MORGANTOWN, W. Va. — The Boone County boy in Tony Gibson understands why West Virginia fans felt betrayed when he ran off to Michigan with Rich Rodriguez before the 2008 Fiesta Bowl. Heck, Gibson even excuses the pockets of bitterness that exist five years later, now that his winding country road of a coaching career has led him to become a Mountaineer once more.

“I understand the fans of West Virginia — I’m from West Virginia, and I’ve been a part of it,” Gibson said Wednesday in his first interview since being re-hired at WVU on Jan. 16. “I grew up loving West Virginia football with my family, and the fans are so passionate about this football team in this state. I understand all that. It’s nothing personal.”

Countering the vitriol from that stormy and litigious exit, Gibson said he has received a string of hospitable texts, calls and Facebook messages welcoming him back. He hopes he’ll soon be judged by his performance on Dana Holgorsen’s staff and not the messy way he left with Rodriguez.

“There were things that were said and done that I wish wouldn’t have been, but it’s in the past, you know,” he said. “That’s why as soon as (Holgorsen) offered, I said ‘I’m coming.’ I didn’t negotiate, didn’t do anything. I was excited to get back home.

“What I have to do is just come back in and do my job. Coach Holgorsen hired me to recruit and to coach the safeties, and I’m going to do the best I can.”

His recruiting connections paid off promptly when Gibson convinced two Arizona commitments to sign with WVU on Wednesday. No better way to mend fences with Mountaineer Nation than by opening the barn door on RichRod’s recruits.

“It happens — that’s just recruiting,” said Gibson, claiming that signees Mario Alford and Brandon Golson actually called him to inquire about WVU. “I was going through the hiring process and was off the road for a couple days, when I couldn’t answer calls and didn’t talk to any recruits. The day I got cleared, they were calling me up, and we kind of went from there.”

“There were things that were said and done that I wish wouldn’t have been, but it’s in the past, you know. That’s why as soon as (Holgorsen) offered, I said ‘I’m coming.’ I didn’t negotiate, didn’t do anything. I was excited to get back home.” — Tony Gibson

But having played under Rodriguez at Glenville State and coached with him for 12 seasons at four schools, doesn’t plucking Alford and Golson from Arizona’s commitment list strain the relationship?

“I’m sure it does, but I work for West Virginia right now,” he said. “Coach Holgorsen liked the guys and the offensive and defensive staffs liked the two guys, so I recruited them. West Virginia’s where I’m at. They write my check and I’m going to do everything I can to help us win.”

That meant enticing Alford with an opportunity to run and catch the football in many of the same ways Tavon Austin did. For Golson, it was emphasizing his prominent role as an outside linebacker in the 3-4 scheme.

“But mostly what I did was I sell ’em on West Virginia, and that’s not hard to do,” said Gibson. He certainly was sold when the call to return came.

“There’s no better place in the country — the college football, the town, all the things that I’ve missed over the last five years I’ve been gone. The opportunity came and I jumped all over it.”

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  • Kay Vance

    Tony...I'm proud of you and what you have accomplished. Welcome back to WV.

  • Shifter

    I am NOT happy with Gibson's return. I will do my best to ignore him. However, if RR ever came back I would never, ever be a fan of WVU again. PERIOD.

  • Ricardo

    There was a lot of people disappointed with the performance of last season, but that is just due to expectations being too high. We have to keep in mind that we had a couple years of declined recruiting quality. Dana and team have some work to do, and are at the bottom of the hill ready to start climbing now. I don't foresee DH leaving for a while, perhaps when Mac Brown retires. Then, expect to see RR as your new head coach.

  • Jon H

    Welcome home Tony,I watched you wear the blue and gold from the time you peewee and midget football. I for one am glad you made choice to return to WV.Good luck in your new job and go 'ERRS

  • Chris

    I don't blame Rich for moving up, but the way it was done was iffy...I'm sure he's wiser now. I forgive him and would welcome his return some day when Dana moves up.

  • Tom S

    While RR did do great things in his time at WVU, I was never a fan of his personality. It was a very welcome change to have mild-mannered Stu for a while.RR's penchant for publicly demeaning players with profane tirades was not to my liking. I do understand that is a successful approach with some players, but not all of them are thugs and those who aren't deserve a little more humane treatment. DH seems to be somewhere in between and, hopefully, his middle-of-the-road approach will work. No one was any more disappointed with this past season than I, but I'm willing to give a new coach a few years to find his way. Our O line was adequate, but only if we had a better D. Hopefully we recruited to fix that both from a player and coaching standpoint. It all sounds good at this time of year, so we will all have to wait to see.

  • mark

    I will actively and publicly campaign against ANY effort to return Rodriguez to WV: now or in the future. I feel that passionately about it. Tony Gibson really had no choice but to leave with the traitor at the time. He had to feed his family. Welcome home, Tony. I hope the two recruits you brought with you turn out to be All-Americans.

  • Bob Marley

    Now ... Let's bring on Rich and let's get back to winning.

  • Michael

    cutty77, would you feel the same way if Rich Rod wanted to come back?

    • Helen5844

      I am glad Rich Rod is all the way on the other side of the country. Never hearing about him again would be too soon. GOOOOO MOUNTAINEERS

    • cutty77

      Rich was and is a Friend of mine.He made a mistake and i told him he was making a Big mistake.That Pitt loss did more things to him,than people realize.Plus he had the wrong people around him at the time.But he is a Big Boy,and like all of us we make Bad Moves as we go through life.Yes i would like Rich to come back,this is his Home State.Now as far as WVU goes i can't speak for them.Rich did alot for WVU,and WVU did alot for Rich too.Nobody in This World is irreplacable.Its better not to hate,its really a waste of time and effort.

      • Stan

        You're friends with Rich Rod just like you used to know Bob Huggins well, right? Geez people will say anthing on the internet.

        • cutty77

          Unlike you Stan.If you want to put your Money where Big Mouth is.Lets get it Brother.You seem to always have alot of lip,now lets get something off your Hip.500 dollors to your 100. dollor.Now lets Roll Big Dollor.You have a Alligator Mouth,and a Humming Bird A**

          • Stan

            What? I'm sorry I didn't understand any of that. Was that English?

    • al

      I'd take him back in a heartbeat!

      • Chris

        Me too

    • David

      I am not answering for cutty77, just for myself. I do not ever want to see RR come back here. His attitude is what did him in with me. He thought Michigan was better and he burned his bridges. Let him rot in the desert as far as I am concerned.

  • cutty77

    Gibby was in a Tuff place when Rich left.Gibby was Rich's main Man.As Stew Said Never leave your Wing Man,well Gibby was Rich's Wingman.But these Old Hills of West Virginia were calling Gibby back,and he came back because he loves it here.These Old Hills are hard to turn your back on for any length of time.There no Future in The Past.Glad your back Gibby,more than you realize.

  • David

    I'm not sure how I feel about poaching two of Rod's recruits.

    Who am I kidding?

    I love it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Jean

    welcome back Gibby!!!

  • Mas

    COOL !!!!!!!!!!! GO MOUNTAINEERS.

  • wvman75

    Welcome back, Coach Gibson, and GO MOUNTAINEERS!!

    • Helen5844

      I am glad you are back. Hope you stay a long time and enjoy being home.

    • Tom

      Hell of a recruiter!


      I'll second that emotion.