By Cliff Nichols
Times West Virginian
From the day Don Nehlen took over as West Virginia University’s football coach after the 1979 season until his retirement following the 2000 Music City Bowl victory over Mississippi in Nashville, Mickey Furfari covered the program on a daily basis.
The coach and sports writer built a mutual respect.
From noon until 2 p.m. Thursday, Furfari and Nehlen will be part of a book sale and signing at Monongalia General Hospital.
They, along with WVU professor Carolyn Peluso Atkins, will appear next to the gift shop on the hospital’s second floor, South Tower, in the McQuain Wing. Enter through the main entrance.
Furfari, in his 68th year of covering West Virginia University athletics, has written two books, “Mickey’s Mountaineer Memories,” volumes 1 and 2. Volume 2 was published last year and Volume 1 five years ago.
The books, priced at $25, will be available at the signing. Both volumes may be purchased for $40.
Nehlen, a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, wrote “Tales from the West Virginia Mountaineers Sideline” with former WVU sports information director Shelly Poe in 2006. That book, which includes “a collection of the greatest Mountaineers stories ever told,” is priced at $20.
Atkins wrote “Living Life the West Virginia Way,” $12, and “Great Unexpectations: Lessons from the Hearts of College Athletes,” $15. Both may be purchased for $25.
Furfari, who began writing for the Times West Virginian in the summer of 1989, thoroughly enjoys meeting his readers. During the signings, he takes time to talk with them and shake hands, if they wish. He also includes a brief personal message, if requested, when he signs the books.
The first chapter of Volume 2 is one on his former classmate at Morgantown High School and WVU’s longtime “Voice of the Mountaineers,” Jack Fleming, who passed away in 2001.
There are chapters on such former players as Jerry West, Patrick White, Major Harris, James Jett, Canute Curtis, Aaron Beasley, Brian Jozwiak, Jay Henry, Dave Oblak, Steve Newberry and Darryl Talley.
Furfari writes about coaches he has known, including Bob Huggins, Dana Holgorsen, Bill Stewart and Frank Cignetti. Nehlen and Gale Catlett, among others, are featured in Volume 1. He has a chapter on current athletic director Oliver Luck, whom he covered when Luck was a WVU quarterback and outstanding scholar in the 1970s and ’80s. He has a chapter titled “The Dumbest Thing I Ever Did In My Life” and writes about former WVU President Neil Bucklew, whom he labels “not my favorite.”
He also discusses the fiscal mess that led to athletic director Dick Martin’s resignation in 1981. Furfari includes thoughts on WVU’s stunning 2012 Orange Bowl victory over Clemson in the book’s final chapter.
Former WVU star quarterback and NFL official Fred Wyant, one of Furfari’s longtime friends, authored the foreword for the book and noted that “there is no one in the world who can out-write or out-story Mickey. He’s been my friend for 59 years and has now become one of my closest personal friends. He understands athletes, coaches and sports people better than anyone I know.”
Nehlen’s book includes insight on how he got the WVU job after serving as Bo Schembechler’s assistant at Michigan and memorable games and personalities from his 21 years on the job in Morgantown. His WVU teams posted a 149-93-4 record, including undefeated regular seasons in 1988 and 1993.
Email Cliff Nichols at cnichols@ timeswv.com.