Welcome to the Friday Feedback, which sometimes just stares at the screen and wonders what’s wrong with people. Earlier this month — to be precise, 24 days ago — I wrote Bruce Tall was coming aboard the S.S. Dana and that Lonnie Galloway, Brian Mitchell and Joe DeForest, who each had contracts set to expire this month, would be there to greet him.
Additionally, sources said receivers coach Lonnie Galloway, cornerbacks coach Brian Mitchell and safeties coach/special teams coordinator Joe DeForest, who all had contracts set to expire this month, recently agreed to new contracts. Galloway and Mitchell agreed to two-year deals with raises while DeForest agreed to a one-year deal at a lower salary.
Everybody filed Freedom of Information Act requests to get the intel. I do it all the time because I want to make sure what I have is up to date. And if you’ve been here any length of time, you probably know I’m sort of fascinated by contracts. Call it a hobby, I guess. And don’t laugh at me. It’s that or, like, cigarettes or chew. Anyhow, the FOIA requests were filed and fulfilled and stories were written detailing signed contracts for Galloway and Mitchell (and some people lumped in JaJuan Seider, who agreed to a new deal before the bowl), and each was careful to note DeForest’s was not signed.
That’s not insignificant, but I don’t know how significant that really is. This wouldn’t have been a very big deal, I don’t think, if it had involved anybody other than DeForest. But that guy … man … I’ve never seen anything like it here. I got so many email and texts and phone calls about it. What’s going on? Please help me! My friends, who are truly terrible people, were sending me links to message boards discussing this saga, and those discussions, of course, insisted the reporting was wrong and the explanation was changing to cover up that inaccuracy (again, not as much friends as truly terrible people), and I couldn’t believe what I was reading (Aside: Thanks, Dirty Frank. I see you working.).
All I can tell you then is what I’m telling you now. Those three coaches agreed to new contracts all around the same time. Could have been at the same moment, for all I know, but let’s go with a broader window. Everyone I talked to for the linked-to story said it and said all three were coming back. Two subsequently signed. One did not, and I understand the identity of the exception makes that a story line. Never, though, did anyone suggest to me he wasn’t coming back. And saying someone “agreed to” a contract is not the same as saying someone “signed” a contract. The distinction is important when you write about things like this, especially here, where coaches have gone entire years without signed contracts. Remember, DeForest went a full season without a signed contract, but with a signed term sheet in its place. But what others wanted to see only seemed to push the story in a direction it was not headed. Maybe he hasn’t signed it because he’s not coming back and maybe the reporting is all wrong!
Hey, there may be some truth to that. Maybe he wasn’t happy with the pay cut and the one-year deal and maybe he went to the coaches’ convention trying to find a job. I’ll allow that. But all along the hope, if not the insistence, at WVU was he was coming back. So I’ll also allow that he was busy at a busy time, and possibly even pissed since he did lose his associate head coach title, and just didn’t get to it until Monday. It might not have been a big deal to him.
Here’s the truth about DeForest: He can coach safeties and he can recruit, Dana Holgorsen really likes and respects him and he gets too much blame for special teams travails — and I’m the guy who crushes special teams. He’s not the guy who coaches the punt returners, much like he’s not the guy who makes boneheaded decisions to, say, line up 70 yards from the punter, run up 25 yards and dive head-first into a return or to attempt over-the-shoulder catches on the 2-yard line or to stand near a bouncing punt. Yeah, he works with punters, but he didn’t tell the punter to kick left when the return was going right. Follow me?
We might not agree on that, and honestly, that doesn’t matter. Here’s what matters, and this might be awkward and forward, but who cares? I’ve been on planes and in hotel rooms and have spent quite some time thinking about this and answering and asking questions. Here’s what I gather happened and how I can explain this situation:
WVU had one opening on its staff. Holgorsen is no dummy, and he’s made veiled defenses of DeForest in past. He knows the easy move would be to let DeForest go and generate whatever good will would come of that, but he didn’t think that was the right move, even when he considered everything that’s on the line next season. So he looked at everything before what I believe we’ll agree is a critical season and decided, “I’m going to replace the QB coach/offensive coordinator with a defensive coach.” Further, he went to Tony Gibson, who he just granted a three-year, $2.1 million contract, and said, “I’ve got the offense covered. Gonna get a G.A. from Kentucky who played QB here for a second. What do you need for defense?” Gibson, who has coached safeties before, as well as cornerbacks, and knew the contracts for the cornerbacks and safeties coaches were set to expire and that he could easily do one or both on his own because he has in the past, said, “D, I need a defensive line coach. We’re not where we need to be, and we need someone who can get us there in a hurry.” (In my head, this is exactly how they communicate.)
Gibson wants to coach linebackers. He’s stated he’ll never pick another spot because he wants to be in middle of the action and he needs to understand everything front to back, and he knows the linebackers are the fulcrum. He doesn’t want to coach corners and/or safeties, I think, for two reasons: 1) Coaching both is too much for a guy who runs the defense and 2) He has good coaches there. I can’t stress this enough: If he wanted DeForest out, he could have said, “I’ve got safeties. Scrap, you get linebackers. Damon Cogdell, we’re getting you a guy who really knows the line and you, in your second season of college coaching, can learn and grow under his wing.”
That didn’t happen, and now we’ve got some wrinkles to iron out, wrinkles I firmly believe will be addressed on or right after Wednesday. Here’s my ribbon: Bringing DeForest back makes sense. The price tag is cheaper — and he still makes more than everyone but Bradley and Gibson — and the $150,000 WVU saved helped keep Seider and Mitchell (Galloway re-signed for the same salary). Most importantly, WVU isn’t a place that needs ripples in the water. There have been too many for too long and if this is indeed a severely important season, Holgorsen and his loaded defense have one less thing to worry about.
Onto the Feedback. As always, comments appear as posted. In other words, try it if you can do it.
The history probably points to academically ineligible, but hopefully it’s some of the less talented heading out. Looking at that roster, the O-line is looking pretty rough next year, and the offense in general I suppose. With the exception of maybe the RB position. Defense looks pretty strong though, with the exception of maybe the defensive line being a little thin. Time will tell.
All that being said, it is a rare, but exciting, position for WVU to be in. Some schools oversign every year (looking at you SEC), but hopefully WVU can handle this position of power without coming across as not caring about the kids.
Surely getting to 85 involves some combination of kids who don’t qualify and kids on scholarship who leave. Impossible to avoid. The former, you’ll have to wait on — though you might see some committed kids not sign Wednesday — and the latter is something I expect to hear more about at the end of this week.
Mike, do the guaranteed scholarships apply to kids who are already under scholarship, or will be, once that whole thing starts?
Nope, but I wondered if the student-athletes were going to push for that. The first group to get them is the next group to get them.
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