This is a guest post from one of our fans, Tony Steele. Thanks Tony!
It has been a two decade long roller coaster of emotion for Mountaineer football fans. Starting with the retirement of the legend himself, Don Nehlen. The quintessential picture of steadiness that had taken the Mountaineer football program to heights never before seen. Since his departure, the Mountaineers have seen rises and falls that would have amusement any park aficionados holding on for dear life.
What started with a four loss Rich Rodriguez led Mountaineer squad in 2001, had quickly turned into the dominant team in the Big East. With 3 consecutive Big East championships from 2033-2005. And a fourth in 2007. Mountaineer fans were seemingly on top of the world. One game away from a National Championship game with lowly Pitt. the only roadblock. We all know what happened next. With 13-9 barely in the rear view mirror, Rich burned it all down on the way to Michigan.
Just when you thought all hope was lost, an understated but loyal Mountaineer came to the rescue. With words spoken from the heart that implored his players to make Oklahoma wish they’d never seen the Mountaineers in the 2008 Fiesta bowl. “Not on this night!” And they followed that most memorable pregame speeches with one of the most memorable Mountaineer victories. Yet another ride to the top, seemingly just as fast as the fall toward the bottom when Rich Rodriguez bailed.
What followed was another series of ups and downs all in the same season. A 9-4 record in 2007. Which included lows such as losses to ECU and Pitt, offset with wins over Auburn and North Carolina in a bowl game.
In 2009 another 9-4 season that didn’t include the marquee win over Auburn left Mountaineer fans wondering just exactly which direction this team was heading?
If 2009 had caused more questions than answers, 2010 didn’t do anything to help. Yet another 9-4 record that didn’t include the marquee wins that fans had grown accustom to and a resounding loss to NC State in a bowl game.
Then came a stretch that had more twists and turns than a WV backroad. Coaches in waiting, reporters digging up dirt, late night casino encounters, resignations, promotions and a new head coach! All in one offseason.
The end result was Dana Holgerson. Who would also do his part not to deviate from the script. He gave us his own share of ups and downs. From historic Orange Bowl victories to miserably bad defenses that lead to four win seasons. He would soon find himself at home in his old stomping grounds of the Big XII where the ride continued. Controversy surrounding his hire had also caused a rift among the fan base. Some thought Stew should have never been hired, some that he should never have been fired and some that simply didn’t want to give Dana a chance because he adorned black shirts and had no ties to WV. That rift has never truly healed. Mostly due to the fact that Dana continued to provide ammunition for both sides of the argument. Everything from bowl practices held in ballrooms of hotels to 10 wins seasons where bandied about as to why he was or was not a good head coach. And quite frankly I don’t think it was ever settled. He’s second all time in WVU wins as a head coach, but did he ever win anything of note?
Thankfully for all those involved, Dana ended the argument of whether or not he should be retained by WVU? On January 1, 2019 he officially resigned as WVU’s head football coach. Both sides of the rift now wondering the same thing…. “Who will take his place? Can we find anyone worthwhile to come to WVU?”
Enter Neal Brown. With no ties to WVU and the old regime of either Stewart or Holgerson, he provides Mountaineer nation hope for more than just wins. He gives us hope that we can now come together and put aside past differences over Dana or coach Stewart. We no longer have to pick a side. We can all be Mountaineers…..joined with the common goal of cheering this coach and his team. Will he be successful? All we can hope is that the highs outweigh the lows on this new ride. But we owe it to him and this team to get on board. When this rollercoaster leaves the stations, let’s make sure it’s got everyone on board and hoping for one hell of a ride!
Let’s Goooooo Mountaineeeers!!!