FRISCO, Texas — A few years ago, Dana Holgorsen prominently displayed stadiums of his nine Big 12 opponents in his team’s meeting room.
The West Virginia players would stare intently at all of the new places around the Big 12.
Now, whether Lubbock, Manhattan, Stillwater, and Ames are exotic locales is beside the point. The Mountaineers were learning their way around their new digs.
“Now they don’t really look at them,” Holgorsen said. “They understand who their opponent is and what the facilities are.”
The Mountaineers are in their sixth season in the Big 12, and they’re at ease. And after going 10-3 last season, they also have learned how to compete in the conference.
“We’re finally a full-fledged member, and it makes a difference when you get that check,” Holgorsen said. “There was a time when we didn’t get it. Now it just feels like we belong.”
The transformation also is allowing Holgorsen to morph as a football coach. For the first time since taking over the West Virginia program, he will not call plays this season. His new offensive coordinator, Jake Spavital, will be tasked with that responsibility.
It’s an easy transition. Spavital first worked with Holgorsen in 2009 at Houston when Holgorsen was offensive coordinator under Kevin Sumlin. He followed Holgorsen to Oklahoma State the following season. He then became WVU’s quarterbacks coach in 2011 when Holgorsen arrived. After two seasons in Morgantown, he spent three at Texas A&M and two at California.
“I have complete confidence in Jake Spavital,” Holgorsen said. “I trained him for four years. And then he went on his own and did a lot of really good things. I know how he thinks, so I’ve got 100 percent confidence in him being able to do this.”
Holgorsen said the “time was right” to let Spavital call the shots on offense. That will allow the head coach to tweak his responsibilities.
“I was awarded a five-year contract. So I just kind of look at where we were as a program,” Holgorsen said. “We’ve been improving the last three or four years. I feel like the way to continue to improve is to focus on some of the other areas.”
Holgorsen mentioned fundraising, facility management, and retaining coaches as areas that should improve with him not calling plays.
It starts Sept. 3 when the Mountaineers square off against Virginia Tech in a huge opener that will be a featured Sunday night telecast. For good measure, the game will be played at FedEx Field in Landover, Md., home to the Washington Redskins.
Games such as the contest against Virginia Tech will shape much of the early-season narrative about the strength of the Big 12. Holgorsen realizes the importance of that first game.
“We didn’t do very good in the nonconference as a league last season,” Holgorsen said. “I know we’re motivated to go out there and show the country that we’re as good as anybody else in the Power 5.”
Even if it means he’s not the one who will be calling plays for the Mountaineers.