MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Tony Gibson was officially hired as a member of West Virginia's football staff Wednesday. For the Boone County native, it came not a moment too soon.
For starters, he'd been sitting idle for a few days, his hands tied by university policy that forbade him from going on the road recruiting or even making calls. Shoot, the school couldn't even give him a university cell phone until his paperwork had gone through all the proper channels.
"I was basically just sitting at my desk with nothing to do,'' Gibson said. "There was nothing I was allowed to do.''
That rather momentary lapse of activity wasn't the primary reason Gibson wanted to get to work, though. He just wanted to get started because he was back where he felt comfortable and felt at home.
"In hindsight, it was the worst mistake I ever made when I left,'' Gibson said. "If I had to do it over again I never would have left.''
That Gibson did leave, of course, is well known, as are the circumstances surrounding his departure. It was part of one of the most divisive periods in WVU football history.
In December of 2007, Rich Rodriguez abruptly resigned as WVU's head coach and went to Michigan. It was mere weeks after the Mountaineers had lost to Pitt and blown a chance to play for the national championship and just weeks before the team was to play Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl.
Much of Rodriguez's West Virginia staff went with him, including Gibson.
Understand, of course, that many things played into Gibson's decision to go with Rodriguez, not the least of which was a sense of loyalty. Gibson had played for Rodriguez at Glenville and coached under him at WVU.
But there was also a sense of urgency attached to Gibson's decision and a need to do what was best for his career and his family. At that moment, anything other than following Rodriguez seemed like a risk.
"You had to go because no one could guarantee you a job as an assistant coach when there wasn't even a head coach in place [at West Virginia],'' Gibson said.
Indeed, at the time West Virginia was preparing for the Fiesta Bowl against Oklahoma. Bill Stewart was hastily named the interim coach, but the school vowed to conduct a national search for Rodriguez's full-time replacement.
No one was guaranteed a job at WVU - not Stewart and certainly not Gibson.
"You have a family to feed. You have a career to think about,'' Gibson said. "I have a wife and two kids. I had to do what was best for them.''
That's not to say that staying in West Virginia would not have been for the best, but Gibson didn't know that. The safe move was to follow Rodriguez.
As it turns out, the stint at Michigan lasted just three years before Rodriguez was fired and his staff was out of a job. While Rodriguez spent a year out of coaching, Gibson and the others did not have that luxury. So Gibson signed up on the new staff at Pitt being organized by Todd Graham, who was another former Rodriguez assistant at WVU.