The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

February 15, 2014

Die-hard WVU fan goes to extremes to keep his attendance streak alive

FAIRMONT — When WVU’s football team took on Syracuse in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 29, 2012, Rick Harshbarger was in the stands at Yankee Stadium cheering on the Mountaineers.

The next day, Harshbarger was back in the Mountain State by noon to root for the WVU men’s basketball team as it faced Eastern Kentucky University at the Coliseum.

It took a nine-hour drive through the night to get from Manhattan to Morgantown, but Harshbarger was determined not to miss the home game.

His streak depended on it.

For nearly 30 years, the 55-year-old Keyser resident has attended every home game the Mountaineers have played. He hasn’t missed a men’s basketball game since 1987, and he’s been at every home football game except one — when his daughter was born — since the new Mountaineer Field opened in 1980.

“I came out of the womb a WVU fan,” said Harshbarger, who serves as chief executive officer of Romney’s nonprofit Potomac Center, a residential facility that serves children with intellectual or developmental disabilities, where he’s worked for 33 years. “My earliest memories are of carrying a portable radio around the house and trying to get the games to come in on it.”

That was essential when he was growing up in Mineral County in the 1960s, when no radio stations in his hometown carried coverage of WVU’s games. Harshbarger said he carried a radio all over the house trying to pick up Wheeling station WWVA, which barely came in.

But once he got his driver’s license and could drive to Morgantown, “I was there.”

And he’s been coming back ever since.

That doesn’t mean it’s always been easy. Harshbarger readily admits he’s had to make some sacrifices and push the limits a bit in order to keep his streak of nearly 400 games (and counting) alive. Missed a friend’s wedding? He’s done it. Driven around barricades on the snow-covered interstate? He’s done that, too.

He’s even checked himself out of the hospital before a scheduled operation so he wouldn’t miss a game.

“We were awful that season,” Harshbarger recalled. “I was in (the hospital in Morgantown) and I just basically wrote a note to the nurses saying, ‘I went to the basketball game,’ and said I’d be back when it was over.”

Harshbarger said he left the note on his hospital bed, went to the game and came back just like he said he would.

“They weren’t too happy with me,” he laughed. “But I didn’t miss the game.”

It’s that kind of dedication that has allowed Harshbarger to amass such an impressive streak. But he’s quick to point out that his family’s approval is another significant factor. His wife Christa and children Candice and Brett are WVU fans, too, and they know that as soon as Harshbarger gets the teams’ schedules, he’s adding the dates to his calendar and everything else will come second.

“I don’t write the schedules. I don’t have anything to do with it,” he said. But as he tells family members and friends, “If you want me to come to your wedding, don’t get married on home football game days in the fall.”

All jokes aside, Harshbarger described the streak as “an animal of its own.”

“I don’t want it to stop,” he said. “Even if there is a less attractive game or I’m tired or something else is going on or I’m sick, I don’t want (the streak) to end. So I go.”

While few fans can claim a streak as long-lasting as Harshbarger’s, he’s hardly alone in his devotion to the Mountaineers. As Matt Wells, assistant athletic director for marketing and sales at WVU, explained, home games draw thousands of people to Morgantown.

“For a lot of people in the state, WVU sports are the front porch of the university,” Wells said. “It’s something residents and even those who might live in other areas can watch and be involved with. It’s the most direct tie to the university.”

Historically, Wells said home games boast large crowds — Milan Puskar Stadium has a capacity of 60,000, while the Coliseum can hold 14,000 fans — thanks to a strong fan base.

“Mountaineer home games are very unique events,” he added. “The pride and passion our fans have is very evident. (Home games) are something that a lot of our fans really enjoy the chance to be part of.”

Count Harshbarger among those fans.

With his 400th game in a row getting close — WVU’s game against Kansas State in early February marked his 394th straight in basketball — Harshbarger has his eyes on what he considers the ultimate goal.

“I’m going to try for 500 men’s basketball games in a row,” he said, estimating that it will take seven more seasons to reach that milestone. “There’s just nothing like being there.”

Email Nicole Fields at or follow her on Twitter @NicoleFieldsTWV.

Text Only
WVU Sports
  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Under pressure, NCAA decides to change rules

    At first glance, it appears that they do not go hand-in-hand, a pair of rules changes the NCAA’s Legislative Council approved this week, sending them off for what seems to be smooth sailing toward becoming rules.

    April 18, 2014

  • Means, WVU baseball shut out Oklahoma

    Junior left-hander John Means of the WVU baseball team threw eight shutout innings and the Mountaineers had a five-run first inning en route to a 7-0 victory over Oklahoma on Thursday evening at L. Dale Mitchell Park.
    The Mountaineers (18-15, 3-6 Big 12) broke a six-game Big 12 losing streak after being swept by TCU and Oklahoma State in back-to-back weekends. WVU had 16 hits and did not make an error for the second-straight game.

    April 18, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: Dr. Graber disagrees with Gee’s stance on Turnbull firing

    Dr. Stephen Graber, an associate professor at the West Virginia University School of Medicine, is among the latest WVU teachers to deplore Oliver Luck’s firing of veteran wrestling coach Craig Turnbull.
    He raised some significant questions about that issue last Monday in a meeting of the WVU Faculty Senate.

    April 18, 2014

  • Huggins signs junior college guard

    Coach Bob Huggins completed his 2014-15 West Virginia University recruiting class on Wednesday and deemed it a success after receiving a signed letter of intent from junior college guard Tarik Phillip.
    Phillip joins Jevon Carter of Maywood, Ill., and Daxter Miles of Baltimore’s Dunbar High and out of Notre Dame Prep in Massachusetts in the 2014-15 recruiting class.

    April 17, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: WVU gymnast hopes to stick her final landing

    The reaction, one suspects, was the same as most people who see either a picture of West Virginia University gymnast Hope Sloanhoffer or meet her for the first time in person — a quick double take, maybe even stumbling over the first few words of an introduction.

    April 17, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: Comparing pay of coaches and professors

    Stringing together some odds and ends which may be of interest to you:
    • A beautiful lady came up to my table last Sunday at brunch in the Village of Heritage Point’s main dining room with a message.

    April 17, 2014

  • Bussie looks forward to WNBA

    On Tuesday, the weather turned cold, the wind blew and amongst the raindrops that fell a few snowflakes fluttered quietly to Earth.
    It was as if it was a celebration of Asya Bussie being drafted on Monday night by the Minnesota Lynx, champions of the WNBA, with the third selection of the second round, the 15th overall pick of the draft.

    April 16, 2014

  • WVU’s Harlee named Big 12 Scholar-Athlete

    The Big 12 Conference announced its Scholar-Athlete of the Year recipients for the 2014 winter sport season, and West Virginia University senior Jess Harlee earns the honor for women’s basketball.
    Harlee was selected as the award winner based on a vote of each respective sport’s head coaching group, with coaches not permitted to vote for their own student-athletes.

    April 16, 2014

  • Gyorko, Padres agree to extension

    Jedd Gyorko, who hasn’t hit much of anything with a .178 start on this season, hit the jackpot on Monday, signing a six-year contract extension with the San Diego Padres for $35 million with a one-year club option at $13 million.

    April 15, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN- Spring game showed defense has improved

    From Dana Holgorsen’s viewpoint, which was standing right behind the offense, West Virginia’s Gold-Blue Spring Game on Saturday was a rousing success for it showed very little of what the Mountaineers will be in this coming season, probably not even showcasing the man who will direct the offense in the quarterback position.

    April 15, 2014

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