The success of the WVU football program over the past three years has been unprecedented:
- Three straight 11 win seasons;
- Three January 1st Bowl wins;
- Two BCS Bowl wins over elite programs;
- Heisman Candidates;
- SI Covers;
- The list goes on......
Those who deserve credit for these accomplishments vary far and wide. Some you may agree with and other not so much.
- Nehlen - he laid the foundation of a solid, if unspectacular, program. A couple of undefeated seasons and many bowl games.
- Pastilong - he hired Rodriguez when no one else was knocking on his door. Sure Rodriguez was a West Virginia boy and he had success as an offensive coordinator at Clemson and Tulane, but there wasn't a ton of BCS schools offering him a head coaching position. He was to work with much less money in the budget than OSU, MI, FSU, etc... but he seems to get more bang for his buck.
- Rodriguez - if you can forget the past five months it's easier to see what he built. He built upon Nehlen's foundation and made WVU a national known program. As his star shown brighter the more media attention WVU received. It wasn't just his system that made the program succeed - it was the players he brought in to run the system. He is the one that recruited White as a QB when no one else would. He is the one that gave Schmitt a shot when no one else would. He is the one that brought in Slaton when Maryland didn't want him.
- The players - would we be where we are at if we didn't have White, Slaton, Schmitt, Devine, Reynaud, etc...? Not only did the players execute the system, but they have handled themselves like professionals. Very few off the field issues that were major. Most were well-spoken and polite. Remember, these players were not blue-chip five star recruits, but the meshed and played well together.
- The fans - the fans have been incredible. Passionate, supportive, and critical. After the Pitt game and Rodriguez leaving the fans rallied around the team. I was lucky enough to be at the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale - the outpouring of love and support for WVU was overwhelming. Many teams would not have traveled that well after the adversity. I'm sure a few fans stayed home, but there was a good contingent there.
With all of that said, there is one little thing that always gets overlooked. Chemistry. Coach Stew alluded to it right after the Fiesta Bowl win and it can't be ignored. There was not a lot of "me first" guys in that locker room. The last one I can think of was Chris Henry. The two biggest stars, White and Slaton, were best friends and roommates. On many teams those two would have been competing for headlines and camera time. Schmitt is a Mountaineer legend because he did the little things and didn't need the spotlight. A lot of attention has been paid to recent top notch recruits, Heastie and Boyd, but if they don't "mix" well with the rest of the team it doesn't matter how many stars they have after there name. If Coach Stew and his staff can continue to teach, preach, and get the kids to believe in chemistry there is no reason WVU won't continue to be a national power year in and year out. Look for them to be a player in the BCS picture for years to come.