Fanciful home of college football national championships
SHEPHERDSTOWN — Do you have to be born in either Harrison County, Marion County or Monongalia County in West Virginia to win a college football national championship?
Being born outside that small geographical area won’t prevent a coach from winning a national title, but it just could be the water or the rough-hewn backgrounds of three individuals who have produced a combined 11 national championships in their highly publicized careers.
Monongah in Marion County is where Nick Saban grew up after being born in a hospital in Fairmont (also Marion County).
Nick Saban has won six national championships, the first one coming when he bossed LSU to a title, after coming from Michigan State.
Saban’s father was the high school football coach at Monongah. Nick gained a scholarship as a defensive back and played college football in Ohio.
After leaving LSU, Saban eventually was hired to win national championships at Alabama. He hasn’t disappointed. Beginning his Crimson Tide reign in 2007, Saban has won five national titles and even has been mentioned in the same sentences in Tuscaloosa as the legendary Paul W. “Bear” Bryant, the do-no-wrong coach of Alabama idolatry.
At age 67, Saban shows no signs of slowing down, although his sprints to any more national titles have been roadblocked by recent events at Clemson.
Another four national titles were won by Southern California’s John McKay. Born in the long-gone mining town of Everettville in Monongalia County, McKay was the son of a coal-mining supervisor, who took his family to Shinnston in Harrison County. After graduating from Shinnston High School, McKay was hired to coach at West Coast power, the University of Southern California.
From 1960 through the 1975, the white-haired coach led the Trojans to the penthouse of college football.
His four national championships were only challenged in his dominate era by Bryant at Alabama. McKay also coach two Heisman Trophy recipients.
Saban and McKay both from a compact, rural area of north central West Virginia, account for 10 national championships.
The 11th title was produced by John “Jimbo” Fisher, now at Texas A&M in his second season since departing Tallahassee, Fla. and the Florida State Seminoles.
Fisher was born in Clarksburg in Harrison County. He lived in Clarksburg until graduating from high school in that city.
He went to Salem College near Clarksburg and was a quarterback there when Rich Rodriguez guided the Tigers’ fortunes.
After coaching at smaller colleges, including Samford in Alabama, Fisher went to Florida State as a head-coach-in-waiting, while Bobby Bowden coached his last season with the Seminoles.
Florida State had a national championship, along with much controversy, while Fisher was there.
He left after the 2017 season with a lucrative $75 million contract in hand for College Station and Texas A&M. The Aggies were 9-4 overall in Fisher’s first season last year.
That’s 11 college football national championships from three coaches from a cozy geographical region in West Virginia.
A person doesn’t have to drink the water or be raised in the hills of West Virginia to win football titles (as Dabo Swinney at Clemson has proved), but it certainly can’t hurt — if college football history is any indicator.