By Mickey Furfari
For The Register-Herald
If you were a West Virginia University football fan, wouldn’t you have preferred the Mountaineers to have played Marshall rather than William & Mary or Georgia State this season?
I most certainly would have, despite the fact WVU won both of those non-conference contests. And I’m told each of those schools was paid a cool $550,000 for the visit.
Why didn’t the university’s schedule-makers show the foresight to renew the football series this season?
The seven-year football series with Marshall University, which Joe Manchin, then the highly respected West Virginia governor, and former Mountaineer gridder, helped organize, expired after the meeting in 2012.
Granted, the Thundering Herd is still winless in a football series that dates back all the way to 1911. But there have been only 12 meetings to date.
Why didn’t WVU renew the series promoted by Manchin, now a U.S. Senator, rather than bring in Georgia State, a 41-7 overwhelmed victim and in its first year as a FBS member? That $550,000 could have remained in the Mountain State.
Marshall, the state’s second-largest public educational institution, is still on WVU’s basketball schedule. Why not keep the Thundering Herd in football?
I put the question to Don Nehlen yesterday. That legendary Hall of Famer, and a member of the National Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame remains WVU’s winningest head football coach (149 wins in 21 years).
“I don’t see where it would be a bad football series (to continue) myself,” Coach Nehlen told me. “When we opened up with William & Mary, there wasn’t much excitement around town.”
What’s even more troublesome to me is that West Virginia’s football schedule has filled all non-conference game spots through 2018. And isn’t that shameful if Marshall can’t be in one of those annual three non-Big 12 spots?
Nehlen, who’s now joined with Bob Pruett in a state-wide radio sports talk show each Monday night at 7 p.m., had just one of his teams meet Marshall on the gridiron.
That very competitive contest was in WVU’s 1997 season opening 42-31 win against the Thundering Herd at home.
In 2010, Coach Bill Stewart’s Mountaineers required overtime to eke out a 24-21 nod in a nail-biter at Huntington.
Had WVU played Marshall instead of either William & Mary or Georgia State this year, that would certainly have shown respect — and financial benefit — in particular for Doc Holliday, a state native, WVU graduate, a Mountaineer gridder, and a valued assistant on Nehlen’s coaching staff.
Holliday is the guy who found and started that rich, continuing flow of recruits from Florida.