Crutchfield on His Way to Elite Company


I was in the front row when JOE RETTON was waving his magic men’s basketball wand as coach at Fairmont State College from 1964-82.

As sports editor of The Fairmont Times from 1965-67, I observed the Retton-coached Falcons teams up close and personal and the impression was lasting: Retton set the bar high for Mountain State roundball mentors and is considered the standard for West Virginia Conference pilots.

Move over, Joe. You may have some company in the near future.

That’s because West Liberty University’s Crutchfield is off to a comparable start as the Fairmont State coaching legend.

Retton, retired and living in Fairmont, coached 18 consecutive 20-victory teams from 1964-81. Crutchfield has a ways to go to match that mark but is a perfect 7-for-7 for 20-victory seasons on the Hilltop.

When Retton retired, his career winning percentage of 83.6 percent was the best in the nation among all college coaches on any level. Crutchfield has won nearly 82 percent of his games, the top mark nationally among all NCAA Division-II coaches.

In 1976, Retton coached the Falcons to a 24-0 regular-season record and the No. 1 ranking in The Associated Press small college poll. Entering Friday night’s West Virginia Conference Tournament semifinals vs. W.Va. Wesleyan, Crutchfield’s Hilltoppers are the nation’s lone unbeaten team, at any level, with a 27-0 mark and No. 1 ranked in NCAA Division II.

Retton was West Virginia Conference Coach of the Year a record six times. Crutchfield was recently named for the third time in seven years to the same honor.

Get the picture?

While Retton set the standard for state college basketball coaches, Crutchfield is off to a similar start. Only the length of tenure is the difference-maker.

But the current Hilltoppers mentor is making a strong statement to be in the conversation with the best of the best in WVC roundball annals.

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If you’re a Mountaineers gridiron fan, there’s only three things certain: death, taxes and the raising of WVU ticket prices. In fact, it would surprise us if prices don’t double in the next five seasons.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out – the WVU athletics department has to find about $26 million somewhere to pay for the expected cost of the four new football coaches.

Here’s the $26 million breakdown: the new head coach-in-waiting, DANA HOLGORSEN, was given the richest contract in state history and could earn up to $16 million, including incentives, during the life of the pact. The three new assistant coaches, whom were hired by Holgorsen, could cost $4 million, with incentives, during the length of the agreement. And, the fired WVU coaches will have to be paid $6 million in buyout clauses and that figure depletes a current WVU department surplus fund.

We wonder how WVU coach DON NEHLEN feels about the contracts. It took him eight seasons to earn $100,000 a year at WVU.

Despite all the new riches, Holgorsen is backtracking on his transition to the Mountaineers program. He earlier told a Morgantown newspaper it would take only three days or so to put in his new offense. This week, he said his new system will take some time and a cautious approach.

Oh well, who cares as along as I receive an OK on my media request for the national title game.

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Enjoy the weekend.