Lack Of Games In Charleston Remains A Glaring Oversight
West Virginia University recently released the non-conference portion of its 2019-20 men’s basketball schedule.
Bob Huggins’ crew will, of course, play in Morgantown, and it also has trips set to Pittsburgh, Mexico, New York City, Youngstown and Cleveland.
But nowhere on that slate will you see a game being played in Charleston.
This is the third straight season that the Mountaineers will not play a men’s basketball game in West Virginia’s Capital City. They last visited the Charleston Civic Center for a game early in the 2016-17 season when it met, and defeated, Western Carolina.
Prior to this latest lapse, WVU had played at least one men’s game in Charleston every season since the 1990-91 campaign.
That 1990-91 season was the last time the Marshall-West Virginia series was played on campus, and after that it moved to the Civic Center on an annual basis for the next 25 years. The Thundering Herd and Mountaineers stopped playing regular season games at any site after WVU’s 86-68 victory on Dec. 17, 2015 in Charleston.
Tired of the whining from various Marshall officials over the years, despite holding a 34-6 record over MU in games not played in Huntington, West Virginia let the series come to an end. The last straw came in 2014 when Marshall coach Dan D’Antoni indicated the Mountaineers were “afraid” of MU, even though his Herd squad had never defeated the Mountaineers. West Virginia basically told the Herd to jump off a bridge, and did not renew the contract. While the two did play an NCAA Tournament game in 2018, they haven’t met in the regular season since 2015 and there’s no indication they will in the future.
But Marshall wasn’t the only opponent WVU played in Charleston. The Mountaineers have played 96 games all-time in the Capital City, and only 27 have been against the Herd. So that leaves 69 other games they have played in Charleston since their first contest there in 1915.
Even in years when West Virginia and Marshall participated in the Capital Classic, the Mountaineers often played a second game each season at the Civic Center. During the 1999-2000 season the WVU Coliseum was closed for asbestos abatement, West Virginia nine “home” games in Charleston. In the years after that (from 2002-17), West Virginia played 13 non-Marshall games in Charleston.
But now there are none.
I’ve heard the arguments:
• Now that they are members of the Big 12, the Mountaineers travel enough, so even the relatively short trip to Charleston is a strain.
• The Civic Center crowds, which didn’t reach 8,900 in any of the four most recent games against a foe besides MU, aren’t what they used to be.
• Because of the expenses incurred through travel and renting the Civic Center, WVU can make a much greater profit simply by staying in Morgantown.
There is validity in all those, but still well over a third of the 1.8 million residents of West Virginia live within approximately an hour’s drive of Charleston. A vast majority of those are Mountaineer fans, and WVU should do all it can to cultivate them.
Playing one game a season in the Capital City seems worth the relatively small cost/inconvenience to continue feeding the large fan base in the Kanawha Valley region.
I’m not saying the Mountaineers should renew the series with Marshall. The acrimony there had grown too great, and it needs to die down.
But still West Virginia should play one other men’s basketball game per season in Charleston.
That’s not asking too much, and only seems fair to the many loyal fans in that area.