The Legend of The Flying WV
Written by Jake Stump
Illustrations by Chris Schwer
Former football coach Don Nehlen’s son scrawled it on construction paper with crayon?
No, that’s not right.
Well, then, it actually originated when one of the ball boys saw clouds in the sky forming a W and V together during a scrimmage?
Wait. That’s not it, either.
How many tall tales and legends have you heard about the origins of the Flying WV, one of the most recognized university and sports logos in the world?
What’s the true story?
Everyone involved—from the coach, an artist, an equipment manager, and a sports information director—has a different variation of the story.
But don’t worry. Through hardnosed, investigative (ahem) journalism, the real story will be pieced together right here.
The truth shall set you free, like a Mountaineer.
John Martin designed West Virginia University’s logo, the Flying WV, in 1980. It has become one of the most recognizable college logos in the world.
SOMETIMES IT TAKES BAD TO MAKE GOOD
Look no further than the late-1970s if you’re seeking a forgettable era of Mountaineer football.
After wrapping up five years with a winning record as Mountaineer head coach, Bobby Bowden left the helm in 1975 for a warmer climate at Florida State. There, he’d go on to establish a legendary 34-year career leading the Seminoles to two national championships.
With Bowden gone, so were the WVU victories. Following Bowden’s departure, the Mountaineers slogged through four consecutive losing seasons (1976-79).
“I wanted a distinct helmet. I wanted everybody to know that when West Virginia University hit the field, they’d know who we were.”
The Mountaineers could not even lose with style, so to speak, in those darkened days.
The distinct gold-and-blue color scheme and Flying WV logo we’ve come to adore did not exist at that point. Instead, football players bore a bronzesque gold helmet emblazoned with a blue outline of the state of West Virginia and the letters “WVU” inside an oval.
The gold of the helmet did not reflect the gold utilized in our colors today. Think of a darker, Notre Dame-like gold, only uglier. The helmets also came in a white version.
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