The Mountaineers traveled to Tennessee last year to play the Lady Vols on their home court, but allowed the return trip to be played in Charleston, where Hornbuckle played in high school. This is a common practice for many upper tier schools, but it's not one that West Virginia should have participated in. While WVU's program certainly isn't anywhere near the stature of UT's, it's not one that is of the bottom-tier variety either, and shouldn't subject itself to such an indignity.
Of course, I understand that had WVU not agreed to the arrangement, it never would have gotten the series in the first place. Tennessee wanted to play in Charleston, and if WVU hadn't obliged, it would have found another school, such as Marshall, to hold the golrified homecoming. To that, I would have said, "fine".
The motivation for WVU to play the Vols was, of course, money. West Virginia's women's program isn't a moneymaker, and this was a chance to sell nine or ten thousand tickets and make some cash in an area where it usually isn't available. I also understand the need to take advantage of these chances, but is it worth the self-respect of the program?
Arguments will also be made that the exposure West Virginia gains from playing such a game is worth it. Again, I'll call a foul. Nationally, no one will remember the results of this game. It wasn't on television anywhere outside the Mountain State. WVU will be just another team that UT faced on its road back to the NCAA tournament.
I'm not saying that West Virginia shouldn't play tough competition. Head coach Mike Carey has built WVU into a solid Big East contender – one that can routinely expect to play in the postseason. And in order to keep improving, West Virginia has to play some good out of conference teams. However, there are plenty of other teams nearby, including several obvious ACC and Big Ten foes, that could fill the same role.
Perhaps my strong opposition to this game was been tempered by the fawning media coverage bestowed on Tennessee and Hornbuckle. Writers and broadcasters that couldn't name a West Virginia player other than Meg Bulger were suddenly running features with UT coach Pat Summit, Hornbuckle, and any other Tennessee angle they could come up with. Which is fine, I guess, but it shouldn't be happening in West Virginia's home state.
Those who think that this opinion stems from the fact that West Virginia lost the game are misguided. As I said earlier, Tennessee is a great program, and losing to them is not a disgrace. West Virginia battled the Vols fairly well, and if not for some ice cold shooting, could have bene in the game at the end. That outcome, however, has nothing to do with the fact that the game shouldn't have been played in the first place -- or at least anywhere other than the WVU Coliseum.
Finally, it should also be known that I don't wish Hornbuckle any ill will. She didn't want to go to West Virginia, which, again, is o.k. If she felt another school was better for her, I can certainly understand that decision. But West Virginia certainly shouldn't give her the opportunity to make a homecoming. It's a slap in the face to the WVU women's program, and a demeaning one at that.