Burgeoning Rivalry

Random musings and viewpoints as the clock final begins ticking toward the West Virginia - Louisville game.

I'm getting a kick out of the band flap surrounding the West VirginiaLouisville game. I certainly don't think WVU's band has the right to play at the contest, but I also think that the Cardinal administration has handled the entire situation rather poorly. After announcing that WVU's band would not be allotted any time to play during halftime of the game, UL athletic spokesmen are now saying that the invitation to WVU's band was never cleared with them, and that it should not have been made.

The timing of this statement is somewhat odd. Why wasn't it made a couple of days ago, when the entire situation arose? Sounds like there might be some strained relationships between the music and athletic departments for the next little bit, as the band director is being made into something of a scapegoat.

The other thought is that the UL athletic department certainly should have been on top of this earlier. Perhaps it could have used some of its sports information personnel to coordinate such matters, as that group certainly hasn't had much to do in the way of getting interviews for its players with media outlets of opposing teams.

The one good thing to arise from all these actions by Louisville is that they help fan the flames of the nascent rivalry developing between the Cardinals and Mountaineers. Often, items like this cause normal games to blossom into a rivalry – and WVU's last three meetings with the Cards on the football field and basketball court have certainly been a few notches above that. Add a few items like the band denial, the black-out of Cardinal stadium and the embargo on player availability for enemy media, and all the elements are there to stir things up to a fever pitch.

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West Virginia's predicted 12th-place finish in the Big East basketball conference certainly isn't much of a surprise. Conference media outlets covering the league noted the loss of five of WVU's top six players and voted the Mountaineers down accordingly. However, the number 12 spot isn't a slap in the face, or shouldn't be construed as one. The teams in the bottom half of the conference are going to be much more tightly bunched than a year ago, and there should be a dandy race for the final spots in the league tournament, which only includes the top 12 finishers. The lower half of the league is also going to include some pretty talented teams, and the gap between them and the mid-level squads will be small indeed. You can probably throw a blanket over about six or seven of the Big East members and not tell the difference among them. That could lead to some closely-packed standings through the course of the year.

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On a sad note, the trip to Louisville will be the last, for a while at least, for Blue & Gold News staffer Cam Huffman. Cam, who has also been the sports editor of the Hampshire Review for the past couple of years, is moving onward an upward by taking the sports editor position at the Aiken, S.C. Standard. I hate to see Cam go, but it's also cool to see people who came to work with us as students embark upon their professional careers and move up the ladder.

Cam will still do some work for the print edition of the Blue & Gold News, but his chances for road trips will probably be limited for a while. However, his strategic location near Augusta, Ga. means we'll be counting on him for lodging and tickets to the Masters.

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One of the factors in West Virginia's defensive problems has been stability. WVU has shuffled three different cornerbacks and four different spurs and bandits through the starting lineup this year, and while those weren't bad decisions, they certainly didn't contribute to developing the cohesiveness necessary in any good defensive unit. WVU seems to have settled on Vaughn Rivers and Antonio Lewis at corner, Johnny Holmes at spur and Eric Wicks at bandit, and perhaps not a moment too soon. That quartet will have to play outstanding football for the Mountaineers to have a chance against Louisville. Just to stir the pot, however, WVU could benefit from the helathy return of Ridwan Malik, who could provide some extra help aginst UL's passing attack.

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The word is "schadenfreude". Go look it up now if necessary.

Now that you know, or if you already did, I have to admit to healthy helpings of that emotion concerning the ACC's troubles. It's probably not the most adult feeling in the world, but after all the bleatings about the demise of the Big East I was forced to listen too, I'm feeling a bit of child-like gloating is in order.

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My daughter surprised me yesterday by saying she wanted to go see "We Are … Marshall". Not being one to limit her experiences, I told her she could. She then pronounced her motivation for doing so:

"I can watch what plays they run, then I can give them to Rich Rodriguez so he can be ready the next time we play them," she said seriously.

Any of you wondering if I've been raising my daughter right should have no questions now.


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