CHARLESTON, W.Va. – A West Virginia lawmaker wants to mandate the continuation of the WVU-Marshall basketball series, claiming it generates fan interest and “substantial revenue.”
State Sen. Mike Woelfel (D-Cabell), convinced the Mountaineers aren’t interested in renewing a contract for the annual Capital Classic, told MetroNews he plans to guarantee future meetings though a bill he’ll introduce this month.
“I have formed an impression that this series is over unless some action is taken,” Woelfel said. “Unless there is some affirmative intervention, the universities won’t meet again in basketball.”
WVU and Marshall have played annually since 1978, with the game being played at the Charleston Civic Center since 1992, with crowds typically surpassing 11,000. West Virginia has dominated the series 33-11, winning five straight and nine of the last 10.
West Virginia athletics director Shane Lyons was in meetings Tuesday and didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. Aaron Goebbel, Marshall’s associate director of athletics for external affairs, said The Herd “would most definitely like to continue this series for many years to come.”
The 2014 game produced some verbal jousting between Mountaineers coach Bob Huggins and Marshall’s Dan D’Antoni after D’Antoni suggested the series should be played twice annually, alternating among Huntington, Morgantown and Charleston.
“If they back out now they are afraid of us,” D’Antoni said of WVU.
Huggins responded at the time by claiming the game doesn’t benefit WVU, adding that D’Antoni “can say I’m afraid all he wants. I’ve probably coached 1,116 more games than he has. It’s ridiculous to say something like that.”
Before this season’s match-up in December, Huggins said the fan interest was evident through ticket sales.
“What I don’t want to do is get caught up in all that B.S. I want to stay above that,” he joked.
D’Antoni took a more diplomatic approach, claiming “this game is for the state” that excites young players.
“This game is what makes the next Jerry Wests, Hal Greers, Rod Thorns and Mike D’Antonis,” he said. “It is the one that excites the kids in this state. Win or lose, there are no losers in this game. We go play it, play it hard, compete, and then we are all West Virginians.”
Woelfel agrees the game should be played, even if it requires Legislative intervention.
“The annual basketball contest serves to promote goodwill among West Virginians,” Woelfel said in a release. “It showcases the schools, the capital city and generates substantial revenue.”