“Once a Mountaineer, Always a Mountaineer” No Longer Applies

MORGANTOWN, West Virginia — You can’t blame student-athletes for making decisions that is in their best interests. They have families and their futures to consider, and it’s unfair to pretend that many of us wouldn’t make the same choices that they are making in today’s environment.

It’s important to remember that we are not dealing with professionals, even if they are getting paid like they are. We are dealing with young, naive, inexperienced kids that are really just trying to navigate the current landscape of college athletics.

With that said, it’s very difficult as fans to truly support players that are willing to walk away at the hint of a better opportunity. Take Jose Perez, for example. He didn’t play one minute for the Mountaineers. He made zero contributions to the West Virginia basketball program. Of course the NCAA’s unfair ruling in his eligibility case last season is a big part of him not playing, but he also happily accepted NIL money while he sat out for a year.

Perez has been dealt a bad hand during his collegiate playing career. His coach at Manhattan was fired right before the start of the season and he entered the transfer portal, hoping to gain immediate eligibility. When that didn’t happen, he committed to returning to play for the Mountaineers, but that all changed when Bob Huggins decided to drive drunk and resign from the program.

When Huggins resigned, the players had an open window to transfer to another program without penalty and several players took that opportunity. Again, you can’t blame them for doing what’s best for them, but the lack of loyalty and honesty during the process is particularly disturbing and disheartening for supporters of the program. Players flexed their muscles and claimed that they would stay if Josh Eilert was promoted as the interim head coach of the team. That clearly was not the case. Players lied and manipulated and when they got their way, they bolted and asked for your understanding.

This is precisely where the disconnect is. Fans want players to be loyal to the university and the state, and players only really want what is best for them. In today’s game, finding a player like Garrett Greene, quarterback for the Mountaineers’ football program, is rare. Greene has had every reason in the world to transfer, but he’s remained committed to the team and accepted his role.

Unfortunately for us fans, the world is filled with more Jose Perezes and less Garrett Greenes every day, and “Once a Mountaineer, Always a Mountaineer” is becoming harder and harder to say.