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In 2014, Dana Holgorsen enters his 4th season at the helm. Which 4th year WVU coach had the most impressive season?
1928: Ira Errett Rodgers - Guided WVU to an 8-2 finish including wins over Pitt and Oklahoma State (Oklahoma A&M).
1953: Pappy Lewis - Led the Mountaineers to the Southern Conference title and a Sugar Bowl berth.
1924: Clarence Spears - Helped WVU post an 8-1 record, including a perfect 6-0 mark in Morgantown.
1969: Jim Carlen - Guided West Virginia to a 10-1 mark and a Peach Bowl win over South Carolina.

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2013 - Letter from the Editor

2013 - Letter from the Editor


By Jed Drenning

While 2012 marked a year of “firsts” for West Virginia – most notably WVU’s inaugural season in the Big 12 – 2013 represents a year of reflection.  With such landmark anniversaries upon us as the Mountain State’s 150th birthday and the 25th changing of the calendar since WVU’s first ever unbeaten, untied football team in 1988, why not reminisce with a sense of accomplishment?

Centuries ago, intrepid individuals – known to history as “Mountaineers” – traversed the peaks near the Blue Ridge to settle in the western region of Virginia. Over time their ideologies created a chasm until, ultimately, it was more than merely a mountain range dividing them and the Virginia aristocracy that resided to the east. 

When Virginia at large voted to secede from the Union after the outbreak of war in 1861, “western” Virginia united in disapproval. That defiance, stoked by the embers of political discord that had burned for decades between the eastern and western counties of the Commonwealth, set forth a chain of events that ultimately led to West Virginia gaining statehood in 1863. Leave it to West Virginians to be bold enough to unleash a mutiny on a rebellion.

I learned this all from Mr. Knotts, my junior West Virginia History teacher and, of course, a Mountaineer fan of the highest order.

In the end, Virginia simply didn’t know what we know.

You can never tell a Mountaineer what to do.

Some 125 years later, in the autumn of 1988, the West Virginia football program was coming off a 6-6 campaign that had seen the young Mountaineers gain considerable steam down the stretch, winning 5 of 8 and throwing scares into ranked teams like Penn State, Sugar Bowl-bound Syracuse and Oklahoma State. The strong finish landed WVU some acknowledgement as it debuted at No. 16 in the 1988 Preseason Associated Press Poll but, by and large, respect proved elusive as always.

Sure, that Major Harris guy was fun to watch and the Mountaineers might even ride him to some regional success and another bowl berth, most pundits suggested, but on the national stage West Virginia wasn’t ready for the big boy’s table.

Eleven straight WVU victories and a Heisman candidate later, however, and opinions had shifted. When the final regular season poll was announced on December 5th, Don Nehlen’s Mountaineers were ranked No. 3 in the country and headed for a national title showdown with Notre Dame.

Like the state of Virginia in 1861, the skeptics of 1988 didn’t know what we know.

You can never tell a Mountaineer what to do.

Two years ago, with West Virginia bound by contract to a Big East Conference that was burning like Rome, WVU President James Clements broke ranks and announced the school’s intent to depart from the league to join the Big 12.  

The Big East didn’t let go easily, trying to hold West Virginia captive with a $5 million buyout clause and threatening to enforce a 27-month notification period for members opting to leave the conference. Try as they did to prevent WVU’s exit, however, there was something lost on Commissioner John Marinatto and the Big East brain trust.

You can never tell a Mountaineer what to do.

And now, a West Virginia team in rebuilding mode with a starting quarterback yet to be named, a group of receivers you’ve never heard of and a defense still reeling from the bumpy ride of 2012 is once more being told what to do. It’s being commanded by popular opinion to mind its place in the pecking order of the Big 12 Conference. It’s being told it can’t be in contention. For the sake of transparency, please note I don’t even have WVU ranked in my own Top 25 (page 27).

Sure the odds might not be in West Virginia’s favor, but college football experts should be careful issuing mandates to the Mountain State.

Marching orders don’t sit well here.

The new Nike uniforms West Virginia unveiled during the offseason have been a hit among fans and recruits alike. I like them too, but for a different reason than most. It wasn’t the various color combinations that won me over. Instead, it was the simple motto stitched inside the back collar of each jersey: “MONTANI SEMPER LIBERI.”

We all know what it means. Say it with me: Mountaineers are always free.

We’ve been echoing that slogan for 150 years now. And for just as long, we’ve been teaching the world, both on and off the football field, one simple truth…

You can never tell a Mountaineer what to do.

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