Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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College Sports

June 16, 2012

Holliday savoring new momentum for Marshall football

PRINCETON — Marshall will meet West Virginia to open the 2012 football season on Sept. 1 in Morgantown.

That is the seventh and final meeting in the series between the only two Division I football schools in the Mountain State.

Marshall head coach Doc Holliday thinks the clubs should continue to play.

“There is not a state in America with two good Division I teams that don’t play each other,” said Holliday, during the Marshall Coaches Tour held on June 5 in Princeton. “Iowa plays Iowa State, Florida plays Florida State, Auburn plays Alabama, Kentucky plays Louisville, that is what they all do.

“We will play them. We would love to play them every year, but on the other hand I have an A.D. that says we are not going to go up there seven times and they come down to us twice.”

Don’t expect another game to be played any time soon.

“This is the last year of the series, I don’t know what the future is,” Marshall Director of Athletics Mike Hamrick said. “I can only speak on our behalf. At Marshall University we want to continue the series, and I understand it needs to take a two or three year break.”

Much is changing in college football, and much of it is happening in West Virginia. The Mountaineers are moving to the Big 12, while the Thundering Herd will remain in Conference USA, but that league will undergo a significant facelift in the next few seasons.

Hamrick understands the series might need a brief hiatus, but hopes they do get to play each other again in the next future. He does, however, want to see some changes.

“We will play anywhere, anytime, any place, but it has to be equal,” Hamrick said. “Hopefully once we get settled down in our new conference and they get settled in their new conference, then maybe we will continue those discussions here in the near future.

“Again, we want to play the football game because we think it is great for the state of West Virginia.”

Marshall is making its fifth trip to Morgantown in seven years, a disparity the Herd won’t allow to continue.

“Unfortunately it looks like this will be the last one for awhile, but I will let Mike Hamrick and (Marshall President) Dr. (Stephan) Kopp handle that,” Holliday said. “It just has to be on a more even basis. For us to go up there an ‘X’ number of times and them come to Huntington a couple of times, that makes sense.”

West Virginia has never lost to Marshall, posting an 11-0 record, including all six in the current contract that began in 2006. The Herd came closest to a breakthrough in 2010 in Huntington when the Mountaineers rallied in the fourth quarter and won in overtime.

No matter the result, Hamrick thinks the game should be played, but not in the current format.

“I think it is good for the state of West Virginia, it sells out at both places, national TV, great television ratings, great for the state economy,” Hamrick said. “We want to play it, but we want to play it on an equal basis.”

• • •

The Marshall and West Virginia series isn’t the only subject that brings a strong reaction from Holliday.

When the BCS bowl bids went out last December, Boise State was ranked sixth in the nation ... and wound up in the MAACO Bowl in Las Vegas.

Virginia Tech and Michigan, ranked below the Broncos and equally snubbed Top 10 Kansas State, were paired in the Sugar Bowl, basically on the premise that those schools would fill the Super Dome in New Orleans.

Holliday, in his third season at Marshall, doesn’t like what has happened in the college football postseason, particularly in terms of conference champions automatically qualifying (AQ) for BCS games.

 “I don’t like it. I think the AQ thing has totally destroyed what college football is all about to be honest with you,” Holliday said. “In my mind you have got to eliminate the AQ.

“You have got to take the top 12 teams in America and they play in the BCS games, and if they want to play plus-one that is fine. For a Boise State to get left out at number six in the country a year ago and somebody that is 24th or 25th goes and plays in a BCS game, to me that is not right.”

Change in coming to college football, although how is still being considered, from a plus-one format to the four-team playoff or any number of other ideas that have been discussed by various sources.

“Just take the four best teams, whether four of them are in the SEC or whether is Boise, whether it is Marshall, it doesn’t matter who it is and let’s go play,” Holliday said. “I think if they had done that to begin with a lot of this conference shuffling wouldn’t have taken place.

“Unfortunately all those rivalries that have taken place for years and years and years have been lost and that is sad.”

Conference alignment is far from over, and there is concern that the so-called mid-major schools could get left out of a college football playoff.

Holliday doesn’t spend a lot of time worrying about it.

“I think once the AQ is eliminated, once the automatic qualifying for a BCS game is eliminated then if they are going to take the best teams that are out there based on whether it is a committee that picks it or however the BCS picks the teams,” Holliday said, “then everybody has got a shot, whether it be Marshall, Boise State or whoever.

“If you are a top 10 or 12 team in America you go play in a BCS game and hopefully you are in the plus-one or whatever it is to go win a championship.

“I think when the time comes that is the way it will happen and that is the way it should be.”

• • •

Marshall is coming off a season that ended with 7-6 record, including a victory over Florida International in the Beef O’Brady’s Bowl.

That club included Vinny Curry, who was chosen in the second round of the NFL draft by the Philadelphia Eagles. When Curry decided to return for his senior campaign Holliday told him he needed to become the C-USA defensive player of the year, serve as a captain, win a bowl game and get his degree.

He did all those.

“It is just great when something great can happen for a young guy that does everything the right way and makes great decisions,” Holliday said. “Vinny is one of those guys, it can’t happen to a better person.

“Not only did he help his draft status tremendously, but he is with his hometown team now and it is like a dream come true for him and I am extremely happy for him.”

The loss of Curry leaves another hole for Holliday to fill, something he has done in recent seasons with lots of youth. Among his prospects this season for playing time are Devon Johnson, a linebacker from Richlands, and Joe Woodrum, a walk-on tight end from Bluefield.

Holliday said the goal at Marshall is the same this season as it is every year.

“We are a better team. Every year we go into it we expect to win every game, we expect to compete to win the title, and that will never change,” Holliday said. “I think we are closer, I think we took a step a year ago, I think our personnel is without question  better, and we have grown up a little bit.  

“We go into every year expecting to compete for that and this year is no different.”

— Contact Brian Woodson

at bwoodson@bdtonline.com

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