The Times West Virginian

Bob Herzel

May 16, 2014

HERTZEL COLUMN: Nehlen sees big difference with transfers

MORGANTOWN — The sports news at West Virginia University over the past week has been dominated by the rash of transfers that have left the Mountaineer basketball program, most recently Eron Harris and Terry Henderson, making it 13 recruited players having either transferred or failed to suit up since the Final Four team in 2010.

Transfers have reached such epidemic proportions that an NCAA study showed as many as 40 percent of incoming freshmen transfer by their junior year in basketball while football transfers also are on rise.

Don Nehlen, a winner of 202 games as a college coach living in retirement in Morgantown, says he’s read about the increase in transfers.

“Cripes,” he says, “21 years at West Virginia I probably didn’t have three kids transfer.”

He pauses for a moment, realizing that statement is probably not accurate, then adds, “Oh, I may have, but I don’t remember them.”

The big difference between what is going on today is there are a lot of players transferring in all sports who are starters, important players with big roles to play. Harris averaged 17.8 points a game last year, Henderson 11.2. In football, Rushel Shell was a top recruit who played at Pitt as a freshman before coming to WVU; Charles Sims a star at Houston who used the graduation rule to allow him to transfer for his senior year without sitting out.

“My transfers were guys who were third-stringers,” Nehlen noted.

In fact, Nehlen noted, that his transfers actually helped get another coach untracked in his coaching career, a coach you know quite well.

“When Rich Rodriguez coached down at Glenville he’d come up here and I’d say, ‘Hey, Rich, take a look at these 10 or 11 kids; they’ll never play here. If you can give them room or board in Glenville I’ll encourage them to come down. They’d be good players for you.’”

Rodriguez was just getting started as a head coach.

“Rich was 0-11 his first year and then he started getting my transfers and started winning,” Nehlen said. “He had all my quarterbacks. He got Jedd Drenning and Scotty Otis and Wilkie Perez and all those kids. They went there and won a ton of games for him.”

But those transfers weren’t going to play at WVU, and Nehlen actually found them a home, a place where they could display their talents.

“I had those kind of transfers, but for kids to pick up and leave … that’s so hard to believe,” Nehlen said.

Nehlen did bring in some transfers over the years that helped his program, the most

notable being Jeff Hostetler, who transferred from Penn State when beaten out by Todd Blackledge after he had started three games.

“I got some guys in here like Hostetler, but I never had a Hostetler leave,” Nehlen claimed.

In fact, he’s not even sure he ever had to talk a good player out of leaving.

“I may have had one or two in 21 years here and my 12 years at Bowling Green, but I don’t ever remember a kid we were counting on coming in and saying, ‘Coach I want to leave.’ Does that mean it never happened? I don’t know, but I don’t recall it.’”

At this point, Nehlen was asked why he thinks there is so much more transferring of good players.

“That tells me they don’t like competition,” Nehlen said. “Guys that transfer after a coach recruits another one or two players at his position think this guy went out and recruited two or three of these guys because ‘he doesn’t like me anymore.” I don’t understand that.”

Nehlen also believes he wasn’t troubled much by transfers because of the manner in which he recruited, often taking a lot of players that didn’t interest other coaches coming out of high school.

“When I was here – you know they have five-star recruits and four-star recruits – we didn’t care about any stars. We tried to recruit tall kids, put them in the weight program and in three years they’d weigh 270. Maybe that’s why we didn’t have many guys leave the program, because until my last eight or nine years we didn’t have many highly recruited guys on my team.”

So what’s changed now in college sports to turn transferring into an epidemic?

Nehlen doesn’t hesitate with his answer.

“I would say the social media has become a nightmare for the college coaches,” he said. “Every kid knows what everybody else is doing. To get one tailback, you have to recruit three or four or five. Now, you get one and the other three or four know it right away and are looking elsewhere, but you still would like to have two of them.

“I got in when that stuff was just starting with the recruiting services and stuff like that, but the social media wasn’t near what it is today.”

That was not said as a complaint.

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.

1
Text Only
Bob Herzel
  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Must WVU defense carry offense in ’14?

    The other day the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette ran a story under the following headline:
    “In a year of change, must the Steelers’ offense carry the defense this year?”
    Reading that turned on a light.

    July 31, 2014

  • WVU takes first step today

    Perhaps the most used — and least factual — cliché in sports is as follows:
    “There’s no tomorrow.”
    Around these parts, however, tomorrow is what they are clinging to, while putting a new twist on the cliché, turning it to, “There’s no yesterday.”

    July 31, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Big 12 provides plenty of optimism

    This past week the Big 12 held its annual media gathering in Dallas and served up a heaping portion of optimism for the 2014 season that is now upon us, West Virginia University opening its preseason practices on Thursday.
    This is a time of year when no one has lost a game, not even Charlie Weis at Kansas, and it’s a time of year when opinions are more plentiful than tattoos in an NFL locker room.

    July 27, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: WVU needs White to follow in former receivers’ footsteps

    A year ago Clint Trickett took a lot of grief as the once potent West Virginia offense came unraveled, but there is more that than meets the eye.
    The criticism was not unfounded, of course, although behind each incomplete pass there was the pain Trickett was suffering through to throw it, his rotator cuff in need of surgery.

    July 26, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: O’Toole joins long list of eccentric WVU kickers, punters

    The star of the Big 12’s annual football media day wasn’t a star at all.
    He intrigued the media far more than Bob Stoops, the coach of preseason favorite Oklahoma, and more than Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty, the preseason player of the year.

    July 25, 2014

  • WVU, N.C. State to meet in football

    Following a trend of creating non-conference games against regional opponents, West Virginia University has reached agreement with North Carolina State to play a home-and-home football series in 2018 and 2019.
    The Mountaineers are scheduled to play N.C. State in Raleigh on Sept. 15, 2018, and then play host to the Wolfpack on Sept. 14, 2019.

    July 24, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: ‘Cheating pays’ remark should draw attention

    When Bob Bowlsby, the outspoken commissioner of the Big 12, presented his opening-day picture of the future of college sports in Dallas for the annual media day gathering, his bleak comments were not unexpected.

    July 24, 2014

  • Holgorsen’s program hits turning point

    You can almost sense, as you watch West Virginia University football coach Dana Holgorsen sit before the gathered Big 12 media contingent answering questions in the Omni Hotel in Arlington, Texas, that he senses his program has reached a turning point.

    July 23, 2014

  • Big 12 Media Days Foo_time(1).jpg Trickett’s play key factor for Mountaineers’ success

     In the end, it comes down to the quarterback.
    Always has with Dana Holgorsen, always will.
    Quarterback is the offense with the West Virginia University coach. When he does well, the team wins – almost always.
    When he does poorly, the team doesn’t stand much of a chance.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Saban, family happy at Alabama

    Alabama football coach Nick Saban, whose team opens the season against West Virginia in Atlanta on Aug. 30, denied receiving or turning down this offseason an offer of $100 million to coach Texas, indicating he planned to finish his career as coach of the Crimson Tide.

    July 18, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads