Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Mountaineering | by Jay

Another piece of the scheduling jigsaw puzzle from Jack Bogaczyk of the Charleston Daily Mail in West Virginia:

Irish eye football series with WVU

Something tells me that within a few years, West Virginia is going to have a new record for football season ticket sales.

The "something" is the way the WVU future schedules are developing. The Irish are coming to Mountaineer Field several years down the road.

Notre Dame Associate Athletic Director John Heisler and his counterpart at WVU, Mike Parsons, have confirmed talks in published reports -- but have nothing concrete -- on a future series. WVU and Notre Dame are expected to play as soon as 2009 or '10.

Those games would be part of Notre Dame's agreement to play at least three games against Big East teams annually, beginning in 2009. One of those three will likely be against Rutgers or Connecticut at Giants Stadium. Another is a Pitt-ND series that runs from 2008-15.

A WVU home-and-home with Notre Dame would join the Mountaineers' impending home-and-home series with Florida State that was part of the ACC/Big East legal settlement. Those games are to be played between 2008 and '12.
Makes sense we'd play the Mountaineers in light of the 3-game Big East deal. WVU is one of the few Big East football programs I could get mildly excited about (the other two being Pitt and Louisville).

Interesting, too, that UConn might be as a possible opponent at the Meadowlands. Previously the speculation was Rutgers/Navy, and this is the first time I've seen the Huskies mentioned.

But let's go back to West Virginia for a second. Frankly, I'd enjoy a series with them. We've crossed paths with the Mountaineers a few times over the years, both on and off the field, and it's pretty clear: they hate us. And not just in a garden-variety "ND sucks" sort of way. There's a special kind of bile for ND leaking out of the hills of Morgantown; after all, ND derailed what was probably WVU's best season in history, and even after fifteen years the bitterness is still fresh:
The image “http://i.cnn.net/si/si_online/covers/images/1989/0109_large.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors."The Top 10 WVU Football Games I Will NEVER Watch Again"

1. #3 West Virginia vs. #1 Notre Dame-1989 Fiesta Bowl-Tempe, AZ. WVU has the top team in the nation, and the most exciting player in college football in Major Harris. 3rd play of the game, for the national championship, Notre Dame defensive lineman Frank Stams hits Major while he's on the ground and separates his shoulder, effectively nullifying the WVU offense for the rest of the afternoon. ND wins 34-21 and they play that annoying fight song again. WOULD SOMEONE SHOOT THAT MASCOT? 34-21 Notre Dame.
Some of the tinfoil-hat crowd in Morgantown even believe that Lou "ordered" the hit on Harris.

The disgruntlement crossed over to coaching ranks a couple of years ago when ND was negotiating its bowl options with the Big East. WVU coach Rich Rodriguez had some choice words for the Irish deal and the enmity was pretty obvious:
Rodriguez said something needs to be changed about the way the Big East's bowl selections are made.

"I don't know if slighted is the right word, but I do question sometimes what is Notre Dame's affiliation with our league," Rodriguez said.

Notre Dame, an independent in football but a Big East member in nearly every other sport, was added to the league's portion of the BCS mix after the 1997 season, when the league went 0-4 in bowl games. Miami was ineligible because of probation that year.

"All the athletic directors agreed to this," Big East spokesman Rob Carolla said.

The contract, which was recently renewed, runs through 2005.

The image “http://coachrod.com/HomePage_images/HP12.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors."I know this agreement was made earlier," Rodriguez said. "I'm just a football coach and our players are just players, but we don't understand some of the political things. I don't understand why Notre Dame is getting the best of both worlds.

"I think the Big East is a great league and we can stand on our own. In my opinion, Notre Dame either needs to get in or get out."

"It would have been interesting if they had been in the Big East to see if they'd have finished ahead of us," Rodriguez said. "I'm not sure if they can finish in second place in the Big East. They would have faced three of the top teams in Miami, Virginia Tech and West Virginia."
Rowdy Roddy, stirring the pot. You think he wears a kilt?

So mix in a couple of other less-than-savory brouhahas -- the Cooper Rego affair, 'eers hoopsters hawking loogies at our cheerleaders -- and a WVU series has just enough spite and backbiting to make it interesting. Plus, playing at Morgantown would be an absolute delight.

Wait, did I say, "delight"? I meant deathwish. At one point Morgantown was trying to take the title from Detroit for post-game craziness:
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- West Virginia University officials will study videotape and photographs to identify rowdy football fans who ignored pre-game pleas and set fires in the streets to celebrate the Mountaineers' 28-7 upset of No. 3 Virginia Tech on Wednesday night.

At least a dozen of approximately 90 fires set early Thursday were described as "sizable" by Monongalia County emergency officials. County officials activated an emergency operations center for about 2½ hours early Thursday and considered cutting off power to Morgantown's Sunnyside neighborhood, where many students live.

Inside the stadium, police used pepper spray on fans who tried to tear down the goal posts after West Virginia's victory. State Police and dozens of yellow-shirted security personnel surrounded the goal posts and kept fans at bay.

Brad Anderson said he was hit by the pepper spray when he ran down onto the field. "We can't breathe. We're hacking up our lungs, but it was worth it," Anderson said.

Fans retaliated by throwing debris at the security officials. After West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez pleaded with fans over the public address system to depart, the field cleared quickly. Outside the stadium, an unknown number of police and fire officers were struck with rocks and bottles, but all were treated and released from hospitals and no serious injuries were reported, Flanigan said.

"I saw people burning couches, mattresses, recliners," said student Harrison Hume.

The fires marked the third time in the last year that fans have started fires following weeknight football games.
So here's the plan: after we win the game, run right out the tunnel and directly into our waiting team buses. If you drop your helmet or something, LEAVE IT. Then haul ass to the Pennsylvania border, Road Warrior-style.

In all seriousness, if we're consigned to three Big East games, then I like the idea of playing a series with the Mountaineers as part of that. They're a decent enough program, in and out of the top twenty. For all his whining, Rodriguez is a smart coach and an innovator, running a no-huddle spread offense that's pretty impressive.

And while it'll be just another game on the schedule for us, for the choleric Mountaineers fans, it would be Wild and Wonderful.

The image “http://webpages.charter.net/bcooper8893/NDPlate.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.