Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

College Sports

August 28, 2012

West Virginia vs. Marshall

Fans from both schools like the game

BLUEFIELD — Continue the games or end the series?

Those are questions which every West Virginia University and Marshall University ponder when the two teams meet on the gridiron.

Saturday afternoon the two teams will meet in the final game of a seven-game series brokered by former Governor Joe Manchin in which former WVU Athletic Director Ed Pastilong and former Marshall AD Bob Marcum were, according to a reliable source, “locked” in the kitchen of the Governor’s mansion back in 2004 and told to work out a scenario where the state’s only NCAA Division I football programs would meet on the field.

The result was a seven game series where initially four games would be in Morgantown, two in Huntington, and a “swing” game in which home field advantage would be given to the team that won two of the first three meetings.

West Virginia’s move to the Big 12 Conference and a nine-game conference schedule leaves the Mountaineers with only three non-conference slots per season and by the actions emanating from Morgantown it is unlikely Marshall will be on future schedules. Games with long-time rival Maryland are lined up through 2017. Alabama, Brigham Young are slated for future games, and there is a strong desire to revive one of the oldest rivalries in the nation, the Backyard Brawl with Pitt, which will not be played this year for the first time since 1942.

Dennis Jarvis II, is a Princeton native who graduated from and currently works at Marshall.

“I am so excited about the game Saturday and I am going,” Jarvis said. “Yes I think we should continue the series. Every state has a tradition and this is ours. I feel that it is an opportunity to showcase the talent of the two leading universities in the state of West Virginia. They should play in all sports and we should have a “Mountain State” or “Coal Cup” and the overall winner is presented with the trophy.”

While Jarvis has deep ties to Marshall, he is also a strong supporter of WVU.

“On my desk I hae a statue of The Mountaineer and a buffalo,” Jarvis pointed out. “They are standing next to each other and I feel pride when I look at it. I enjoy the rivalry, the tradition, the honor of the event.”

Tom Witten earned his master’s degree from WVU. A native of Gary and presently a resident of Richlands, Witten said the games should continue, but with a caveat.

“I think the series should continue, but unless it becomes a better matchup, it will probably be abandoned,” Witten said. “I think it is a good situation because  the two teams are the only major college teams in the state. It adds a lot of excitement to the season. However, the teams are seldom evenly matched and therefore has not developed into the tpe of rivalry such as Bama-Auburn, Tech-UVA and probably will never reach that intensity.”

Marcus Constantino of Bluefield is chief photographer for The Parthenon, the student newspaper at Marshall. He plans on being on the sidelines with his camera Saturday afternoon. For Constantino the high point of the series came a couple of years ago.

“The most exciting moment was during the 2010 game at Joan C. Edwards Stadium, when Marshall had all but won it’s first game of the rivalry,” Constantino said. “The cheerleaders had already moved from in front of the Marshall student section and I took refuge on the hill beyond the south end zone to avoid being run over by a herd of exuberant students. That game went into overtime, and WVU ultimately pulled off the win, but the experience was unlike any other football game I’ve ever attended.”

Constantino also thinks the series should continue.

“It means so much for the players and fans from both sides and it is a great economic boost for the two schools and their surrounding communities. The season just wouldn’t feel right without a Friends of Coal Bowl.”

Marshall has returned approximately 2,100 tickets to the WVU ticket office for Saturday’s game, failing to sell their full allotment of 5,000 tickets for the second consecutive season.

Kickoff of the Friends of Coal Bowl is set for noon and the game can be viewed on FX.

— Contact Bob Redd at bredd@bdtonline.com

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