West Virginia is the real cradle of coaches
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Late Monday evening and all of Tuesday was a time of celebration.
It was so in Tallahassee, Fla., which spawned a college football national champion in Florida State.
And it should have been so in West Virginia, which spawned some of the coaches that directed the Seminoles.
Early Tuesday morning, there was Clarksburg native John James "Jimbo" Fisher, the head coach at Florida State, celebrating the title. There was his trusty assistant, Masontown native Rick Trickett, doing likewise.
On the ESPN set was Alabama coach Nick Saban, born in Fairmont and raised in Monongah. After his school barely missed a third straight national title game, Saban was commentating for the network - and pointing out the Mountain State connection with Fisher.
Here's the deal though: Saban could have kept on going. Because there's been quite a connection between West Virginia and college football national champions. There's been quite a connection, specifically, in regard to the coaches.
By my count, there have now been 18 national championship teams coached by Mountain State natives. Eighteen.
Many of the titles were shared, especially in the early days. But here is the astounding list:
Fairview's Fielding Yost (who also played tackle at WVU) coached Michigan to six national titles between 1901 and '23; Parkersburg native Greasy Neale's Washington & Jefferson team claimed a piece in 1921 after playing California to a scoreless tie in the Rose Bowl; Point Pleasant's Ben Schwartzwalder led Syracuse to the 1959 title; Everettville's John McKay led USC to four from 1962 to '74; Follansbee's Lou Holtz (who grew up in East Liverpool, Ohio) led Notre Dame over WVU in 1988; Saban has four, one with LSU in 2003 and three (2009, '11 and '12) at Alabama; and there is now that of Fisher.
Also, those are just the head coaches. There have been assistants. Like Trickett.
"Just look at that 35-mile radius around Morgantown," Trickett said on Tuesday.
You read correctly. I was able to catch up with the Florida State assistant just 12 hours after the Seminole victory. See, West Virginians always remember home.
"Me, Nick, Jimbo, Rich [Rodriguez]," Trickett went on before chuckling. "I don't know if people there want to bring up Rich, but he's a great coach. John McKay ...
"I think it speaks well for the coal mines. I knew I didn't want to work in them."
West Virginia has produced so many coaches it's almost tough to keep track. Did you know, for instance, one of Tom Landry's most trusted assistants with the Dallas Cowboys, Jim Myers, was from Madison?
Oh, and here's a bit of Mountain State coaching news: Former Nitro High star J.R. House has landed a gig in baseball managing the Hillsboro [Ariz.] Hops, an Arizona Diamondbacks minor league affiliate. His hitting instructor is scheduled to be ex-Chicago Cub Mark Grace and his pitching coach will be 1990 Cy Young Award winner Doug Drabek.
Also, House has been invited and will coach in the Diamondbacks' big league camp, which starts Feb. 7. ("I had no idea until a few weeks ago," House said on Tuesday. "That was a huge surprise.")
But, for now, let's get back to college football. And to Trickett.
"It was about time I get one of 'em," Trickett said with a laugh. "I was always a step behind. I thought I had a shot at one at WVU. After I recruited that [offensive line] class at LSU, they won one. I guess I finally stayed somewhere long enough, for seven years, and got one."
And that "one" was a classic. Florida State changed leads with Auburn three times in the final five minutes of Monday's BCS title game. The Seminoles had an 18-point comeback. There were two touchdowns in the game's final 1:19.
That 100-yard Kermit Whitfield kickoff return? Tallahassee can thank Trickett for that.
"I recruited him out of Orlando," said the coach. "We could have had his cousin, Marvin Bracy, out there too, but he signed a pro track contract [with adidas]."
Trickett spoke after breakfast and before traveling back to Tallahassee.
"I knew we had a pretty good line class here," said the coach. "Early on [in Monday's game], we weren't playing well. We weren't clicking after that month off.
"With Auburn's offense, you hand the ball off two or three times then pass. It wasn't as hard to get that clicking again. We had to get it back."
At the right time, the Seminoles did.
"It was good," Trickett said. "Anybody who tries to say [the national championship] is just another game is lying. It's not.
"And afterward it was a who's who on the field. It was a good deal."
Trickett said his attention will now turn to his son, Clint, a WVU quarterback, who attended the game in Pasadena, Calif.
"We're going to get him with [celebrated orthopedist] Jimmy Andrews," said the father. "Hopefully he can 'scope that shoulder."
Clint Trickett, you may know, played for Florida State before transferring to Morgantown.
"Florida State has all the players in the world," said the player Tuesday. "At the end, they made the plays."
Any warm and fuzzy moments?
"I didn't do anything," said the QB. "I was just another person in the stands. They are my old teammates, but, no sir, I play quarterback for West Virginia."
He did admit to one emotion though.
"I'm proud of my dad," said the QB.
Just like the rest of the Mountain State. Out there guiding the national champions were West Virginians.
Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.