“It’s just time!” And with that explanation the Bob Pruett era came to an abrupt end at Marshall in the spring of 2005. Now, it’s just time for another chapter in the history of Marshall football to come to a close – the series with WVU.
With two games remaining in the series there’s been no progress on the only FBS universities in the state working out a deal to continue the yearly matchup. Marshall has expressed interest in continuing the rivalry, but wants an agreement that gives The Herd more than two home games in seven years. WVU is waiting to see how the Big East schedule will shake out with TCU joining the conference next year and has really shown no interest in playing Marshall.
It took then-Governor Joe Manchin getting involved to hash out the current contract and it seems it will take nothing short of divine intervention for these two teams to play in the future. So why should Marshall continue being strung along like a 15 year-old girl with googly eyes for the senior football player who wants nothing to do with her? Marshall needs to look WVU right in the eyes and say: “I’m breaking up with you,” buy out the final game of the series and move on.
There are rational and logical arguments why this series should be continued. Fans on both sides talk about this single game all year long and get excited (even though some will deny it) when the game finally arrives. The game does draw some national interest. ESPN aired last year’s game and will again this year. In both instances it’s the only game on television. Last year’s contest was even the lead on ESPN.com throughout that evening. Anytime West Virginia receives positive national attention because its two universities are on the football field it helps the general image of the state. That is a much better option than the usual Jesco White images that the rest of the country often sees. The Coal Bowl is good for the state and good for both universities. However, we don’t live in a rational world.
Many of the arguments made against the series being played are contradicted by actions. Arguments such as WVU needs seven home games, playing Marshall hurts the strength of schedule, or the city of Morgantown loses too much revenue with the Mountaineers out of town seem to be a tad hypocritical when WVU is discussing a deal to play James Madison University at FedEx Field in Landover, MD. Last time I checked JMU was in the FCS Division (that’s D-1AA) and FedEx Field was nowhere close to Morgantown.
It’s claimed WVU doesn’t really care about the rivalry it’s just another game on the schedule. Really? I wonder if WVU would have stormed the field if it had just been East Carolina in overtime last September?
So instead of hearing excuse after excuse it’s time for Marshall to take action, be the aggressor and not wait to react to WVU.
Does playing WVU add prestige to the schedule? Not really. Marshall has Virginia Tech and Louisville scheduled this year. Both are already scheduled as future opponents plus Marshall will begin a series with Purdue next season. Because of the Coal Bowl series, Marshall is left with only five home games this season. Take WVU off the schedule this year and Marshall is playing a balanced schedule.
Has Marshall earned the respect of WVU fans throughout the state during the series? No. Even after last year’s game, which Marshall lost more than WVU won, many still have contempt for “dinky old Marshall” and write off any success as a fluke or just pure luck.
Ending the series prior to the final game in 2012 would come at a price but I believe it is a price that many Herd supporters would happily help pay and it’s a payment that the WVU athletic department would just as happily accept. The new athletic administration in Morgantown is forging ahead with its own path and it is a direction that doesn’t seem to include playing Marshall on the gridiron.
So why delay the inevitable? Why spend another year spouting subtle insults at each other? This is a chance for Marshall to step up and control its own future.
I’ve argued since 1997 this should be a yearly game. And it should. However, I have grown tired of trying to make logical arguments with the illogical. I am tired of hearing the excuses for the two teams not playing while seeing the opposite actions. I am tired of the condescending tone I hear from so many people when they refer to Marshall.
Sadly, the series is one that will not be decided on the field, but will be fought on message boards, sports talkshows and video games. Fans will play the hypothetical “If we played you this year…” game which will lead to hours of arguments which amount to nothing but wasted breath.
For the Marshall vs. WVU series… It’s just time.
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