Posted by Walter
Wow, I was debating whether or not to chime in immediately on the Rich Rodriguez hiring and then THIS happened: “He (Rodriguez) built that program (WVU). Nehlen was a mediocre coach, and that was a mediocre school” (emphasis added).
First, let’s address this simply preposterous statement uttered by my cohort Frazier. Perhaps it’s the strain of the holiday season finally getting to him. Perhaps it’s because we live in a “what have you done for me lately” society. Heck, perhaps it’s simply that Frazier doesn’t know anything about college football history outside of the ACC and Big 12 country (for the record, I never would have even thought that the last choice there was even a possibility before the Nehlen comment). Whatever your reason is Frazier, you are FLAT OUT wrong. Rich Rodriguez is a great coach who has done some good things at WVU, but that program is and always will be Don Nehlen’s.
Actually, your comment can and must be broken down into two equally ridiculous statements. One, that Rodriguez built the WVU program, and two that Nehlen was a mediocre coach. Let’s start with point number 2. Don Nehlen coached at WVU for 21 seasons. When he retired from coaching in 2001 he was the 17th winnengest coach in college football history despite coaching his entire career at Bowling Green and West Virginia (not exactly football powerhouses). Nehlen was almost immediately elected to the college football hall of fame in 2005. During his career, Nehlen led the Mountaineers to 13 bowl games (back when there weren’t 300 of them), 9 eight win seasons (again, during the glory days of the Big East and before it was acceptable to schedule East Carolina and SW Missouri State every year), and 15 winning seasons. Nehlen’s resume also includes a trip to the 1988 national title game against Notre Dame, and a defacto title game against Florida in the 1993 Sugar Bowl. Though Nehlen lost both games it should be noted that if not for an injury on the third play of the game to star QB Major Harris, the 1988 matchup with Notre Dame likely would not have ended in a 34-21 loss.
It should also be noted that even though Nehlen was 0-2 in Title games, that is still 2 more appearances that Mr. Rodriguez…..Which brings us to the first part of Frazier’s ridiculousness. It is simply undeniable that Don Nehlen built the WVU program. When Nehlen took over the Mountaineers program from Frank Cignetti it was floundering. Cignetti’s career record at WVU was 17-27, yet Nehlen was able to lead WVU to a 41-19 record in his first 5 seasons at the helm, including three bowl wins and three top 25 finishes. Conversely, when Rodriguez took over from Nehlen, his former teacher, WVU was coming off of a stretch for 4 winning seasons in 5 years. I concede that Rodriguez’s win totals are impressive, but they are inflated due to the weakening of the Big East and the cupcakes that are permitted on the schedule (not to mention the expansion of the schedule).
The bottom line is that while Rodriguez’s numbers are gaudy, he has NOT, repeat NOT, built on what Coach Nehlen accomplished. The 1988 Major Harris led WVU squad is still the gold standard for the school. Rodriguez has not brought the program to another level. In fact, his teams can be viewed as underachievers (loss at home to Pitt, ahem ahem, losses to South Florida every year, ahem ahem, fumbling away games to Louisville, ahem ahem).
Frazier you are too smart of a college football fan to get sucked into a couple of cupcake padded Rich Rodriguez 11 win seasons. He is a good coach, but Don Nehlen is WVU football. He is now, and probably always will be, the greatest coach in the history of the program. To say otherwise is an insult.
Oh boy, I need a break……check back later today for my post on why Michigan blew it in their coaching search.