Area grid trio remembers its late coach
West Virginia University is widely regarded as one of the premier football programs in the United States.
That wasn’t always the case.
Many Mountaineers fans of my generation will give much of that credit to Don Nehlen, who guided the WVU program for 20 years and took it to two unbeaten regular seasons before falling in bowl games.
Some fans – who are a little more dated – would credit legendary head football coach Bobby Bowden as the guy who put the Mountaineer program on the map nationally. He worked at WVU for six seasons before accepting the Florida State job.
However, three area natives believe that Jim Carlen was the guy who got the ball rolling and helped West Virginia start the evolution into the program it has become.
Carlen, who passed away last Sunday and will be eulogized today during services in South Carolina, was the Mountaineers’ head coach for four seasons.
During that time, he made strong inroads in recruiting in the Ohio Valley and landed gentlemen like Mike Sherwood from Bellaire, Terry Snively from Powhatan and Ron Pobolish from Dillonvale.
“There was a definite Eastern Ohio and Northern West Virginia flavor on Coach Carlen’s teams,” Pobolish said.
All three were members of the Mountaineers’ 1969 squad, which won the second annual Peach Bowl, 14-3, against South Carolina.
“Coach Carlen helped build up West Virginia each year that he was there,” Pobolish said. “Obviously, he finished his career there on a pretty good note.”
Carlen brought fairly new methods and approaches to Morgantown, implementing a much stricter discipline plan and he also made sure he hired good coaches and let them have more freedom to do their respective jobs.
“Coach Carlen was the kind of guy who was all business,” Sherwood said. “Everything about him and everything he did was that way. Personally, he was more philosophical with me than he was technical. He kept really good tabs on everything you did at all times.”
Snively compared Carlen to his own father in terms of their beliefs and expectations.
“He made sure you went to class, you had to go to church and there was no drinking or smoking,” Snively said. “He was like a mentor to me as far as how he went about things. As much of a disciplinarian as he was, he was still a guy who could definitely catch you off guard with some of the things he said.”
Snively and Carlen grew close as his career went along in WVU. Carlen actually invited Snively to join him as a graduate assistant at Texas Tech after he left Morgantown.
“I was very fortunate to go to WVU,” Snively said. “Even though I lived in Ohio, I always wanted to go there and I passed up the chance to coach collegiately because, at that time, I thought the job at Bellaire High School was the best thing that could have happened to me, so I took it.”
Pobolish, Sherwood and Snively all went on to successful coaching careers of their own and all linked some of their success to what they learned under Carlen for those four years.
“One thing that Coach Carlen always told us, and I used it with my own kids both in coaching and education, if you’re thinking about doing something and you have to stop to think if it’s right or wrong … it’s usually wrong. That was a really good piece of advice.”
All three former players expressed their sorrow about Carlen’s passing.
“Coach was a really good man,” Snively said. “He’ll definitely be missed and I am sure whenever we get together as a team or as members of the varsity club, Coach will be a topic of conversation.”
BIG 10 MEDIA DAYS
I sat glued to press conferences during the Big 10 Media Days in Chicago on Thursday.
I came away extremely impressed with Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien. You want to talk about a guy who has his stuff together? He’s got charisma, swag and a well thought out plan on how he intends to keep the Nittany Lions’ program going despite the last six months of distractions.
“These kids (on the team) have a lot of pride in Penn State, pride in the university and tremendous commitment to each other,” O’Brien said. “The sanctions are what they are and now it’s time to move on and turn the page. I am proud to work at Penn State and I am not going to get into details, but we have plans in place and this won’t be as bad as everyone says it’s going to be.”
- ST. CLAIRSVILLE junior Michael Eaton finished seventh in the YMCA Long Course Swimming Nationals in Atlanta earlier this week in the 50M breaststroke.
- PREP FOOTBALL doubles begin on Monday. The Times Leader’s annual ‘Pigskin Preview’ will be published on Tuesday, Aug. 21.
Staskey can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @TLSportsSeth