30+ Years a Mountaineer: Joe Staffileno and Family Makes Their Long Awaited Return to Milan Puskar Stadium

For some, college football is just something to watch on the tube to pass time by, for others, it is a religion that millions of people live, eat, breathe, and sleep about. Some fans do any and everything to support their favorite teams and universities. Some travel hundreds and thousands of miles to games, others have parties to have game-like settings in their home. No matter how you slice it, college football has the best fans in all of sports, and the passion, love, and even hatred of teams is what makes it the best sport in the world.

When the return of college football was announced, it was refreshing for so many reasons. While it was refreshing, it was bittersweet at the same time. In some regions, fans were not allowed for safety reasons, and for people like Michgan(eer) and WVU Grad Joe Staffileno, it was a tough pill to swallow.

Before Covid-19 put the world on pause, Staffileno attended every home game since 1987. Even before graduating from WVU, his love for them started way earlier than that.

“I was 9 years old listening to games on the radio while I would help my Dad wash and detail the car every week. Back in 1967, there was no ESPN and West Virginia getting on TV was very rare. Every week I was following the Mountaineers by radio. The announcer back then did such a wonderful job of painting the picture of the game action. I fell in love with the players by hearing their names and the plays they would make. I knew when I was old enough to go to college, I wanted to be in that stadium so I could see the players live since getting to watch them on TV was so rare. Hearing names like Mike Sherwood, Bernie Galiffia, Carl Crennel, Kerry Marbury, and Danny Buggs perform their craft was thrilling to me. Getting to see them on TV was a rare treat and only made me want to go see every game live even more. I never got a chance to see a live game from the stands until my freshman year. We couldn’t afford it,” said Staffileno to M2Sports.

While that was the case for Staffileno at a young age, that dream turned into a reality after going to his first WVU football game.

“My freshman year was 1975 and it was the first time I got to see a WVU game in person. I saw a great game that year when Bill McKenzie kicked a Field Goal with no time left to upset a Tony Dorset led Pitt team 17-14. The place went nuts. The fans poured onto the field (me included and with a girl on my shoulders), goal posts came down, and we all celebrated the rest of the day. Later that night the celebration continued in Sunnyside. The story goes that this was when the “couch burning” tradition started. I was there for 6 years getting both my undergraduate and graduate degrees and went to every home game. I got to see the very last game at Old Mountaineer Field in 1979 and the very first game when the current Mountaineer field opened in 1980,” said Staffileno to M2Sports.

After going to his first game, the feeling of singing ‘Country Roads’ after games and being next to fellow Mountaineer faithful was almost heaven-like for Staffileno. That eventually led to the inevitable of becoming a season ticket holder.

“I would get season tickets starting the 1985 season even though I lived in Houston. The plan was to come back for a week vacation in the fall when there would be back to back Saturday home games so I could at least catch 2 live games in stands. The other 4 games I gave to my parents to use. I did that for the 1985 season and the 1986 season. In March of 1987, I transferred to Detroit and have not missed a home game since. Both of my kids (Steven & Taylor) were born and raised in Michigan. My parents still lived in West Virginia so I would sometimes take the kids with me so they could see their grandparents and then take them to Mountaineer Field to experience WVU Football. The drill would be to take Friday afternoons off and drive to my parent’s house in time for dinner. Saturday mornings drive 70 miles from my parents to Morgantown for the game and return to Wellsburg for dinner and watch the Saturday evening college football games. Sundays after lunch usually by 2:00 pm we would start back to Michigan,” said Staffileno to M2Sports.

Like any great parent, the love for WVU trickled down to Joe’s children Steven and Taylor, and wife Bridget.

“I encouraged both kids to look at a minimum of 4 schools when looking for colleges to attend. Both kids chose WVU. I think being familiar and comfortable with the campus from all our visits over the years made their choice easy. Steven became Director of The Mountaineer Maniacs which is the largest student organization on campus and Taylor served as a board member for the Maniacs. Both have multiple degrees from WVU, and both worked for WVU for a short period. My daughter Taylor taught English 101 for two years there and my son Steven set a record for fundraising securing the largest private donation for the College of Business & Economics,” said Staffileno to M2Sports.

For Taylor Staffileno, she knew she could go to just about any school she wanted to, but her love and familiarity with WVU ultimately won her over. 

“WVU was the only school I ever knew and loved growing up. Ultimately, WVU was always my dream school and I knew I would regret it if I went anywhere else. I have always been proud of WVU being a family tradition, and I wanted to keep it that way,” said Taylor Staffileno to M2Sports.

With Taylor being fully entrenched in Mountaineer fandom, she has a lot of memories, but one certain moment stands out for her.

“My favorite WVU memory with my dad is the Pitt game in 2005. I was 12 years old. It was below 0 with the windchill and my dad tried to convince me that I should not go because I would be miserable. Well, I was stubborn and begged to go, so he ended up letting me. I was freezing by the second half, but I kept my mouth shut both to prove a point and because I knew there was not a chance (in hell) we were leaving early. It does not matter if we are up by 70 or down by 70, my dad does not leave until the clock hits 0. I learned that lesson the hard way, said Taylor Staffileno to M2Sports.”

The Staffileno family is synonymous with West Virginia Football just as the last name Bush is to politics. With Joe, Taylor, and Steven fully invested as Mountaineers, Joe’s wife, Bridget was next to join the fray. “Bridget has joined our WVU family and adopted WVU as her own because she saw what it means to all of us. It was Bridget’s idea to get married on the steps of Woodburn Circle which was the original 3 buildings when WVU was started back in 1867, Joe said to M2Sports.” Now that West Virginia are allowing some fans into the stadium, this Saturday will be a reunion of sorts for the Staffileno family, particularly Joe, who will be back in Milan Puskar Stadium for the first time this season.

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