Skip to main content
Publish date:

Is the governor of West Virginia trying to get Doc Holliday fired?

It's not new for politicians to inject themselves into, well, the politics of college sports. The Big 12 was, as the story goes, originally set to be a 10-team conference until Texas politicians rammed Texas Tech and Baylor into the new conference in the mid-1990's. Utah senator Orrin Hatch tried to get the Justice Department to investigate the BCS in a year after the University of Utah happened to go undefeated but get left out of the BCS championship game. Even now, North Carolina lawmakers are trying to forward a bill that would require UNC and NC State to leave the ACC if the conference boycotts the Tar Heel State again.

So while politicians meddling in college sports is nothing new, this story is without recent precedent: a sitting governor is trying to get a football coach fired.

According to Jake Jarvis of the Charleston (W. Va.) Gazette-Mail, West Virginia governor Jim Justice has pressured Marshall brass to fire head coach Doc Holliday and re-hire his friend Bob Pruett to coach the Thundering Herd.

Pruett appeared alongside former West Virginia head coach Don Nehlen in a campaign commercial for Justice, and Marshall president Jerome Gilbert met with Justice shortly after he was elected. Justice has since met with five members of Marshall's board of governors. None of the five have discussed the topics discussed with the governor.

“I probably shouldn’t comment on any of that,” Gilbert told the paper. “I want to maintain a good relationship with the governor, and it’s unfortunate that this information got out."

Of note: Holliday is not a hired gun from a foreign port. Just the opposite, exactly. A native of Hurricane, W. Va., who played for the Mountaineers from 1976-78 and immediately moved into a coaching role in 1979, Holliday remained on the WVU staff through 1999 in a variety of roles, and he returned to Morgantown in 2008-09 before taking over as the head coach at Marshall in 2010. Holliday has guided the Herd to a 53-37 mark in his seven seasons with three 10-win seasons and a Conference USA championship in 2014, though Marshall dipped to 3-9 in 2016.

Pruett led Marshall to a considerable string of success during his 9-year stint from 1996-04, including two undefeated seasons, a Division I-AA national championship in '96, a No. 10 final ranking in the AP and Coaches' polls in '99, five MAC championships and a string of six straight MAC Championship appearances. Pruett, 73, has not coached since a 1-year stay as Virginia's defensive coordinator in 2008.

Pruett's nine seasons as Marshall's head coach is a significant number. Jarvis noted in the Gazette-Mail that 10 years of head coaching experience is required for consideration from the College Football Hall of Fame.

Where's what Holliday had to say to the Gazette-Mail: “I’m sad. I think it’s sad, to be honest with you, sad day for everybody. That being said, I’m only concerned about this football team, and my job is to get this football team, be around these kids and love these kids and get them better and become a better football team, and that’s the only thing I’m worried about.”