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WVU Football’s Relationship with Alumni Hasn’t Been Easy, But Needs to Remain Important

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WVU Football legend Pat McAfee
Kelsie LeRose / WVSN

The returns of Pat White and Pat McAfee brought back great memories for WVU fans, but also made some ponder why it took so long to incorporate alumni in this way. WVU head coach Neal Brown took time after the Gold-Blue Game on Saturday to reiterate his stance about former Mountaineers.

Brown said “we have an open door” when asked about if bringing White and McAfee back as honorary coaches for a day will now spark a new trend for the program. This, of course, is not the first time Brown has talked about wanting to connect the Mountaineers back to the program’s past either.

But part of why it’s taken years to make something like Saturday happen and why Brown likely feels the continuous urge to speak on this is this “open door” policy has not always been in effect. Brown credited tight ends coach Blaine Stewart with making White and McAfee happen. Stewart, the son of a former beloved coach and someone who is still friends with many of the greats of the past, especially from the most decorated era, significantly helps repair old wounds.

Obviously, McAfee’s situation is unique and something everyone is well aware of. But aside from McAfee, other prominent former Mountaineers have voiced, both publicly and privately, a disconnect between themselves and WVU in the past, namely during the tenure of Brown’s predecessor Dana Holgorsen.

Former Mountaineer quarterback and current director of player relations Rasheed Marshall spoke candidly about this topic in December of 2022 during an episode of WV Sports Now’s “All Three Phases” podcast.

“I think it all boils down to your own preferential decision on how you feel like you’ve been treated. But you have to be able to manage your relationships. I do not have a bad word to say about Neal Brown and his staff. They had me back a few years ago. You talked about it. Everyone knows about it. The whole uniform thing. I did not see that coming from anywhere. From there you continue to just nature relationships. It’s just like anything else, friends family. So for some guys to go away for however many years it’s been and to think that same red carpet is going to be rolled out and you haven’t been around, it’s going to be tough,” said Marshall at the time.

Marshall then added more, fully aware that other alumni do not feel as much love from the Mountaineers.

“Yes, you should have somewhat of an obligation to be able to get field passes, whatever it might be. But at the same time, you can’t just think the red carpet is going to be rolled out for you when there’s been no contact. You have to keep the relationship alive.”

All Three Phases: Rasheed Marshall Sees Both Sides to WVU’s Relationship with Alums

Marshall was making the point, that while former players voiced not feeling wanted or invited, there’s also some culpability on them to reach out as well. On that same show, Marshall brought up alums not responding to emails and ignoring invitations from the Mountaineer Athletic Club over the years.

Those players may be able to explain their lack of cooperation with examples of how they were treated poorly, but as Marshall expressed, any kind of relationship is a two-way street.

So while no one can change the past, the hope moving forward is that the returns of both White and McAfee spark a new trend. Not only should other former players be incorporated into future spring games and other events, but no player should ever believe the program doesn’t want them around.

Each and every former player played some role in the past success of the West Virginia Mountaineers’ long history and should be appreciated for their contributions no matter how big or small.

For a related story, who are some other former WVU players you wish to see coach in future spring games?

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