West Virginia has plenty of real problems. Population, workforce participation, unemployment, and education. But new governor Jim Justice has a separate focus: Marshall’s football coach.

Since his election in November, Justice has reportedly pressured the Marshall administration to fire Doc Holliday and replace him with Bobby Pruett.

Pruett, a close friend of Justice, coached at Marshall from 1996 to 2004, posting a 94-23 record and winning five bowls.

Unsurprisingly, Justice is denying the report. Here’s the statement his chief of staff released to the Charleston Gazette-Mail:

“It was not a meeting to say, ‘Fire the coach and hire Pruett,’ ” Justice chief of staff Nick Casey said in a statement Wednesday evening. “It was a meeting to say, ‘Ratchet up your game and do something to get yourself back to greatness.’ ”

But of course his administration wouldn’t publicly admit the actual purpose of the meeting, if the report is true. A statement from Marshall president Jerome Gilbert certainly makes the report sound true.

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

According to the Charleston Gazette-Mail’s report, Justice first met with Marshall leaders in December and then again in late March. Both times, he reportedly asked for the removal of Holliday. He also asked for the firings of Gilbert and athletic director Mike Hamrick, who hired Holliday in 2009, at the second meeting.

Charman of the Marshall board Wyatt Scaggs also gave a statement to the Gazette-Mail:

“We talked about a number of issues,” Scaggs said. “I don’t want to get into the specifics, you know, that were discussed. In general, though, we talked about higher education in West Virginia and our common goal and ideas for Marshall University and our programs.”

Scaggs said it was a good talk and that board members took his ideas to heart. He said he wouldn’t discuss the specifics of the meeting until he had time to discuss it with the rest of the board members at their next meeting.

The board is scheduled to meet again on April 26.

Remember, Justice is the governor who expressed his displeasure with the state’s budget proposal by bringing out actual bullshit.

This seems like a perfect time for George Carlin.

[Charleston Gazette-Mail]

About Jesse Kramer

Jesse is a writer and editor for The Comeback. He has also worked for SI.com and runs The Catch and Shoot, a college basketball website based in Chicago. He is a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. Follow Jesse on Twitter @Jesse_Kramer.