By Mickey Furfari
For the Times West Virginian
Ernie Anderson, a well-known Morgantown businessman, was a middle guard on West Virginia University’s football team in the early 1980s.
The Colliers, W.Va., native, helped coach Don Nehlen to the first four winning seasons of his outstanding 21-year career here.
Those records from 1981-84, following a 6-6 mark in his debut, were 9-3, 9-3, 9-3 and 8-4. In addition, the Mountaineers played in four consecutive bowl games.
“We got off to a really good start,” Anderson said in a recent interview.
Asked how it was playing for Coach Nehlen, Anderson replied: “It was a tremendous honor. He’s a man of his word. He’s a great American.
“It was a great experience for me. It also was a great experience for my son, Maxwell, who played for Rich Rodriguez (2006-09).”
Rodriguez was a teammate of Ernie Anderson as a defensive back for three years. Anderson observed that it’s a different style of football played today than when he played 30 years ago. But he did not elaborate.
Anderson remembers those back-to-back upset victories against Florida (26-6) in the 1981 Peach Bowl in Atlanta and the 1982 season opener at Oklahoma (41-27) that were very significant in WVU’s rise as a national contender.
But Anderson’s most memorable triumph came against favored Penn State, 17-14, at home on Oct. 27, 1984.
“It was the first win in that old series for West Virginia for 29 years,” Anderson noted.
“And with not many seconds left, fans tore down the goal posts, and the Penn State coach (Joe Paterno) conceded the contest.”
The 6-foot, 235-pound defensive standout was credited with 21 tackles, including 16 solo stops; 6 tackles for lost yards, and 1.5 sacks.
“I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to play football at the university,”Anderson said. “I had to stay in the trenches. It was fun.”
He has been owner and operator of the Varsity Club tavern for five years. It is conveniently located across Willowdale Road from the main entrance to Milan Puskar Stadium (Mountaineer Field).
“We open late and close early,” Anderson said. He has various sports portraits on the walls of his establishment.
Ernie and wife Donnie Anderson have been married nearly 30 years. Besides son Max, 25, they have a daughter, Abigail, 22.
Max is working in Long Beach, Calif. Abigail just graduated from WVU and lives in Morgantown.