Politics Rule the Day

Throughout the day on Tuesday I felt like I had been stabbed in the back by my best friend. For years I have touted the loyalty that comes from being a Mountaineer and tried to make fans of other schools understand just how close a group WVU fans can be.

But with the announcement of the WVU-Marshall series on Tuesday morning, my entire argument came tumbling down like Three Rivers Stadium after its implosion. One of our own had turned his back on the Mountaineer family for political gains. Et tu, Governor?

Not ever being one who is heavily involved in politics, my impression of West Virginia's governor before Tuesday had come simply from what I had seen at WVU games. I was thrilled with the fact that he was on his feet chanting "Let's go Mountaineers!" at the top of his lungs when the Mountaineer basketball team traveled to Cleveland and Albuquerque.

"I like this guy," I said to myself. "He is not afraid to show his loyalty and tell the world, as well as the state of West Virginia, that he is a Mountaineer."

Tuesday, however, I was dealt a painful reminder in realtiy. Sure, somewhere deep inside Gov. Manchin may be a Mountaineer, but at his core he is a politician.

Anticipating the love, and possibly eventual votes, that he would get from Marshall fans and casual sports fans in the state, the Governor chose to twist the arms of David Hardesty, Ed Pastilong and Rich Rodriguez and force them into a football series with The Herd, whether it wanted one or not.

No matter how much damage it would cause to the program for which he had played, Gov. Manchin wanted the publicity that would come from forcing a series once thought of as impossible. Tuesday he got his wish.

If that doesn't prove Gov. Manchin's political savvy, maybe the spin he put on the series will. Like any good politician, he found a way to come up with comparisons for the series that made it seem like the greatest deal ever.

In talking about the meeting between the two in-state schools, the Governor, like many Marshall supporters have done over the years, compared the meeting to the Michigan-Michigan State rivalry, the Auburn-Alabama rivalry, the Clemson-South Carolina rivalry and the Iowa-Iowa State rivalry. And, like successful politicians do, he said it with enough conviction to convince the uninformed fan.

But anyone who follows football closely should know much better. Take a look at each of the teams mentioned above. What do all of them have in common?

You guessed it. They are all members of a BCS football conference. Like it or not, Marshall, even with the move to Conference USA, is not. A more accurate comparison of what the series will be is Ohio-Ohio State, Michigan-Western Michigan, North Carolina-East Carolina or Ohio State-Cincinnati. Those are in-state matchups pitting a BCS school against a non-BCS school, which is exactly what we will see with the WVU-Marshall matchup.

Take a look on the major sports sites. ESPN.com has no mention of the series, and neither does CBSSportsline.com. The fact is, the rest of the country simply does not care about a matchup between the Mountaineers and the Herd.

What does that lack of interest mean? It will likely mean no television outside the state for the game, and none of the major dollars that come with it.

The 12th game could have been a major opportunity for the Mountaineers to improve their financial status. Fielding another home game every year or getting a game that would provide the school with television money could have helped. Now, all of that is out the window.

In writing down my thoughts, I have begun to realize something. West Virginia University was not stabbed by one of its own sons. It was instead stabbed by the political process. Writing about sports should not require a knowledge of the political process and the court system in the United States, but unfortunately that is where we have come.

Cam Huffman is the sports editor of the Hampshire Review and a staff writer and columnist for the Blue & Gold News.

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