Sometimes, the discovery of new facts requires history to be rewritten. That was the case with our planet, which was once considered flat until Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue, far off into the Atlantic and didn’t fall off the end of Earth.
Our solar system once consisted of nine planets, the one farthest out being Pluto.
But in 2006, Pluto was reclassified a “dwarf planet” when leading scientists came up with some basic criteria for the planets in our solar system and Pluto didn’t make the cut.
And, Marie Antoinette really didn’t utter the phrase “let them eat cake” when the poorest citizens of France were enduring chaotic times in their country. Instead, a Spanish princess named Maria Theresa, who married Louis XIV more than a century before Marie Antoinette’s reign in France, most likely spoke that phrase.
You get the idea.
Well, after doing a little digging and some old-school football sleuthing for a personal project I’m working on (as you can see above), I have discovered another coach in West Virginia University’s football history.
That’s right, West Virginia doesn’t have 33 coaches in its 125-year existence but rather 34.
H. J. Davall
His name is Harold Jefferson Davall, a Cornell graduate who coached West Virginia’s 1902 football squad that won seven of 11 games, including notable victories over Western University of Pennsylvania (Pitt), local rival Marietta College and Old Dominion combatant Washington and Lee in Charleston.
Davall was born in Camden, New Jersey, and he played tight end on Cornell’s 1899 team that won seven games and outscored its opponents by a 134-52 margin. He served as an assistant coach for the Big Red’s 1901 team that won 11 of 12 games, its lone loss coming, 8-6, to powerful Princeton.
Then, in 1902, Davall was persuaded to come to Morgantown to coach West Virginia’s football team for one season. Davall was not against using “ringers” or hired hands, as he did against powerful Georgetown when West Virginia, then known as the “Snakes,” lost to the Hoyas by the surprisingly low score of 5-0.
Davall didn’t need to use ringers against state rival West Virginia Wesleyan, which began playing football for the first time that year and demanded West Virginia bring its starters and not its second stringers for the first game between the two schools in Buckhannon.
Davall obliged and continued to score until the game was mercifully called in the second half with West Virginia leading 78-0.
This is what the Morgantown Daily New Dominion wrote of Davall following the team’s 17-5 victory over Washington and Lee. “Under the coaching of Daval (sic) the best playing team that has ever represented the University has been produced. It is earnestly hoped that he will be back here next year.”
But he didn’t return.
Davall coached William & Mary’s football team to a 1-3 record in 1903 before he put the civil engineering degree he earned at Cornell to good use by going to work for the Pennsylvania Railroad. He later died in Trenton, New Jersey, on Nov. 22, 1931.
So, how did this happen?
How did Davall’s name fall through the cracks of WVU’s well-detailed sports history?
Here is my theory.
Much of football’s early football history was produced through West Virginia University’s annual student yearbook, Monticola. In some instances, dates, scores and results published in the student yearbook were either incomplete or wrong.
The 1903 yearbook lists information about the 1902 football season, but only team results, the regular lineup, the managers Daniel Dawson and Otis O. Cole, who were responsible for team finances, and the team captain, Lewis “Bull” Smith.
There was no mention of a coach, so those researching the football team that year likely concluded that player Louis Yeager also coached the 1902 squad since he coached them in 1901.
And it’s true Yeager appeared in a few games in 1902 (most likely as a ringer), but he was not the team coach. Harold Jefferson Davall held that position, which makes him the 34th coach in West Virginia University football history.
Therefore, instead of Yeager getting credit with a three-year coaching tenure and a 12-9 record at WVU, his coaching mark should be two years and a 5-5 mark.
Davall should be credited with seven victories in 1902, putting him in a tie with Harry Edgar Trout for 22th place in school annals.
For those of you interested in these things, I have forwarded my research on to Mountaineer football record keepers Mike Montoro and Joe Swan to note this omission in future football publications.
And, as Paul Harvey used to say, now you know the rest of the story!
On to this week’s WVU sports notes …
* I recently tracked down WVU coach Bob Huggins between recruiting trips to get his thoughts on the NCAA rules committee’s status-quo approach to modifying the game’s current directives.
“I’m happy they didn’t do anything,” the veteran coach said.
Consideration was given to widening the lanes, extending the 3-point line and the adoption of quarters instead of halves similar to the professional game before the rules committee chose to table things.
One slight modification that received some local media attention because of its potential to impact the pressuring style of play that West Virginia has been so successful with doesn’t bother Huggins either.
It involves an adjustment to the cylinder rule and an offensive player’s inability to make a normal basketball move, including pivoting, that will now result in a foul on the defensive player if he straddles the offensive player’s leg and creates contact.
“There were two calls like that all year,” Huggins noted. “It hardly ever happened.”
So there you have it. Huggs is happy with the rule makers this year.
Now about those refs? We’ll see about that.
* It will be interesting to see what role Wendell Smallwood will have with the Philadelphia Eagles this near now that the team has signed LeGarrette Blount to a one-year deal. Smallwood’s spot on the roster is probably safe because Philadelphia is likely going to keep four running backs, but his role may be solely as a third-down back and special teams player this season.
Smallwood’s rookie season in 2016 saw him appear in 13 games, rushing 77 times for 312 yards and one touchdown and catching six passes for 55 yards.
The Philadelphia media will get an opportunity to watch next Tuesday’s practice as well as the next three Tuesdays after that so we should be hearing more about Smallwood, as well as other former Mountaineers Najee Goode, Rasul Douglas, Shelton Gibson and Tyler Orlosky.
* The West Virginia University baseball team concluded the home portion of its schedule with another record-setting year in attendance. For its 22 home dates this season, Randy Mazey’s Mountaineers averaged 1,846 fans per game, or roughly 300 more per game than the prior record of 1,507 that attended games in 2015, Monongalia County Ballpark’s inaugural season.
West Virginia’s overall gross attendance of 40,616 also exceeded last year’s total of 40,390 for WVU’s 30 home dates.
The Mountaineers have averaged more than 1,000 fans per game in each of Mazey’s five seasons at WVU, including 1,328 per game during his initial year in 2013.
Prior to Mazey, baseball was drawing an average of about 300 fans per game at old Hawley Field.
* Any mention of the NCAA Tournament around Randy Mazey or his coaching staff will cause them to scowl, but all indications point to the Mountaineers remaining in good shape to lock up a bid if they can avoid a collapse this weekend at Texas and next week in the Big 12 Tournament in Oklahoma City.
West Virginia (31-20) currently has a 11-10 record in the No. 1-rated baseball conference in America that is expected to secure as many as six bids. In my opinion, West Virginia’s magic number is one - as in one victory at Texas this weekend to secure a .500 mark in conference play to land that elusive NCAA bid.
According to the website WarrenNolan.com, West Virginia’s RPI stands at 20 heading into tonight’s game against the Longhorns, which can be seen on the Longhorn Network.
By the way, West Virginia has never earned an at-large bid in the current setup of the NCAA Tournament, although the 1948 team was invited to play Lafayette in an Eastern playoff to qualify for the eight-team national tournament that season.
Lafayette defeated WVU, 8-0, and reached the national championship game before falling to Yale, 4-3.
* For those of you interested, Virginia Tech has elevated its 1999, come-from-behind victory over West Virginia in Morgantown to documentary status. The 31-minute video titled “Miracle in Morgantown” was produced by HokieVision and can be viewed on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AAjvYLvY9RY
By the way, the Mountaineers and the Hokies will meet for the first time since 2005 at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland, on Sunday, Sept. 3 at 7:30 p.m.
General public tickets for that game are now on sale through the Mountaineer Ticket Office and can be purchased by calling 1-800-WVU GAME
or by logging on to WVUGAME.com.
* Preliminary work has already started on the new 37x97 video board that will be located above Touchdown Terrace in the north end zone of Milan Puskar Stadium. The new board will be significantly larger than the current video board located above the south end zone and fans can expect to begin seeing the new structure take form in early June.
The new video board is scheduled to be completed in late August in time for West Virginia’s home opener against East Carolina at Milan Puskar Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 9.
And while facility work continues on Milan Puskar Stadium’s west-side concourse, the Mountaineers continue to chase moving targets throughout the Big 12.
This fall, Oklahoma is poised to move into its new 132,000-square-foot locker room, part of a $160 million facility enhancement to OU’s Gaylord Family - Oklahoma Memorial Stadium that includes additional luxury boxes and new seating in the south end zone.
Oklahoma’s old locker room was last refurbished just eight years ago in 2009.
* I was saddened to learn of the recent death of former West Virginia University center Lyle Shannon, who played three seasons for Gale Catlett in 1985, 1986 and 1987. Shannon was from Towson, Maryland, and was living in Baltimore at the time of his death.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to Lyle’s family.
* And finally, on a much brighter note, Jim Carlen/Bobby Bowden-era West Virginia University tackle John “Randy” Flinchum was recently inducted into the McDowell County Sports Hall of Fame.
Flinchum was a teammate of Mountaineer grid standouts Bob Gresham and Oscar Patrick at Big Creek High in War, West Virginia - once a favorite recruiting stop for many college football coaches in the late 1960s and early 1970s when the mining industry was still thriving in Southern West Virginia.
Randy has been my go-to guy for tracking down Carlen and Bowden-era players through the years and he continues to remain a great supporter of Mountaineer athletics.
Congratulations, Randy, for a well-deserved honor!
Have a great weekend everyone!