“We’re thrilled to go in together.”

That pretty much summed up the feelings Sunday evening as Don Nehlen and Gale Catlett were inducted into the West Virginia Sports Hall of Fame.

Those two retired WVU coaches shared the spotlight Sunday evening at the 60th annual Victory Awards Dinner at the Lakeview Resort and Conference Center.

A turnout of 550 people — second largest in history — paid tribute to not only those coaching legends but also to Rich Rodriguez, WVU’s current football mentor who was voted 2005-06 state college coach of the year.

Numerous others received awards from the sponsoring West Virginia Sports Writers Association. Those included high school as well as college athletes.

“This is a great thrill for me,” said Rodriguez. “I’m very honored to be at the same table with Coach Nehlen and Coach Catlett.

“I appreciate and congratulate them and all the players and coaches receiving awards this evening.”

In being honored as the state’s top college coach for a third time, Rodriguez emphasized that he considers it “a staff award” to be shared by his coaches and players.

Catlett, a WVU basketball player in the early 1960s who returned to serve a record 24 years as head coach, thanked all concerned for his latest honor.

“I never considered coaching a job,” he said. “I loved doing it. I appreciated the phenomenal support wherever our teams played.”

Nehlen, who turned a losing football program into one that became nationally respected, recalled that “we convinced West Virginia people that we could win.”

He still credits the back-to-back wins over favored Florida in the 1981 Peach Bowl and Oklahoma in the 1982 season’s opener for putting his program on a firm foundation.

“Our quarterback cupboard was bare,” Nehlen remembers. “But Jeff (Hostetler) bailed us out (as a transfer from Penn State).”

He said that Catlett “stole my jokes” as they traveled together raising funds for more than two decades. “But he taught me how to win bowl games,” he joshed.

Rodriguez, who led WVU to an 11-1 record and a third consecutive Big East title in 2005, called the fete “a special time for me.”

Catlett, a native of Hed-gesville, recalled receiving a basketball scholarship from then-coach Fred Schaus.

“Then to come back and be the coach for 24 years was almost a miracle,” he said. “It was a thrill to be a player and then a coach.

“And it was quite an honor to coach with Don Nehlen. It’s been a fun ride for both of us.”

Nehlen said, “This is very, very touching to me. Thanks a million!”

Both of the Hall of Fame honorees praised Rodriguez for building upon the success started by Nehlen, his old coach.

“I certainly appreciate you,” Nehlen said. “That call (fake punt) in the Georgia victory was the greatest...”

That preserved the 38-35 triumph which earned WVU a final ranking of No. 5 in the polls.

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