The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

May 25, 2012

Former WVU LB Skinner says limited sub rule hurt

By Mickey Furfari
For The Register-Herald

MORGANTOWN — John Skinner, a semi-retired longtime attorney in his native Charles Town, was a standout linebacker on West Virginia University’s football team in 1960-61-62.

He was recruited by Art “Pappy” Lewis, but played all three varsity years for Gene Corum. The Mountaineers posted records of 0-8-2, 4-6 and 8-2.

Skinner is listed in WVU football records as a center, but he actually was a defensive player who saw hardly any action at all on offense. He had played both ways as a center and linebacker at Charles Town High School.

He was credited with making 134 tackles at WVU, including 69 solo stops. He also intercepted three passes, according to sketchy statistics.

Skinner, now 70, was named winner of the Louis Maisel Award as the senior with the team’s highest academic average in 1962.

He received his bachelor’s degree in the spring of 1963, and then earned his law degree before leaving the university.

Like others in collegiate football during that period, Skinner didn’t care for the stringent NCAA limited substitution rule.

He explained, “On first and fourth downs, you could substitute two new players. Otherwise, if you were out during a quarter, you could not go back in.

“So most teams, including West Virginia, substituted for the quarterback and could add another player who usually was one of the backs.”

As a sophomore, Skinner sprained an ankle and missed the season’s first three games. Then he broke his left leg in the seventh game (Penn State). He played in all 10 games as a junior. More injuries followed in his senior year when he was able to play in six games.

Skinner admittedly enjoyed playing football for Corum. “He was a great guy to play for,” he said. “He truly was a gentleman and was a great sport.

“He was certainly a gentleman in his coaching, and he stuck strictly to the rules. A very nice guy.”

Skinner, who still attends WVU home football and basketball games, thinks there’s hardly any comparison between college football today and when he played.

“The players are so much bigger, so much stronger and so much faster,” said Skinner, who was six feet tall and a mere 206 pounds in the 1960s. “Players of the two different periods wouldn’t be in the same league.”

He doesn’t think coaches back then really appreciated the value of weightlifting, etc.

Skinner is a past president of the WVU Alumni Association and also had served as a member of its board. In addition, he still belongs to Mountain, the school’s ranking honorary.

John and the former Susan Gibson met while students at WVU and have been married 46 years. They have three grown children and five grandchildren, with a sixth expected very soon.

Like father, sons Stephen and Andrew are practicing law in Charles Town, and daughter Sally Skinner is a free lance writer in New York City.

Stephen is a WVU law graduate and Andrew is a William & Mary College alumnus and got his law degree from the University of Texas.

Sally attended both Princeton and Oxford.