It's Marshall time!
Remember when West Virginia governor Joe Manchin locked the athletic directors from West Virginia University and Marshall University in a room and wouldn't let them out until they agreed to play football against each other?
OK, it is likely an exaggeration that the two athletic directors were actually locked in the room, but it was made clear at the time that the governor wanted the series between the two schools to happen. Clear enough that the series came to fruition even though the WVU athletic director had long been opposed to any games with Marshall anywhere except Morgantown. Marshall, obviously, wanted a visit to Huntington by the Mountaineers.
For those who have forgotten, the rift between Pastilong and Marshall began over 15 years ago when Marshall reneged on a verbal agreement for three games in Morgantown. At the last minute Marshall representatives said they would not sign the deal without a game in Huntington attached. So the deal went south and Pastilong was left with the mess created when he bought out games already contracted to make room for Marshall. It left bad blood which has lingered.
The Marshall officials who did the damage have been long gone, but when the negotiation in 2005 began, Pastilong's position remained intact. Manchin, who roomed with Pastilong while they were students at West Virginia, persuaded Pastilong to negotiate in good faith. Perhaps as a favor to his longtime acquaintance, a seven game deal was arranged. The deal guaranteed WVU four home games and Marshall two. An interesting kicker was thrown in so that the winner of two of the first three games would get the remaining home game. WVU has won the first three games and has secured the fifth home game.
I am dredging all this up because the two sides are, presumably, attempting to extend the series. I say presumably because from what has been stated by some media sources it appears the two sides are, once again, at a stalemate. According to reports, Pastilong is willing to offer Marshall a two for one deal and has indicated he is firm with that offer.
On the other side we have Marshall athletic director Bob Marcum, who is retiring from that position on June 30, saying that he will accept only a home and home deal. Right off the top it would seem that Pastilong's offer is better for Marshall than the one they have now. Manchin or no Manchin, it would seem unlikely that Pastilong will move from his position. So far Manchin has been fairly quiet on the issue. He still wants the game to be played because he is adamant that the game is good for the state. The governor was roundly criticized by many in 2005 for taking a role in the negotiations.
Marshall fans pretty much applauded Manchin's facilitation of the series. WVU fans pretty much felt like the governor should spend his time on things other than messing with the Mountaineers' football schedule. It will be interesting to see if Manchin decides to get involved with the negotiations this time, if he will make it so public.
From here it looks like Marcum may be trying to end the series with his one for one stand on the issue. A Charleston sportswriter, who regularly covers Marshall, opined in his column Monday that Marcum should ask for a three for two and walk away if Pastilong doesn't take it. I don't know why Pastilong would accept either scenario.
This bickering is curious to me. It is obvious that WVU doesn't want the series, but is being pushed to accommodate Marshall. The claim that the game is good for the state has some merit I suppose, but it seems more like the game is good for Marshall and Huntington if it is played in Huntington. My math tells me that 20,000 fewer West Virginians will see the game in Huntington than in Morgantown based on the seating capacities of their respective stadiums. How is that good for the state?
Admittedly this space is clearly biased toward WVU and its athletics, but I do not see any reason for Marshall not to jump for a two for one deal with WVU.