By Matt Welch
Times West Virginian
Jerrod Calhoun and the Fairmont State Fighting Falcons are ready to compete.
Monday, the Falcons will travel to Morgantown to take on the West Virginia University Mountaineers in an exhibition game at the WVU Coliseum at 7 p.m.
Calhoun, who is going into his second season as head coach of the men’s basketball team, has strong ties with Mountaineer head coach Bob Huggins, and the teams agreed last season that they would compete prior to opening their regular seasons this year.
“I worked with coach Huggins for a long, long time,” Calhoun said. “Our relationship is unbelievable. We worked it out when I got the job here. He though it’d be great for our university and for our kids and program.”
Going into the game, WVU may be looking at the game as a confidence booster prior to the start of its season, but it’s more than that for Calhoun and the Falcons.
“I’ve said all along since people have been asking about this game that our goal is to go up there and compete,” he said. “If we go up there and they beat us by 30 or 40 points, it does neither team any good. We need to go up there and really compete.”
Coach Calhoun thinks that playing a Division I opponent such as West Virginia will do tremendous things for his players, especially the younger ones.
“It’ll be an unbelievable experience,” said Calhoun. “We’re not used to playing in that big of an atmosphere with that crowd and against bigger and stronger, faster players. These guys in the Big 12 are big body guys.”
Calhoun believes that by getting his players to match up with the type of players that WVU has will give him a chance to see where they stand and give him and the team a better picture of how to move into the season.
“They’re great athletes. It’ll be good for our guys to see where we’re at this early in the season,” said Calhoun of the matchup. “We’re going to play five freshmen and three sophomores, so I think both teams are very, very young. Hopefully, we can compete and play hard.”
Another thing the Falcons are looking to accomplish by making the trip to Morgantown is to show the fans at the Coliseum what they can come watch just a half hour down the road in Fairmont.
“We’re trying to brand our program and build our program,” Calhoun said. “I think the Big 12 fans, of course the West Virginia fans, a lot of those fans come down and watch our games, too. They really enjoyed what they saw. So hopefully when the Mountaineers aren’t playing, they’ll drive down and see us.”
The game, while its mainly about basketball, is also great for the university as a whole, said Calhoun.
“It gives our program a chance to be on TV, which is great for a Division II program. We’re playing the state’s team, which is a huge deal.”
The game will be televised by ROOT Sports.
Athletic director Tim McNeely, a former WVU player, shared Calhoun’s sentiment.
“It’s extremely important,” McNeely said. “There are several of us here with strong WVU ties. We’re all excited to go back.”
McNeely said it gives Fairmont State some credibility to be able to play a school like WVU and believes that the Falcons stack up well.
“We’re excited to see what our team and our program can do,” he said. “It’ll be a good barometer and a good test for them.”
McNeely added that the entire university is excited about the opportunity to see where their program stands.
Tickets can be purchased at the door at the WVU Coliseum.
Email Matt Welch at email@example.com or follow on Twitter @MattWelch_TWV.