College football fans are familiar with West Virginia’s recent success. In fact, their 33-5 record over the last three seasons is second only to the USC Trojans. That is pretty impressive company by anybody’s standards. They have had three consecutive top ten finishes and they have also been to five consecutive New Year’s bowls.
As we approach the 2008-09 College Football season expectations are high for the Mountaineers to once again go after a Big East championship and possibly be in the conversation for a national title run.
However it has become apparent to me in my on-line journeys to various sports sites and in reading numerous article comments that there is a common misconception about WVU football. It seems many believe that they are a new face on the competitive landscape.
The persuasion of many is that they are not one of the major programs and deserve no such comparison. I have even come across those that think WVU’s recent success has been their only success.
I expect this is mostly coming from the uneducated or less experienced fan of the sport, because while the Mountaineers have certainly reached a new level of overall success in recent seasons, they are certainly not a “johnny come lately” program by any stretch of the imagination.
There was a winning tradition at West Virginia long before Mr. Rodriguez took over as head coach and there is no reason that it shouldn’t continue now that he has moved on. In fact Don Nehlen, WVU coach from 1980-2000, was the winning-est Mountaineer coach in history and is the 17th winning-est college football coach of all-time.
The WVU football tradition of winning is a “…tradition dates all the way back to 1922 and a victory in the East-West Bowl in San Diego. WVU has 26 all-time bowl appearances; eight in the last decade...” (from MSNsportsNet.com).
West Virginia ranks 15th in all time wins and is on the list with some of college football's elite programs. (Please see the list below. Story continued following list.)
2. Note Dame
5. Ohio State
7. Penn State
10. Southern California
15. West Virginia
List From NCAA.Com Statistics.
I realize of course that their lack of a national title stains their reputation in the hearts and minds of many people. They lost their only national championship appearance at the end of the 1988 season to a very good Notre Dame team by the score of 34-21 and this past season’s devastating loss at home to PITT cost them a second chance.
Unfortunately, it has been my experience that many people don’t even realize they had ever been in the national picture before the 2000s. I do not feel like the lack of a national title justifies excluding them from being considered one of the top 25 programs of all time because being 15th in overall wins in a pool of 119 teams should do that alone.
Whether you like the Mountaineers or not doesn’t change the fact that if you are an informed football fan they deserve a little bit of respect not only for the here and now, but also on a historic level. Their recent success may be a comeback or resurgence into a higher place, but it is not their debut.