Analyzing 75 Years of WVU Football Head Coach Records
West Virginia University’s football program has seen its fair share of triumphs and challenges over the past 75 years, and at the heart of this journey are the head coaches who have steered the team through various eras. Let’s take a quick look into the coaching records of WVU football head coaches spanning seven and a half decades, highlighting the highs, and defining moments that have shaped the Mountaineers’ gridiron legacy.
- Art “Pappy” Lewis (1950-1959):
- Lewis led the Mountaineers during the post-World War II era.
- Achieved notable successes, laying the foundation for future coaches.
- Records may reflect the challenges of the times, including roster limitations and evolving game strategies.
- Record 58-38-2
- Sugar Bowl 1953: Lost to Georgia Tech 19-42
- Gene Corum (1960-66):
- Corum’s tenure included a transition period, with ups and downs in team performance.
- Corum played college football as a guard at West Virginia in the 1940s and graduated in 1948.
- Corum was inducted into the West Virginia University Sports Hall of Fame in 1984.
- Record 29-30-2
- Liberty Bowl 1964: Lost to Utah 6-32
- Jim Carlen (1966-1969):
- After leaving WVU, he coached the Texas Tech Red Raiders from 1970 to 1974, where he amassed a 37–20–2 record. From 1975 to 1981, he was the head football coach of the South Carolina Gamecocks where he compiled a 45–36–1 record.
- Coach Carlen was actively involved in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) during his entire post-coaching life. In April 2011 he was quoted as saying, “I was one of the original six members of the FCA, the originals. FCA started very small, and then it snowballed. When I hired a coach I always took a close look at his spiritual life,” Carlen said. “When you have God on your side you don’t have to worry.”
- Record 25-13-3
- Peach Bowl 1969: Beat South Carolina 14-3
- Bobby Bowden (1970-1975):
- Bowden’s legacy extends far beyond his time at WVU, but his impact on Mountaineer football is significant.
- Elevated the program with consecutive winning seasons, leaving a lasting impression on the team’s culture.
- Record 42-26
- Peach Bowl 1972: Lost to NC State 13-49
- Peach Bowl 1975: Beat NC State 13-10
- Bowden went on to become one of the greatest football coaches of all time at Florida State winning multiple conference championships and national championships.
- Frank Cignetti Sr. (1976-1979):
- Joined Bobby Bowden’s coaching staff for the West Virginia Mountaineers, coaching the offensive backfield.
- In 1979, Cignetti was diagnosed with lymphomatoid granulomatosis, a form of cancer. He had a splenectomy and spent 35 days in the hospital. Cignetti was fired after the 1979 season, but recovered from cancer.
- Record 17-27
- Don Nehlen (1980-2000):
- Nehlen’s era is often considered the golden age of WVU football.
- Achieved unparalleled success, including multiple bowl victories and conference championships.
- His coaching record reflects a sustained period of excellence and the emergence of WVU as a football powerhouse.
- Record: 149-93-4
- Nehlen went 4-9 in bowl games: Most notable loss to Notre Dame for the national championship in 1989 21-34. Most notable win came against Florida in the Peach Bowl 26-6. He also beat Eli Manning and Ole Miss in the Music City Bowl, his last game as a coach, 49-38.
- Rich Rodriguez (2001-2007):
- Rodriguez brought a dynamic style of play, introducing the spread offense to Morgantown.
- Despite controversy surrounding his departure, his record showcases an era of innovation and competitive football.
- In his final season, Rodriguez became one of the most highly recruited coaches for other college vacancies. Most notably, Alabama and Michigan.
- Rich Rod went on to head coach at Michigan, Arizona and most recently, Jacksonville State.
- Record 60-26
- Continental Tire Bowl 2002: Lost to Virginia 22-48
- Gator Bowl 2003: Lost to Maryland 7-41
- Gator Bowl 2004: Lost to Florida State 18-30
- Sugar Bowl 2005: Beat Georgia 38-35
- Gator Bowl 2006: Beat Georgia Tech 38-35
- Bill Stewart (2008-2010):
- Elevated from assistant coach, Stewart carried on the success of the Rodriguez era.
- His tenure included a memorable Fiesta Bowl victory, but the overall record reveals challenges in sustaining that success.
- Bill Stewart was put in an awkward position when AD Oliver Luck hired Dana Holgorsen as “coach in waiting.”
- Coach Bill Stewart would sadly pass away two years later on May 21, 2012 from an apparent heart attack while playing golf with former AD, Ed Pastilong.
- Record 28-12
- Fiesta Bowl 2007: Beat #3 Oklahoma 48-28
- Meineke Car Care Bowl 2008: Beat North Carolina 31-30
- Gator Bowl 2009: Lost to Florida State 21-33
- Champ Sports Bowl 2010: Lost to NC State 7-23
- Dana Holgorsen (2011-2018):
- Holgorsen ushered in a high-powered passing attack, contributing to the evolution of Mountaineer football.
- His record reflects a mix of successful seasons and rebuilding years, showcasing the complexities of coaching transitions.
- Record 61-41
- Orange Bowl 2011: Beat Clemson 70-33
- PinStripe Bowl 2012: Lost to Syracuse 14-38
- Liberty Bowl 2014: Lost to Texas A&M 37-45
- Cactus Bowl 2015: Beat Arizona State 43-42
- Russell Athletic Bowl 2016: Lost to Miami 14-31
- Heart of Dallas Bowl 2017: Lost to Utah 14-30
- Camping World Bowl 2018: Lost to Syracuse 18-34
- Neal Brown (2019-present):
- Brown was the head coach at Troy University from 2015-2018.
- His coaching record provides insights into the ongoing trajectory of WVU football and its competitiveness in the evolving landscape of college football with the transfer portal and NIL.
- Record to date: 29-29
- Autozone Liberty Bowl 2020: Beat Army 24-21
- Guaranteed Rate Bowl 2021: Lost to Minnesota 18-6
Analyzing the coaching records of WVU football head coaches over the past 75 years reveals a rich tapestry of triumphs, challenges, and transformative moments. Each coach has left a unique mark on the program, contributing to the Mountaineers’ storied legacy. As WVU continues to navigate the future under the leadership of Neal Brown, the historical context provided by these coaching records offers a valuable perspective on the enduring spirit and evolution of West Virginia University football.