Pittsburgh’s radar, however Bill Stewart was still under contract and is a bowl game victory away from his 10th win of the season.  Firing him after a season which ended a UConn loss away from playing in a BCS bowl game would seem reactionary and heartless.  This way, the Mountaineers appear loyal and savvy.

As for Dana Holgersen, the Mountaineers offense which has struggled and lost it’s explosiveness, they’ll be inheriting an offensive coordinator who served as a pupil of Mike Leach for 7 years, then took Houston and Case Keenum’s offense to another plane of awesomeness for two seasons before finally transforming Oklahoma State from the nation’s 61st ranked offense into an offensive juggernaut this season. Things should get interesting in Morgantown next season.  With their proclivity for couch burning let’s just hope their next  one is coming after a big win and not from Bill Stewart’s office.