The Times West Virginian

Bob Herzel

December 28, 2007

COLUMN: WVU has lost more than Rod

MORGANTOWN — The Golden Age of West Virginia University athletics has been tarnished.

See, the worst thing that happens when there’s no games to watch is you have time to sit back and think, and as you do a number of things begin to come together.

A column, authored some long time ago in another life that ended recently with an escape from what has become the Folsom County Penitentiary, Morgantown style, came back to me.

It was noted then that coaches at WVU had more job security than a tenured professor. At that time the Mountaineers had Don Nehlen coaching football, Gale Catlett basketball, Craig Turnbull wrestling, Linda Burdette gymnastics, Veronica Hammersmith volleyball, Martin Pushkin track and field and Martha Thorn women’s tennis, all of whom had been in their jobs for 20 or more years.

The only turnover you could find at the school was in the bakery or on the basketball court.

And it was little different in the athletic administration, where everyone was comfortable and went about his or her job just as they had for the past 15 or 20 or 30 years.

Oddly, it wasn’t the money that kept the group intact, as hard as that may be to explain to anyone just a short decade later. There were enough wins to keep the alumni and the fans happy, a few great moments dotted with national champions, if not national championships, and everyone went merrily on his own way.

Was this the right way to approach things? Probably not, if you wanted to play with the big boys, but there is something about being content in an atmosphere that by definition probably should lean more to the academic and less to the athletic anyway.

It all started to change when the athletic department decided to downsize, slashing five varsity sports to streamline expenses and bring the department more in line with Title IX requirements that dictate gender equality in the most unequal of situations, where the masculine sport of football is king in interest, participation and revenue.

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Bob Herzel
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