The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

June 21, 2013

HERTZEL COLUMN- WVU lacking the bitter rivalry game

MORGANTOWN — College football is a lot of things, as anyone who ever watched the old intros to the ABC broadcasts with Keith Jackson can attest to.

It is, at its best, Saturday afternoons and bands and cheerleaders and tailgate parties and great players and greater games, all of it built over the years with ever-building tradition.

But above all of that it is one more thing, the one thing it is losing in its modern form, and that is a game of rivalries.

And that is what’s missing here in West Virginia, where nothing is culturally more important than football.

With Pitt and “The Backyard Brawl” a casualty of realignment and Marshall just never having developed into the bitter instate rivalry it should have, there is something terribly lacking from football at WVU, and it is not something that you create a plan to replace.

Indeed, rivalries grow out of the ages and perhaps peeking into how a couple of them began will give you an idea of why it will be difficult for WVU to come up with one.

Take Army-Navy, which started more than a 123 years ago with a “challenge” and that reached such a heated stage just three years later following a Navy victory when an incident between a rear admiral and brigadier general led to a near duel that resulted in President Cleveland calling a cabinet meeting during which it was decided that Army and Navy could continue playing football, but only at home. That effectively kept them from facing each other, a ban that lasted five years.

Rivalries are part of America and produce far more than just a football game.

The Ohio State alma mater “Carmet Ohio” was written on the train ride home to Columbus following an 86-0 whipping at Michigan in 1902.

The Ohio State-Michigan rivalry also gave us one of our most lasting sports clichés, for after Michigan beat the Buckeyes four times from 1930 to 1933, twice claiming the national championship after the game, a reporter asked the Ohio State coach Francis Schmidt the next year if the Buckeyes could beat the Wolverines in 1934.

“Of course we can win, Michigan puts their pants on one leg at a time just like we do,” he replied.

It stuck as American folklore after the Buckeyes beat the pants of Michigan the next four years, outscoring them, 122-0.

Rivalries, of course, grow in stature as they match great coach against great coach, be it Barry Switzer and Darrell Royal in Oklahoma-Texas, Bear Bryant and Shug Jordan in Alabama-Auburn, Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler in Ohio State-Michigan, John McKay and John Robinson at USC-UCLA.

Mostly, though, it grows out of memorable games, be it the famed 1950 “Snow Bowl” battle between Ohio State and Michigan played in one of the worst blizzards ever in Ohio, Nebraska’s narrow victory over Oklahoma in “The Game of the Century” in the 1970s, Notre Dame and Michigan State’s 13-13 tie in a national championship matchup or, dare it be mentioned, Pitt’s stunning upset of Pat White and West Virginia when the Mountaineers were on the verge of playing Ohio State for a national title.

Rivalry games are the heart and soul of college football. The Pitt loss will be talked about 100 years from now, just as will the 2010 Auburn-Alabama game when the Crimson Tide jumped off to a 24-0 lead at home only to see Cam Newton and Auburn erase it and win, 28-27. That game carried Auburn to its first national title in 53 years, to say nothing of leading Harvey Updyke to poison Toomer’s Trees on the Auburn campus.

Such passion is why Beano Cook once termed the Alabama-Auburn rivalry “Gettysburg South.”

Paul Finebaum, the Alabama talk show star, tells a story to explain the passion and how deeply it ran after that upset. Auburn was about to play Oregon for the national championship when a friend of Finebaum’s died.

He was supposed to give one of two eulogies and was nervous about it when the first eulogist was reaching the end of his talk, speaking of their friend’s final moments with his sister.

“She knew it was near the end, and the hospice nurse walked out of the room so she could say goodbye to Bruce,” the man said. “He could barely talk, and she moved in closer. He said, ‘I love you’ and she hugged him and started to move away, but he had two more words, which would be the final words of his life: “Go Ducks.”

This is why WVU must find a way to get Pitt back on its schedule, for you cannot reinvent or create what they had built over more than century of one of sport’s greatest rivalries.

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

1
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