Old gold & blue and Kelly green; the two color schemes that have separated West Virginia sports fans for the last 43 years.
Though it used to be considered a rivalry due to the school’s proximity to one another (approximately 205 miles), the win-loss column between the two in both football and basketball begs to differ.
Men’s Basketball – WVU 32 Marshall 11
Football – WVU 12 Marshall 0
So the real question remains, if this isn’t a ‘rivalry’ anymore, what exactly is it?
WVU head coach Bob Huggins’ comments last season suggested that this matchup is nothing short of a waste of time. As a matter of fact, he finds it quite “comical.”
“How can it be a rivalry when they don’t even write about it in the paper? I mean, those are the guys asking me the questions,” Huggins said in an interview with Tony Caridi last season. “’Is this a rivalry?’ Well obviously not if you don’t write about it. I mean, rivalries they put on the front page. They can’t wait, you know what I mean? They get very excited. We obviously don’t get very excited.”
Marshall head coach Dan A’ntoni sparked Huggins remarks by inferring that Huggy Bear was “afraid” to face the Thundering Herd.
“It’s good for the state,” said A’ntoni. “If they back out now, they’re afraid of us. We’re coming back.”
Not taking sides here, just simply pointing out what happens when you put WVU and Marshall in the same sentence.
This is the kind of thing that always happens, in any sport (the two meet in plenty) as a matter of fact. Why? Because no matter who wins, neither team (nor their fan base) will ever fully let go of the chance to hold state bragging rights until the next time the teams meet.
In football, WVU has faced Marshall 12 times. All 12 games have ended with a Mountaineer victory. Even though Marshall has never defeated WVU on the football field, the pride consuming the players and fans still shines through because, well, it’s the Friends of Coal Bowl.
“The state of West Virginia better be glad we didn’t beat West Virginia in Morgantown. I think I’d be hated right now,” former Marshall wide receiver Randy Moss said in the ESPN 30 for 30 Rand University referring to the August 30, 1997 Friends of Coal Bowl, which WVU won 42-31.
Moss’ statement alone proves how much this competition has fired-up the state of West Virginia for decades. Moss, a West Virginia native, went on to play in the NFL.
And even then, no game (or atmosphere) he ever played in compared to that one in Morgantown when Marshall came to WVU.
Since WVU competes in the Big 12 and Marshall competes in Conference USA, it’s obvious that these two schools can’t be compared on the same scale. And while the football matchup ended a few years ago, the basketball version of the matchup, the Chesapeake Energy Capital Classic, has been on a continuous cycle for decades played in a neutral site none other than Charleston, W.Va.
And though many (especially Huggins) have showed little to no interest in continuing the long-lived ‘rivalry’, it’s a fact that anytime WVU faces Marshall, someone, somewhere in the state of West Virginia will bask in bragging rights and be thankful that the state’s top two universities went at it once again regardless of the outcome.
And for those reasons, the WVU – Marshall matchup will always be treasured. And if some day the two schools stop meeting, the history books are already written.
WVU (8-1) and Marshall (3-6) are scheduled to tip tonight at the Charleston Civic Center at 7.