“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.
“Blow it up!”
- WVU Sports
HERTZEL COLUMN: Under pressure, NCAA decides to change rules
At first glance, it appears that they do not go hand-in-hand, a pair of rules changes the NCAA’s Legislative Council approved this week, sending them off for what seems to be smooth sailing toward becoming rules.
Means, WVU baseball shut out Oklahoma
Junior left-hander John Means of the WVU baseball team threw eight shutout innings and the Mountaineers had a five-run first inning en route to a 7-0 victory over Oklahoma on Thursday evening at L. Dale Mitchell Park.
The Mountaineers (18-15, 3-6 Big 12) broke a six-game Big 12 losing streak after being swept by TCU and Oklahoma State in back-to-back weekends. WVU had 16 hits and did not make an error for the second-straight game.
FURFARI COLUMN: Dr. Graber disagrees with Gee’s stance on Turnbull firing
Dr. Stephen Graber, an associate professor at the West Virginia University School of Medicine, is among the latest WVU teachers to deplore Oliver Luck’s firing of veteran wrestling coach Craig Turnbull.
He raised some significant questions about that issue last Monday in a meeting of the WVU Faculty Senate.
Huggins signs junior college guard
Coach Bob Huggins completed his 2014-15 West Virginia University recruiting class on Wednesday and deemed it a success after receiving a signed letter of intent from junior college guard Tarik Phillip.
Phillip joins Jevon Carter of Maywood, Ill., and Daxter Miles of Baltimore’s Dunbar High and out of Notre Dame Prep in Massachusetts in the 2014-15 recruiting class.
HERTZEL COLUMN: WVU gymnast hopes to stick her final landing
The reaction, one suspects, was the same as most people who see either a picture of West Virginia University gymnast Hope Sloanhoffer or meet her for the first time in person — a quick double take, maybe even stumbling over the first few words of an introduction.
FURFARI COLUMN: Comparing pay of coaches and professors
Stringing together some odds and ends which may be of interest to you:
• A beautiful lady came up to my table last Sunday at brunch in the Village of Heritage Point’s main dining room with a message.
Bussie looks forward to WNBA
On Tuesday, the weather turned cold, the wind blew and amongst the raindrops that fell a few snowflakes fluttered quietly to Earth.
It was as if it was a celebration of Asya Bussie being drafted on Monday night by the Minnesota Lynx, champions of the WNBA, with the third selection of the second round, the 15th overall pick of the draft.
WVU’s Harlee named Big 12 Scholar-Athlete
The Big 12 Conference announced its Scholar-Athlete of the Year recipients for the 2014 winter sport season, and West Virginia University senior Jess Harlee earns the honor for women’s basketball.
Harlee was selected as the award winner based on a vote of each respective sport’s head coaching group, with coaches not permitted to vote for their own student-athletes.
Gyorko, Padres agree to extension
Jedd Gyorko, who hasn’t hit much of anything with a .178 start on this season, hit the jackpot on Monday, signing a six-year contract extension with the San Diego Padres for $35 million with a one-year club option at $13 million.
HERTZEL COLUMN- Spring game showed defense has improved
From Dana Holgorsen’s viewpoint, which was standing right behind the offense, West Virginia’s Gold-Blue Spring Game on Saturday was a rousing success for it showed very little of what the Mountaineers will be in this coming season, probably not even showcasing the man who will direct the offense in the quarterback position.
- More WVU Sports Headlines
- HERTZEL COLUMN: Under pressure, NCAA decides to change rules