Governor Joe Manchin knows what winning is all about. That's why he "facilitated" (his words, not mine) the creation of this pact that gets The Herd and the Mountaineers on the football field together for the first time since 1997.
Oh, and if you think Manchin wasn't serious about the whole affair, note the seven-year length. There will be no backing out of deals on this one. And just when negotiations may have come to a stalemate, Manchin tossed in this beauty of a wrinkle: the 2009 game is a 'tossup' game, to be hosted by the team that wins two of the first three meetings in 2006-08. Brilliant.
And…everybody wins this game.
"For all the sports fans out there," said West Virginia governor Joe Manchin, "this is an unprecedented day in West Virginia sports history, it truly is."
Having been an eyewitness to the reinvention of the Kentucky-Louisville games in the early '90s, I can tell you that nothing will do more for both Marshall and WVU than will these games. Covering UK in the early '90s, the fans kicked things off a bit earlier than usual -late June- in getting ready for the biggest sporting event in the state. The game was -and is- the first of the season for both teams, and that only sweetens the pot: there are no excuses going into the first game, for any team.
The cool thing about UK-UofL is that nobody really remembers the score afterward. Sure, the diehard kool-aid drinkers on both sides remember every statistical detail. But they are not Joe Average Fan. What this means is that most every fan of either school will be guaranteed one great game, every year for seven years.
And…everybody wins this game.
"I truly believe it will be a game for all of America, not just West Virginia," Manchin added. "Let's have it the way it should be."
Governor Joe Manchin spoke while framed by Marshall and WVU football helmets at the capitol in Charleston on Tuesday morning.
WVU wins because it will be yet another yearly chance to quiet down the little brother, and is a game the Mountaineers 'should' always win. The Mountaineers will win big in the financial department, too, as the Marshall game is a guaranteed sellout at Mountaineer Field. Guaranteed, despite the anticipated score.
Marshall wins because it will be yet another yearly chance to shut big brother up, and should The Herd win, well, we told you so… The Herd will win big in the financial department as well, as you can all but kiss goodbye every ticket at The Joan (and then some) the years the game is played in Huntington. Name the price.
And perhaps best of all, West Virginia as a state wins. A state known more for what it doesn't have than for what it does have, suddenly now has a lot: the two Division I schools in the state are about to create an annual event that will let the college sports world know that good football can be found in The Mountain State the beginning of every September through 2012, thank you very much.
"Let's have it the way it should be," Manchin smiled and said.
Think these games won't stand out in the college football world? Think again.
"The thing that excites me the most is that you look at rivalry Saturdays all across the country, they usually happen in November," said Marshall coach Mark Snyder of other big matchups such as Auburn and Alabama. "And now, September 2nd, Marshall plays West Virginia."
Governor Joe Manchin wins a little on the side, having been just the kind of governor not afraid of locking two athletic directors in a room and not letting them out until the air was clear. Really.
"They were at an impasse," said Manchin of the negotiation session last week. "At dinner, they're still working. I said, "We're going to have supper in a few hours. And, we have beds for you tonight if needed." We were determined -all of us- to get this done."
"He placed us at a table and asked us to negotiate," said Marshall AD Bob Marcum of Manchin's "facilitating" the negotiations to get the contract details settled. "They provided all the coffee and water we wanted. But when we quit talking, the water stopped. I'm very grateful to the governor for putting it in perspective and making the game possible."
And there you have it. The Great State of West Virginia just took a step up in the college football world by doing something that should have been done a long, long time ago.
From here on out, each will be a September to remember.
Because every West Virginian will win this game.