MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia University Football is 21-0 against schools that compete at the NCAA FCS level.
If that’s any indication of how this Saturday’s matchup against the Long Island University Sharks will go, it should be an easy win. This is the first meeting of the Mountaineers and Sharks. WVU head coach Neal Brown and LIU interim head coach Jonathan Gill have never met prior to this Saturday, as Gill’s experience has been tailored to Division II. He spent 15 seasons as LIU’s quarterbacks coach, but was abruptly slotted into the head coaching position when, on June 28, 2021, veteran head coach Bryan Collins resigned.
Now, there’s a direct link from Gill to this current WVU program; Gill will come up close and personal with it when the Mountaineer defense takes the field. WVU defensive line coach Andrew Jackson was a D-lineman on Gill’s roster.
Jackson started every game during the 2009 and 2010 seasons at nose guard. He was a three-year captain and a three-year starter for the then-LIU Post Pioneers. Upon graduating in 2011, Jackson was brought on the staff as a graduate assistant coach in 2013, while pursuing his master’s degree in interdisciplinary studies.
Following the 2018 season, the LIU Post Pioneers, which conducted an entirely separate athletic department from LIU-Brooklyn, the main campus, combined. When Long Island University made the move from Division II to Division I, all athletic teams changed colors and mascots to the Sharks. Collins, who had been the head coach of the LIU football team for 23 seasons and all the transitions, suddenly left the program just a few months before LIU were set to kick off its second season in Division I FCS competition in 2021.
“If you look at the number of years he coached, it’s not a surprise, because I don’t know how you do anything so long. He’s great,” Jackson said of Collins’ departure. “He has battled through some transplants – he had a kidney transplant when I was playing and he had a liver transplant during the spring. The university has changed a lot — it’s not even called the same thing now.
“I was looking forward to him being on the other sideline, but playing them will definitely be strange,” Jackson said, regarding a reunion with his old coach. “When I played there, we were Division II, so I never thought we’d be on the field with a Big 12 team. It will be strange to play against my alma mater. It will be stressful, but exciting at the same time.”
The same Long Island team that concluded 2018 with an undefeated regular season battled through some hard knocks when 2019 came around. An 0-10 2019 record initiated the Sharks into Division I football. Then, in an abbreviated 2020 schedule, the Sharks went 2-2 against the likes of Northeastern Conference foes Bryant, Sacred Heart, Duquesne, and Merrimack College.
Gill, now in his first season as the program’s head coach, has an 0-1 record. Both teams enter Sept. 11 with 0-1 records. Gill’s Sharks, still reeling from 2020’s 2-2 season, fell in disastrous fashion to Florida International 48-10 on Sept. 2 in Miami. The trip to Morgantown will be the team’s sole Power-5 opponent this season, as well as the first team of this caliber that Long Island University’s program has ever seen. Kick-off at Milan Puskar Stadium is set for 5 p.m.
— WVU Football (@WVUfootball) September 8, 2021