Once a Mountaineer, Always a Mountaineer?

West Virginia’s fanbase is one of the proudest, most passionate in the country, a group of fans that truly do bleed blue and gold, that live and breathe Mountaineers sports.  West Virginia fans have high expectations and want what’s best for our state and flagship university.  Often, it seems, what’s best for the state and university clashes with what’s best for the student athlete.

The life of a college athlete is incredibly demanding.  Being a college student is hard enough.  Being an athlete on its own is extremely challenging.  Being a college student and a college athlete at the same time is brutally difficult.  Maintaining the strict academic requirements while training for and participating in athletics at such a high level is something that few of us will ever understand.  This is particularly arduous for young men and women between the ages of 18 and 22.

Sometimes a student athlete decides that West Virginia University is no longer what’s best for their future.  Many athletes and coaches determine that they want to continue their future elsewhere.  West Virginians like to believe that “Once a Mountaineer, Always a Mountaineer” is true, but is it the case for student athletes and coaches that move on to better opportunities for themselves?

Is a Mountaineer always a Mountaineer?  Is Rich Rodriguez, a proud West Virginian who did so much for our state and university, a Mountaineer?  How about James “Beetle” Bolden, who literally left his blood, sweat and tears on the Coliseum floor for our state and university but ultimately decided that transferring to Alabama for his Senior year was what’s best for him?  Is he a Mountaineer?

Esa Ahmad, Wesley Harris, Marcus Simms, Derrek Pitts, Kenny Robinson, etc., are they Mountaineers?   Although none of these players left WVU under ideal circumstances, they gave their best effort while in Morgantown.  Just like West Virginia residents that move out of state for new opportunities, these people should be considered Mountaineers forever.

“Once a Mountaineer Always a Mountaineer” should not be selective or determined by the collective whims and emotional feelings of our fanbase.  If a student athlete or coach contributed to our state and university in any way, if they wore the blue and gold proudly, if they led our young men and women onto the playing field, they are Mountaineers forever.  Otherwise, what does “Once a Mountaineer Always a Mountaineer” really mean?

West Virginia is different and I think we’ve forgotten why it’s different to a large degree.  West Virginia is proud, West Virginia loves its people and regardless of where a West Virginian decides to go or do with their future, they should always be welcomed home.  

This will be painful for some of us to admit, but Rich Rodriguez is a Mountaineer.  He brought so many great memories and successes and a few real disappointments to our state, but he loves West Virginia, he loves its people, and he will always be a Mountaineer.  

James “Beetle” Bolden left everything he had on the court while playing for WVU.  Undersized and scrawny, he never took a play off.  He took charges from players twice his size, he fought and scrapped and did everything he could to help the team.  He will always be a Mountaineer.  

Many players will come and go.  Sometimes they will be here for all four years and sometimes they will leave early, but if they put on that blue and gold and represent our university they will always be Mountaineers forever.