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Don "Dandy Don" Nehlen
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Sport Football
Born January 1, 1936 (1936-01-01) (age 74)
Place of birth Ohio Mansfield, Ohio
Career highlights
Overall 202-128-8
Bowls 4-9-0
Coaching stats
College Football DataWarehouse
Big East Conference (1993)
Walter Camp Coach of the Year (1988)
Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year (1988)
AFCA Coach of the Year (1988)
Big East Coach of Year (1993)
Kodak Coach of the Year (1993)
Woody Hayes Trophy (1993)
Playing career
Position Quarterback (BGSU)
Coaching career (HC unless noted)


Bowling Green

West Virginia University

College Football Hall of Fame, 2005 (Bio)

Don Nehlen (born 1936 in Mansfield, Ohio) is the former head football coach at Bowling Green State University and later at West Virginia University. His lifetime win-loss-tie record is 202-128-8. Nehlen retired in 2001 as the 17th winningest coach in college football history, and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2005. He is a past president of the American Football Coaches Association.

Nehlen was a quarterback at Bowling Green and led the team to a Mid-American Conference championship. He then began his coaching career in 1958 at Mansfield High School. Nehlen served as head coach at Canton South and Canton McKinley high schools and then was an assistant coach at University of Cincinnati, Bowling Green, and University of Michigan.

Nehlen received the 2002 Distinguished West Virginian Award from the West Virginia Broadcasters Association.[1]

Since retirement, he has been a spokesman for the coal industry. He has been urged to run as a Republican for several political offices, but as of 2007 he has declined to do so. He is a supporter of the FBI's childhood fingerprint identification campaign.

After being inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, Nehlen published a book called "Don Nehlen's Tales from the West Virginia Sideline". The autobiographical book recalled Nehlen's greatest moments, players, and more from his 21-years as the head coach at West Virginia.


At West Virginia

Nehlen had been the quarterbacks coach at the University of Michigan under Bo Schembechler before taking the head coaching job at West Virginia. Nehlen became West Virginia's 29th football coach December 7, 1979. Nehlen replaced Frank Cignetti after four losing seasons.

Nehlen assembled what he called a "perfect staff". Nehlen first hired Gary Tranquill as the offensive coach. Trying to resemble the Michigan defense, Nehlen hired Dennis Brown. Nehlen also hired some of the coaches he worked with at Bowling Green. Also, Nehlen hired Donnie Young, Cignetti's former assistant head coach, as the recruiting coach for the last three months of recruiting. During Nehlen's tenure at West Virginia, he only had to let two coaches go that he had hired. Gary Tranquill left after three years to take the head coaching position at the United States Naval Academy, taking a grad assistant Steve Dunlap with him. Dunlap would return and became West Virginia's defensive coach. One of Nehlen's most famed coaches was Doc Holliday, who was the assistant head coach and recruiting coach for almost 20 years before leaving to be assistant coach at North Carolina State. Holliday was sent to Florida every year to find recruits. Holliday found many talented recruits in the Florida area, including linebacker Steve Grant.

When Nehlen arrived at West Virginia University, he introduced their first "home and away uniforms" and WVU's helmet logo, which turned out to be West Virginia athletics new official logo, "The Flying WV.". Nehlen's first season, 1980, went 6-6. In 1981, led by quarterback Oliver Luck, West Virginia went 8-3 and upset the Florida Gators in the Peach Bowl 26-6. In 1982, led by Jeff Hostetler, West Virginia started the season with an upset over #9 Oklahoma Sooners and a win in 1983 against the University of Pittsburgh. The 1984 season had wins against Doug Flutie's Boston College and Penn State. The Penn State win marked West Virginia's first win against them since 1955.

The 1987 season marked the beginning of the Major Harris era in West Virginia. In Harris' sophomore season, 1988, West Virginia went undefeated and played Notre Dame in The National Championship Fiesta Bowl. West Virginia lost the game 34-21, after Major Harris' injury on the third play of the game.

In 1993, Nehlen led West Virginia to another undefeated regular season, but Florida exacted revenge in the Sugar Bowl, winning 41-7. The 1994 team started with a 1-4 record, but Nehlen managed to take West Virginia to the Carquest Bowl, but lost to the University of South Carolina 24-21.

In 1998, Nehlen had future NFL players Marc Bulger, Amos Zereoue, Anthony Becht, Gary Stills, Barrett Green, Solomon Page and John Thornton to make up what he called "his best West Virginia...squad". West Virginia opened the season with a loss to Ohio State, but finished the season with an 8-4 record, losing in the Insight Bowl to University of Missouri 34-31.

Following a loss to Syracuse University, Nehlen announced that the 2000 season would be his final. Nehlen's final home game was against ECU. Nehlen's final game was against Ole Miss in the Music City Bowl. After winning three of his first four bowls, Nehlen's bowl resume had been below average. But West Virginia handled the Rebels 49-38, led by the offensive attack of quarterback Brad Lewis, tailback Avon Cobourne, wide receiver Antonio Brown, and fullback Wes Ours.

Nehlen is West Virginia's all-time leading coach in terms of victories. His career record at WVU is 149-93-4. He coached 15 first team All-Americans, 82 all-conference players, and 80 NFL players. He received Coach of the Year honors from Kodak. The Mountaineer football program won 60.56% of their games with Nehlen at the helm. 56.52% of the wins were in-conference wins. In 1993, he won the Big East Coach of the Year award. In 1988, he earned AFCA Coach of the Year honors. Nehlen was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2005.

Coaching record

Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl Game Bowl Opponent Outcome Rank#
Bowling Green (MAC) (1968 — 1976)
1968 Bowling Green 6-3-1 3-2-1
1969 Bowling Green 6-4 4-1
1970 Bowling Green 2-6-1 2-3
1971 Bowling Green 6-4 4-1
1972 Bowling Green 6-3-1 3-1-1
1973 Bowling Green 7-3 4-3
1974 Bowling Green 6-4-1 2-3
1975 Bowling Green 8-3 4-2
1976 Bowling Green 6-5 4-3
At Bowling Green: 53-35-4 30-19-2
West Virginia (Independent (1980-1990)) (1980 — 1990)
1980 West Virginia 6-6
1981 West Virginia 9-3 Peach Bowl Florida W, 26-6 17
1982 West Virginia 9-3 Gator Bowl Florida State L, 12-31 19
1983 West Virginia 9-3 Hall of Fame Classic Kentucky W, 20-16 16
1984 West Virginia 8-4 Bluebonnet Bowl Texas Christian W, 31-14
1985 West Virginia 7-3-1
1986 West Virginia 4-7
1987 West Virginia 6-6 Sun Bowl Oklahoma State L, 33-35
1988 West Virginia 11-1 Fiesta Bowl (National Championship game) Notre Dame L, 21-34 5
1989 West Virginia 8-3-1 Gator Bowl Clemson L, 7-27 21
1990 West Virginia 4-7
At West Virginia: 62-39-1
West Virginia (Big East Conference(1990-Present)) (1990 — 2000)
1991 West Virginia 6-5 3-4 4
1992 West Virginia 5-4-2 2-3-1 5
1993 West Virginia 11-1 7-0 1 Sugar Bowl Florida L, 7-41 7
1994 West Virginia 7-6 4-3 3-T Carquest Bowl South Carolina L, 21-24
1995 West Virginia 5-6 4-3 4-T
1996 West Virginia 8-4 4-3 4 Gator Bowl North Carolina L, 13-20
1997 West Virginia 7-5 4-3 3-T Carquest Bowl Georgia Tech L, 30-35
1998 West Virginia 8-4 5-2 2-T Bowl Missouri L, 31-34
1999 West Virginia 4-7 3-4 4-T
2000 West Virginia 7-5 3-4 5-T Music City Bowl Mississippi W, 49-38
At West Virginia: 149-93-4 39-29-1
Total: 202-128-8
      National Championship         Conference Title         Conference Division Title
#AP Poll.

See also


Preceded by
Bob Gibson
Bowling Green State University Head Football Coach
1968- 1976
Succeeded by
Denny Stolz
Preceded by
Frank Cignetti
West Virginia Head Football Coach
1980- 2000
Succeeded by
Rich Rodriguez
Preceded by
Dick MacPherson
Walter Camp Coach of the Year
Succeeded by
Bill McCartney


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