Morgantown, West Virginia – Before Don Nehlen took over as the Head Coach of the West Virginia Mountaineers in 1980, West Virginia was 17-27 in the prior four seasons under Frank Cignetti.

After a 6-6 season in Nehlen’s debut season, the Mountaineers went on to have three 9-3 seasons.  Nehlen went over to win 149 games over a 20 year span, retiring from West Virginia as the program’s all-time leader in victories and earned a spot in the College Football Hall of Fame.

Neal Brown now has the opportunity to take the blueprint that Nehlen created and turn it into a national championship contender.  The blueprint is simple: Master the basics (blocking, tackling, not making penalties), recruit the state of West Virginia hard while finding diamonds in the rough around the country to develop with excellent coaching, and to do everything within the program the right way.  

When Brown became the Head Coach of the Mountaineers almost two years ago, he said the following: “We will work hard, play hard and do things the right way to make the people from the great state of West Virginia proud of their program.  That will be a foundational element of our culture.”

Brown, who is from Danville, Kentucky, has Appalachian roots and that was a major selling point for West Virginia administrators during the hiring process.  Not only did they know that his personality would be a good fit in the state, they also realized that he would be a favorite to fans and donors.

Nehlen, originally from Mansfield, Ohio, did not have the same Appalachian roots Brown did, but his coaching philosophy and the way he ran the program made him beloved by West Virginians, who value honesty and hard work above all else.

When Nehlen was inducted into the Hall of Fame, he said his football philosophy was centered around “honesty, consistency and fairness.”

While West Virginia had coaches in recent years with questionable morals, Don Nehlen and Neal Brown are universally respected as men of integrity and purpose in the coaching profession.  Neither have done anything to publicly embarrass the programs they were associated with and have been absolute models of fair play and building a program the right way.

Not only have Nehlen and Brown make West Virginia proud, they have also embraced the state of West Virginia and its people.  Both have said the following: “I want to make sure the people of West Virginia are proud of their football program.”

You certainly have accomplished that, Coach Nehlen and Coach Brown; the people of West Virginia are so proud of what you built and what you’re building.