The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

May 3, 2012

HERTZEL COLUMN: Mountaineers, Pitt will miss each other

MORGANTOWN — Summer, and if you go by the thermometer it has already arrived here, is the time for reflection in these parts, mainly because this is the time when there is a lull in the insanity that is West Virginia University athletics.

The truth is that while there is a great anticipation surrounding the Mountaineers’ move into the Big 12, there is this one aspect of the move that is troubling.

Pitt is gone.

While there is no doubt that West Virginia will flourish in its new era of athletics, it will do so with a huge void.

Think of it this way. Muhammad Ali’s career was certainly great, but it was defined by his battles with Joe Frazier. Martina Navratilova needed Chris Evert. The Yankees need the Boston Red Sox; the Steelers need the Ravens.

West Virginia’s relationship with that team up north was always a strange one in that the Panthers were the Mountaineers’ No. 1 rival, but Pitt always felt that its real rival was Penn State, not West Virginia.

That, of course, made it easier for Pitt to break away and head for the Atlantic Coast Conference, joining Syracuse in abandoning the sinking ship that was the Big East and forcing WVU’s hand, leading to its evacuation from the Big East and into the Big 12.

But was it really the right move for the Panthers?

See, they have a problem filling their house. In truth, the only three teams they could count on to sell out Heinz Field are Penn State, West Virginia and Notre Dame.

This year and next they do have Penn State and Notre Dame on their schedule, but when they move into the ACC they will be looking at a nine-game schedule, which leaves them only three non-conference games, and you normally don’t do more than one of those games against top-line teams like Penn State and Notre Dame.

What’s more, the ACC doesn’t exactly have many teams that will excite a fan base that lives for its Sundays and its beloved Steelers.

See, while Morgantown has only its Mountaineers, Pitt is little more than a Saturday distraction to the city, save for rivalry games.

The truth is that the ACC wasn’t really thinking football when it selected Pitt and Syracuse to join the conference, a conference that seems to be run out of the athletic offices of North Carolina and Duke, two snooty schools that push basketball over football and who look down upon West Virginia, buying into an antiquated image of the school and the state.

But while Pitt probably traveled in the wrong direction, even though it was a necessary move to make, the repercussions will be felt here, too.

West Virginia sports without Pitt just won’t be the same.

Oh, it will be great to face Oklahoma and Texas, two of college football’s most legendary programs, on a yearly basis. It will be great to be a league where basketball isn’t king and football merely an afterthought, as it was in the Big East.

But there truly is nothing like this rivalry on the horizon either in football or basketball.

WVU will draw better than Pitt in football, for certain, with Big 12 teams coming to town, but the emotion will be at a lower level, almost civilized, and that never was the case with the Panthers.

What made the rivalry so great was both the geographical proximity — 80 miles of I-79 between the two campuses — but the great disparity between the two schools.

In truth, the biggest shortcoming for WVU in the Big East was that it really had little in common with the other schools ... they come mostly from the big cities like Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Louisville, Philadelphia, New York, Syracuse and Tampa.

These institutions often looked down upon West Virginia as a country cousin against whom you could compete athletically but with whom you preferred not to socialize.

But that didn’t matter because Pitt was there and that made it the right conference for West Virginia.

If they could beat Pitt, they were champions ... no matter how the rest of the season went.

And it went the other way, too, as the Mountaineers learned when Pitt knocked them out of a chance to play for the national championship, turning their own losing season into one of the most successful of all time.

No matter what happens against Kansas in the final game of next football season, it won’t be the same ... and that’s a shame.

Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com. Follow on Twitter @bhertzel.

1
Text Only
WVU Sports
  • LINDLEY COLUMN: Better police needed for college teams enticed to cheat

    Cheating has been part of college athletics probably for as long as people have bothered to keep score.

    July 24, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: O’Toole joins long list of eccentric WVU kickers, punters

    The star of the Big 12’s annual football media day wasn’t a star at all.

    July 24, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: Five major sports topics of interest to area fans

    Tom Hart, a widely known retired Morgantown High School administrator and coach, continues to excel as one of the nation’s top bowlers.

    July 24, 2014

  • WVU, N.C. State to meet in football

    Following a trend of creating non-conference games against regional opponents, West Virginia University has reached agreement with North Carolina State to play a home-and-home football series in 2018 and 2019.
    The Mountaineers are scheduled to play N.C. State in Raleigh on Sept. 15, 2018, and then play host to the Wolfpack on Sept. 14, 2019.

    July 24, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: ‘Cheating pays’ remark should draw attention

    When Bob Bowlsby, the outspoken commissioner of the Big 12, presented his opening-day picture of the future of college sports in Dallas for the annual media day gathering, his bleak comments were not unexpected.

    July 24, 2014

  • ‘Cheating pays’ remark should draw attention

    When Bob Bowlsby, the outspoken commissioner of the Big 12, presented his opening-day picture of the future of college sports in Dallas for the annual media day gathering, his bleak comments were not unexpected.

    July 23, 2014

  • WVU, N.C. State to meet in football

    Following a trend of creating non-conference games against regional opponents, West Virginia University has reached agreement with North Carolina State to play a home-and-home football series in 2018 and 2019.

    July 23, 2014

  • WVU, Tennessee finalize 2018 meeting

    West Virginia University and Tennessee have finalized their season-opening, Sept. 1, 2018, meeting in Charlotte, N.C., at Bank of America Stadium.
    Both teams will receive $2.5 million for the game and have a chance to earn up to $3.2 million with ticket incentives.
    Each team will buy 12,500 tickets and set aside 2,000 of its allotment for students.
    The game, played on the home field of the Carolina Panthers of the NFL, is being put on by the Charlotte Sports Federation.

    July 23, 2014

  • Holgorsen’s program hits turning point

    You can almost sense, as you watch West Virginia University football coach Dana Holgorsen sit before the gathered Big 12 media contingent answering questions in the Omni Hotel in Arlington, Texas, that he senses his program has reached a turning point.

    July 23, 2014

  • Fleming, Billy.jpg WVU’s Fleming signs contract with Yankees

     Second baseman Billy Fleming of the West Virginia University baseball team has signed a professional contract with the New York Yankees, foregoing his upcoming senior season.
    “Ever since I was a little kid, it’s been my dream to play professional baseball,” Fleming said. “It is still surreal that I get to chase my dream, but I am ready to get after it. I loved my three years at WVU and want to thank all the coaches that made it possible for me to achieve my dream.”

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

Featured Ads
WVU Sports Highlights
NDN Sports
House Ads
NCAA Breaking News
NCAA Photos