The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

April 6, 2014

FURFARI COLUMN: Turnbull endured many tragedies growing up

MORGANTOWN — Coach Craig Turnbull, the latest head-coach victim of Oliver Luck’s shocking series of firings at West Virginia University, had generally enjoyed what many rate as an outstanding career not only in athletics but in life.

Like the present, there also were some very difficult times for him as a youngster.

Turnbull, now 61, grew up in Erie, Pa., along with a younger brother. Their father was a professor of political science and history at Penn State.

Turnbull’s mother was a principal in high school, which was unusual in the 1950s for a female to be in such a high position.

The 36-year veteran WVU head coach of wrestling recalled this beginning at an exclusive interview recently in his office.

“My father died when I was just 3 and my brother Tommy was 6 months old,” Turnbull recalled sadly. “He had rheumatic fever from service in World War II and it partially closed a valve in his heart.

“He was waiting to have open-heart surgery, waiting to have it performed. But his valve closed before it could be corrected.”

So Mrs. Turnbull proceeded to raise the two young sons by herself.

“I remember her being both a mother and a father,” Turnbull continued. “I remember that she raced us around the block each day. And if she won, we had to go to bed; if we won, we could stay up for a half-hour.

 “Then Mom passed on when I was 13 and Tommy was 9. She had an extended battle with cancer.”

After losing both parents to heart-breaking unfortunate events, he and his brother turned to wrestling as “kind of a parental influence and direction in guiding us.”

Turnbull’s misery wasn’t over yet, though.

“Then, unfortunately, when I was a young coach here, my brother had a car accident and he passed on,” he reminisced grimly. “He was only 23.”

How could anyone possibly envision losing their father and mother before reaching high-school age and then that person’s brother die while in his 20s?

“Well, I guess that’s part of life,” said Craig Turnbull of his terribly hard luck growing up.

“But wrestling for Tommy and me, we were very fortunate because we had a very good high school coach that was very directed.”

His name was Jack Sinnott, and he took a special interest in the Turnbull brothers. Wrestling became a real focal point as they developed their skills under his direction.

The setting for this was Iroquois High School in the Erie area. Both were very successful wrestlers and state champions.

Craig and Tommy earned full scholarships to Clarion University. Craig was a Pennsylvania state wrestling champion at 126 pounds.

He also was an Eastern League champion and NCAA All-America selection. In addition, he co-captained a team that was ranked fifth in the country.

Turnbull, who graduated from Clarion in 1974, returned to Erie for a year and taught special education in high school while coaching. Then he came to Morgantown to work on a doctorate in counseling psychology at WVU in 1977.

He has been here ever since, following respective roles as graduate assistant, assistant coach, then 36 years as head coach of the wrestling program.

“It’s been a journey,” Turnbull readily admitted two days before athletic director Oliver Luck unexpectedly announced that Turnbull’s contract would expire June 30 and not be renewed. “Coaching here has had some challenge with the job.

“We started in a condemned area in the Coliseum. Then they moved us to Stansbury Hall, where the snow came in on the wrestling matches and basketball was on top of us.”

Eventually the grapplers were built the Wrestling Pavilion below the Natatorium and above the Shell Building on the Coliseum portion of WVU’s campus.

“I am happy with the upgrades,” Turnbull stated. “It’s a top-10 facility. From the beginning, it was funded by three large endowments. One was the largest that any sport here had received to build.”

Turnbull’s program produced 29 All-Americans, seven NCAA Tournament finalists and five NCAA champions.

He also coached the first national champion in the wrestling programs history, Scott Collins in 1991.

1
Text Only
WVU Sports
  • WVU #6 SHORTS -TS.jpg WVU opens practice with different feel: VIDEOS AND PHOTOS

    West Virginia University football coach Dana Holgorsen was happy with his team’s first practice of the 2014 season.
    Of course, he would note, “Everybody in the country has a good first day.”
    But somehow, this was different.
    Very different.

    August 1, 2014 9 Photos

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Social media adds another thing to watch for coaches

    As someone who has gotten himself in enough hot water with a misplaced Tweet, when West Virginia University quarterback Clint Trickett hit the send button on July 17 sending out to the cyberworld what should have remained there with him on the couch on which he was sitting, I could feel his pain.

    August 1, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: Bobby Bowden won the bad-and-good battle with rival Lou Holtz

    The recent announcement that West Virginia University is resuming a football relationship with North Carolina State triggered a most memorable bad-news, good-news battle.
    It was between two legendary coaches, WVU’s Bobby Bowden and N.C. State’s Lou Holtz back there in the 1970s.

    August 1, 2014

  • WVU basketball non-conference schedule released

    After playing challenging schedules along with the tough Big 12 road, West Virginia University has backed off some this season on its non-conference schedule that was released Thursday.
    West Virginia is coming off a 17-16 season in which it failed to reach the NCAA Tournament and lost to Georgetown in the first round of the NIT.

    August 1, 2014

  • Mountaineers open practice with different feel

    West Virginia football coach Dana Holgorsen was happy with his team’s first practice of the 2014 season.

    July 31, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Social media adds another thing to watch for coaches

    As someone who has gotten himself in enough hot water with a misplaced Tweet, when West Virginia quarterback Clint Trickett hit the send button on July 17 sending out to the cyberworld that should have remained there with him on the couch on which he was sitting, I could feel his pain.

    July 31, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: Bobby Bowden won the bad-and-good battle with rival Lou Holtz

    The recent announcement that West Virginia University is resuming a football relationship with North Carolina State triggered a most memorable bad-news, good-news battle.

    July 31, 2014

  • WVU men’s basketball non-conference schedule announced

    West Virginia University Director of Athletics Oliver Luck has announced the 2014-15 men’s basketball non-conference schedule.

    July 31, 2014

  • 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

Featured Ads
WVU Sports Highlights
NDN Sports
House Ads
NCAA Breaking News
NCAA Photos