When John “Doc” Holliday returned to West Virginia to join Coach Bill Stewart’s staff, many assumed that he would be the next head coach when Stewart eventually stepped down. This theory was given some added credibility when Holliday was named “associate head coach” and given a salary much higher than previous WVU assistants had earned.
Then Marshall University came calling.
Yesterday, Doc officially donned the traditional green jacket as the new head coach of the Thundering Herd.
I certainly must admit that I have some mixed feelings about Holliday’s departure from Morgantown to Huntington.
First and foremost in my mind was the fear that Bill Stewart’s retirement from coaching would mean that West Virginia would once again face the prospect of elevating an inexperienced Division 1-A head coach
And as we all know, Coach Stewart has certainly not had any shortage of critics.
That situation would only continue if Coach Holliday succeeded him.
Taking the coaching job with Marshall doesn’t necessarily eliminate Doc from consideration for an eventual Mountaineer coaching vacancy; however, it does increase the likelihood that the WVU athletic director will pursue the best candidate available, and not simply elevate another loyal member of the coaching staff.
My misgivings regarding Holliday’s exit mostly have to do with losing his extensive recruiting contacts and his ability to persuade premier athletes to come to our program from Florida. Now those recruiting connections will be employed at West Virginia’s in-state rival.
Despite some great success at the 1-AA level and some early triumphs in the MAC, Marshall has fallen on hard times since their decision to join Conference USA.
Gen. George Patton once said, “All glory is fleeting.”
But at Marshall, it has recently been in full retreat!
This is a program that, while trying to goad West Virginia into scheduling them in football in Coach Nehlen’s later years, placed billboards all around the state that declared, “At Marshall, we play for championships.”
It was a campaign that definitely created a lot of hard feelings between the fans of the two programs, where, in many cases, none had previously existed.
The Thundering Herd don’t need much of a push to join the ranks of their conference elite. The past couple of years, they have only been a victory or two away from winning their division title.
However, it has yet to be seen if an untested head coach can transform Marshall into a yearly conference contender.
Clearly, it should be the perfect situation for Coach Holliday.
This was quite a coup for their program, snatching Doc away from his alma mater!
Not only does he bring his impressive Florida recruiting connections to Huntington, the Thundering Herd also succeeded by kicking some sand in the face of their more athletic and highly regarded big brother in Morgantown.
And that brings me to my other misgivings about a new marshal in town at Marshall University.
As a proud West Virginian who remembers their tragic plane crash, I have always rooted for Marshall’s football program to be successful. Despite that fact, I don’t wish the Mountaineers’ dominance over Marshall to change.
While I certainly like and respect Doc Holliday, my allegiance lies with West Virginia..
But when it comes to our yearly showdown with the Herd, in the final outcome, I want Doc Holliday resting next to the Clantons and McLaurys, not standing alongside the victorious Earp brothers.
As a loyal Mountaineer who remembers Holliday’s entire playing and coaching career in Morgantown, I certainly wish him all the success in the world.
But when he takes on the Mountaineers, I hope Doc is a mite slow on the draw.