Schedules and Reactions

While basketball has center stage at the moment, West Virginia's recently released football schedule begs for a few comments. This, and more, in the latest edition of the KinderGarden.

First off, no schedule is perfect. Second, those of you who still haven't figured out that the Big East conference, not WVU, controls the dates of football scheduling are excused right now. Go educate yourself on the process, and then come back.

Now that the crowd has thinned just a bit, I'm ready to share some thoughts. First, the balance of the schedule, in terms of home vs. away dates and the spacing of tough foes, is very good. WVU gets a warmup game against Liberty and a home game agaisnt ECU that it will certainly be primed for before heading to Auburn. That trip certainly won't be easy, no matter what kind of team the tigers have, because playing at any Sec team is fraught with uncertainty. However, with a new coaching staff, the Tigers might not be as formidable as it could be.

October starts with a Thursday night home game against Colorado – game two on the redemption list from a year ago. A nice start to the Big East slate, at Syracuse, then precedes a two game home set against Marshall and Connecticut. The Huskies certainly won't be an easy foe, but that challenge sets the Mountaineers up for an end of the month road trip to South Florida.

November brings alternating home and road league games against Louisville, Cincinnati, Pitt and Rutgers to close the season. Again, the tough games are spaced out a bit, and an open date in the midst of those final four allows time for some bumps and bruises to heal.

Need more positives? There are no back to back road games. Five of WVU's seven home games are in September and October, in prime time for good weather, so there shouldn't be any excuses about that in terms of fan attendance. The Mountaineers get three of the four teams that it lost to in 2008 on the home slate. All-in-all, there's much on the plus side.

As noted at the outset, however, no league slate can be perfect. And this year, Friday games make a big appearance on West Virginia's schedule, with three league contests (two on the road) set for that day. The biggest reason for that, of course, is that Pat White is gone. No, seriously. With White, WVU was a prime Saturday attraction, and could command attention for games on that date. Now, with White gone, West Virginia, while still a big draw and still a contender for Big East honors, won't have quite the national buzz. From the viewpoint of ESPN, WVU is a team that it wants on TV – but maybe not quite good enough to merit early consideration for one of the prime Saturday spots this early in the year. Of course, if WVU opens up the season with, say a 6-1 record, then a couple of the remaining Saturday games will certainly be candidates for good television slots. But that's going to have to be earned on the field.

All that said, the Friday slate of games won't hurt Mountaineer fans much. With two on the road, and the sole home game a solidifying traditional matchup for the day after Thanksgiving, travel plans shouldn't be affected greatly. Still, there's that idea of infringing on high school night that lingers, and gives an uneasy feeling when looking at the latter part of the schedule.

With a wide open Big East, it's also unclear if the league's desire of backloading the schedule with meaningful games in November will play out. USF is certainly a contender. Pitt also has designs on the league title, and Connecticut Rutgers will try to play roles as dark horses. But it's just to early to identify any one or two teams as a runaway favorite – thus the roulette of the last couple of weeks can't be judged just yet.

Overall, the positives outweigh the negatives by a healthy margin. West Virginia doesn't have a killer tough stretch, has a bye week plus some extra days off around the Colorado game to rest and refuel, and doesn't follow road trips with quick turnarounds or overly difficult home games the next week. In all, it's probably about the best that can be hoped for.

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Those "fans" in the Coliseum that booed the announcement of Rebecca Durst as the Mountaineer for the 2008-09 season should be ashamed. Or look in the mirror. Or something. I'm not going to get into a long debate about the suitability of a female for the Mountaineer. The Mountain honorary, which makes the selection, has already decided that question. (By the way, I'd point out that one of the best and most popular Mountaineers, Brady Campbell, was part and parcel of the decision-makers that chose Durst. So does that mean he's now unacceptable too?)

But while it's your right to disagree with that selection, taking it out on a sophomore in college is ridiculous. Such behavior, and lack of judgment, reflects very poorly on those that expressed their feelings in such a crass manner. I'd point out the the first female Mountaineer, Natalie Tennant, is now West Virginia's Secretary of State. I would bet that 99.999% of the morons that booed her announcement or showed open ridicule haven't achieved anywhere near the level that Tennant has, and I'm betting the same holds true of Durst.

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Other than getting to play DePaul again, I'm not sure if West Virginia could have gotten a worse draw in the Big East tournament. No matter it's first round foe, WVU will be playing a team with a good bit of local fan support, and the bandwagon "Subway Alumni" of Notre Dame will certainly front-run their way in full force to Madison Square Garden if the Irish beat DePaul. Ugh. I can already hear that goofy pep band refrain that is accompanied by Rock 'em Sock 'em Robot arm motions from the Notre Dame student section. And then, if West Virginia gets past that assignment, it will be Pitt in on Thursday. Not that I think WVU is scared to play the Panthers, but that is the Big East team that is the worst matchup for the Mountaineers.

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