The last two coaches of the NCAA BCS national championship football teams were coached by West Virginia natives.
Jimbo Fisher led Florida State to a come from behind victory over Auburn on Monday night, while last year Nick Saban led Alabama to the national championship.
That’s not bad for a state that has less than two million in population.
The Mountain State has produced many great athletes and coaches over the years, but this is something to be noted.
Fisher was born in Clarksburg and attended North View Junior High School and Liberty High School before going to Salem College (now Salem International University) in Salem, W. Va. where he played quarterback under head coach Terry Bowden from 1985–1986.
When Bowden left for Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, Fisher transferred with him to play his final season for the Bulldogs where he was named Division III National Player of the Year. Fisher still holds multiple school records at Samford.
Ironically, Bowden later coached at Auburn, the team Fisher beat last night for the title. Of course Terry and Tommy Bowden, both went to high school in Morgantown and played at WVU. Their dad Bobby was coach at WVU in the early 1970s. They have had several Division One coaching positions. Or course Bobby Bowden is the legendary coach at Florida State winning two national titltes for the Seminoles.
There is a local connection to Fisher. Former Belfry Pirate player and assistant coach Ben Trout played for Salem College for four years. His coach at that time was Bowden. The quarterback for that Salem team was Jimbo Fisher.
Trout was an offensive lineman and the kicker for Salem. Fisher was his holder on extra point and field goal attempts.
Saban was born in Fairmont, West Virginia to Nick Lou Saban, Sr. and his wife, Mary. Nick grew up and graduated from high school near the small community of Monongah.
Saban graduated from Kent State University in Kent, Ohio, where he played defensive back.
Saban previously served as head coach of the NFL’s Miami Dolphins and three other universities: LSU, Michigan State and the University of Toledo.
He led the LSU Tigers to the BCS National Championship in 2003 and the Alabama Crimson Tide to BCS and AP national championships in the 2009, 2011 and 2012 seasons, making him the first coach in college football history to win a national championship with two different Football Bowl Subdivision schools.
Another West Virginia native who was a great coach and won four national titles was the late John McKay. He was the head coach at the University of Southern California (USC) from 1960 to 1975 and of the National Football League’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 1976 to 1984. In 16 seasons at USC, McKay compiled a record of 127–40–8. Four of his squads captured national titles (1962, 1967, 1972, 1974).
McKay was born in the now-defunct town of Everettville in Monongalia County. He grew up in Shinnston and graduated from Shinnston High School in 1941.
The are other Division One coaches from the Mountain State. Rich Rodriguez, the former WVU coach, is at Arizona. Of course he left WVU for Michigan. Jim Grobe, who recently resigned, has been the head coach at Wake Forest from 2001 to 2013.
Lou Holtz, the former Notre Dame Head coach, was born in West Virginia, but he didn’t grow up here. His family moved away when he was very young. Of course he won a national title for the Irish in 1988 beating WVU led by Major Harris and coached by Don Nehlen in the Fiesta Bowl.
I’m sure there are other coaches with Mountain State ties, but since Fisher and Saban have recently been in the spotlight, I wanted to let everyone know where they are from.
After the championship game was over, Saban, who was serving as a special commentator for ESPN, told the national television audience that he and Fisher were from West Virginia and grew up only a few miles apart.
I love it when Mountain State natives have pride and share where they are from.
There is a special sense of pride that West Virginians have with this sort of factual trivia.
(Kyle Lovern is the sports editor for the Williamson Daily News. Comments or story ideas can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com)