The Times West Virginian

Sports

January 1, 2014

FURFARI COLUMN: Nehlen found ways to win games; has Holgorsen?

MORGANTOWN — “Blow it up!”

That was the harsh response when a media type asked head football coach Dana Holgorsen what he suggested be done to the 15-year-old Caperton Indoor Facility at West Virginia University.

Holgorsen was complaining to reporters that the building, for which WVU’s winningest coach Don Nehlen spent years urging its construction, was inadequate and allegedly unsafe for its intended use.

Well, Nehlen will tell you that the late Dr. Douglas Bowers, then the football team physician, made sure that there was adequate space on all four sides of that still-fine indoor facility.

Holgorsen, in his third year as a head coach (at any level), also complained that the height of Caperton isn’t enough for his team’s needs.

Permit me to recall, for those who were not around in 1964, that WVU met Utah in the Liberty Bowl indoors at the Convention Center in Atlantic City, N.J., in December 1964.

And the Mountaineers lost on a field that measured just 90 yards long. That was a 60-minute game — not a two-hour practice session, during inclement weather.

There’s a tremendous difference, I’d think.

It was Don Nehlen and Ed Pastilong, WVU’s athletic director at the time, who approved construction of the Caperton facility. Both remain very proud of what the current head coach, with athletic director Oliver Luck’s support and approval, has criticized

Unfortunately, Nehlen — for whom Luck played football two years — enjoyed the indoor practice facility just the last three of his outstanding 21 years as WVUs longest-serving, greatest, winningest football coach ever.

What’s more, the Ohio native, now a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, is a class act as well as gentleman in every respect.

He noted recently that the Caperton facility, which has some form of soft protection turf, was used by his team only sparingly when the weather was simply too bad to practice outside. Before it was built, his team worked out on Mountaineer Field or on the grass field.

Despite the lack of more-modern, so-called updated new facilities for which young Holgorsen is clamoring, the highly respected Don Nehlen guided the Mountaineers to within a shot at the school’s only national championship effort in 122 years of football. That was after the 1988 season, when WVU met Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl. The Fighting Irish prevailed by a score of 34-21.

However, if quarterback Major Harris wouldn’t have injured his left shoulder on that third offensive play, there’s no doubt in many people’s minds — including Nehlen’s — that West Virginia would have won the title.

WVU finished No. 3 nationally with an 11-1 record in 1988, then Nehlen came up with a second 11-0 regular-season mark in 1993.

For his 21 seasons, Nehlen shows a record of 149 victories, 93 losses and 4 ties for a .614 winning percentage.

Not bad for a guy who made the most of facilities available to him, including construction of what in 1980 was a modest version of the now-updated Puskar Center.

It was Don Nehlen who averted a possibility of the Mountaineers having to dress in a locker room of tents when the brand new Mountaineer Field opened in 1980 — his first year as head coach here with nine previous seasons at his alma mater Bowling Green.

As WVU fans are readily aware, the late Bill Stewart — a West Virginia native — produced teams that posted three 9-4 records. Then Luck forced him out of a scheduled, if not promised, fourth season. He had given his own alma mater, as an athletic director with no previous top experiences in intercollegiate administration, the school’s first-ever “head-coach-in-waiting.”

With Bill Stewart’s recruits — not his — Dana Holgorsen guided West Virginia to a 10-3 record in 2011. But in 2012, his Mountaineers went from a sizzling 5-0, No. 5 nationally ranked start to a final 7-6 mark.

In some 70 years of sports reporting, I can’t find a WVU team equal to that totally unacceptable collapse.

Then in 2013, after losing three of the greatest players in WVU history, Holgorsen’s squad ended up 4-8. It’s only the fifth time in school history (1,228 games, 122 years) that WVU lost as many as eight games in a season.

What’s more, the program has won only six of its last 20 games. Can that sad, sad state of affairs really be attributed to the lack of facilities or to recruiting, coaching and knowledge of the highest paid — by far—coaching staff in WVU annals?

I don’t know. I’m just asking?

Maybe the million-dollar donors and shrinking WVU fan base can decide.

1
Text Only
Sports
  • Jones uses his attitude to lead Polar Bears

    When you look around the football field come August, you’ll see plenty of new faces for the Fairmont Senior Polar Bears. But there will be at least one very familiar face.
    TJ Jones is one of just a handful of seniors on this year’s Fairmont Senior team, and he’s hoping to go out on top.

    July 24, 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

  • FSU football season tickets available

    Season ticket packages and VIP parking for the 2014 Fairmont State University football season are now available for purchase.
    Several options are available, including the opportunity to purchase a piece of Fairmont State history.

    July 24, 2014

  • Pirates jump on Haren early, top Dodgers, 6-1

    Josh Harrison had two hits with two RBIs and the Pittsburgh Pirates jumped on Dan Haren early in a 6-1 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday night.
    Harrison’s two-run double down the left field line capped a four-run outburst in the first against Haren (8-8).

    July 24, 2014

  • Berner, Hess lead W.Va. Open

    Threatening weather did not strike Wednesday, and it was a cool, breezy start to the 81st West Virginia Open played on the Cobb Course at The Resort at Glade Springs.
     

    July 23, 2014

  • WVU, Tennessee finalize 2018 meeting

    West Virginia University and Tennessee have finalized their season-opening, Sept. 1, 2018, meeting in Charlotte, N.C., at Bank of America Stadium.
    Both teams will receive $2.5 million for the game and have a chance to earn up to $3.2 million with ticket incentives.
    Each team will buy 12,500 tickets and set aside 2,000 of its allotment for students.
    The game, played on the home field of the Carolina Panthers of the NFL, is being put on by the Charlotte Sports Federation.

    July 23, 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

  • Fleming, Billy.jpg WVU’s Fleming signs contract with Yankees

     Second baseman Billy Fleming of the West Virginia University baseball team has signed a professional contract with the New York Yankees, foregoing his upcoming senior season.
    “Ever since I was a little kid, it’s been my dream to play professional baseball,” Fleming said. “It is still surreal that I get to chase my dream, but I am ready to get after it. I loved my three years at WVU and want to thank all the coaches that made it possible for me to achieve my dream.”

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • 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

Featured Ads
NDN Sports
House Ads
NCAA Breaking News
NCAA Photos