The Fascinating Phenomenon of West Virginia Fans Turning Former Players and Coaches into Villains

Morgantown, West Virginia – One of the most infamous days in West Virginia sports history was when Rich Rodriguez announced that he was leaving his home state and Alma mater to become the new head coach of the Michigan Wolverines.

Rodriguez, who was born and raised in West Virginia, played for the Mountaineers and took the football program to unprecedented heights, went from the most popular man in the state to the most hated figure in an instant.

Rodriguez certainly had his reasons for leaving – better facilities, increased opportunities to play for a national championship, more money – but rather than simply accepting that Rodriguez took a better job, West Virginians turned him into public enemy number one.

Rich Rodriguez was perhaps the first coach or player that left West Virginia to become despised by Mountaineer fans, but he certainly was not the last.

When Oscar Tshiebwe entered the transfer portal and decided to go to Kentucky, Tshiebwe was called “lazy”, a “crybaby” and a “quitter.” Bob Huggins referred to him as a “so-called All-American” and implied that Tshiebwe was unwilling to do what was necessary to be great.

Tshiebwe, of course, went on to lead the nation in rebounds and won the John Wooden Award as college basketball’s best player.

Most recently, Fairmont, West Virginia native Jalen Bridges left the Mountaineers and committed to play for Big 12 rival Baylor. Bridges was called “soft”, “disappointing”, a “traitor.” Some theorized that Bridges chose Baylor specifically out of spite for his home state.

The reality is, like every player or coach who leaves West Virginia University, Bridges transferred and chose Baylor because he thought it was what’s best for his future.

Jalen Bridges didn’t pick Baylor out of spite for his home state. He did it because he thinks playing there gives him the best chance of one day playing in the NBA.

Rich Rodriguez took a leap of faith because he desperately wanted to win at the highest possible level. He thought at the time that Michigan gave him the best possible chance of doing that. He was proven wrong, but his intentions were not evil and he’s certainly not a terrible human being for doing what he did.

Oscar Tshiebwe isn’t a crybaby and he’s certainly not lazy. He made a smart, tough business decision that has already paid off in a major way for him.

West Virginians must learn to stop villainizing former West Virginia athletes and coaches. They did what they thought was best for themselves and their families. Nothing more.