By Mickey Furfari
MORGANTOWN — West Virginia University feels fortunate in being able to schedule a new two-game football series with the University of Colorado.
The Mountaineers will visit Boulder, Colo., Sept. 27, 2008, and the Buffaloes will come to Morgantown for a rematch Sept. 26, 2009.
“We are very pleased that this series is coming about,” Athletic Director Ed Pastilong said Wednesday. “It will be good competition and enjoyable games for our fans.”
ESPN helped arrange the home-and-home series. As a result, both contests likely will be televised by ESPN, ESPN2 or ABC.
The Mountaineers and the Buffaloes have never met on the gridiron. Both schools had the same dates vacant on their schedules.
Colorado is a replacement for Maryland, which wanted a two-year hiatus in its border-state rivalry with WVU. The Mountaineers are replacing North Carolina on UC’s slate.
“It has been 18 months since we worked out the two-year layoff with Maryland,” Pastilong said. “So we wanted to fill those two dates with a good Division I-A, BCS opponent.”
WVU and UC have agreed to terms which are being put into written contracts. They will exchange $200,000 guarantees, but Pastilong noted that “the buyout clauses are more significant.”
He said, “I think it is good to play a Big 12 team. We’ve been in the ACC, the SEC and the Mid-America conferences.
“Now it’s the Big 12. I think it’s good to play teams from various conferences. And when you have networks involved, you get your games on TV.”
“In addition, it’s always good to work with them because there may be other occasions in the future when they can help in scheduling.
“When you cooperate with people like that, it pays off.”
As for the Maryland series, which dates back to 1919, it is slated to resume with games in 2010 and 2011. WVU definitely wants to continue playing the Terrapins on a regular basis.
Colorado is the 140th different intercollegiate opponent West Virginia will have played. Missouri was the last Big 12 team met by WVU. The Tigers won 34-31 in the 1998 Insight.com Bowl at Tucson, Ariz.
Pastilong said he had discussed the Colorado deal with coach Rich Rodriguez and that “we’re all pleased with the arrangement.”
While Rodriguez would prefer playing teams closer geographically, he noted WVU has had difficulty finding teams interested in playing the Mountaineers.
But he believes this will be a good series for both schools.
Colorado won just two of 12 games last season, its first under head coach Dan Hawkins. But he’s expected to turn that program around quickly.
Hawkins, 46, ranks 11th among the nation’s active winningest head coaches. His overall 11-year record is 94-33-1 (73.8 percent). He came to Boulder from Boise State, where his record was 53-11 for five years.
The Colorado roster for 2007 shows 39 freshmen and sophomores.
However, the Buffaloes have been to six bowls in the last decade, including the Fiesta after the 2001 season. Since 1989, they have won 10 or more games per season six times.
Colorado and Georgia Tech shared the national championship in 1990.
Pastilong reminded that WVU also has a two-game series (outside the Big East) with perennial power Auburn in 2008 and 2009.
“We want a competitive football schedule,” he said. “We want an attractive schedule. But we also want a schedule that’s fair to the coach and to our fans.”
Notes: The 2008 game at Colorado will be a homecoming for Mike Kerin, WVU director of football operations. The 1977 UC graduate was a three-year letterman at tight end, playing in the Bluebonnet and Orange bowls.
Dwight Wallace, current Mountaineer Sports Network analyst, was on the Buffaloes’ coaching staff during that era.