Realignment endangers annual WVU-Marshall tussle

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When it comes to DI sports in the state of West Virginia, the Mountaineers are the biggest game in town, but they’re not quite the only one. The Marshall Thundering herd have recently maintained a sort of kissing-cousins rivalry with their neighbors in Morgantown. Even though the two schools are not in the same conference, Huntington residents had ¬†hoped to keep the series going. As WVU prepares to move to the Big 12, however, the game appears to be a luxury the larger state school can do without.

The football matchup is already on life support, with a September 1, 2012 date currently standing as the final scheduled meeting of the two in-state rivals. Now, according to a report in the Huntington Herald-Dispatch, the annual basketball game may be on the way out, as well. While WVU officials haven’t given a direct DNR order just yet, they’ve set an ultimatum that really doesn’t suit Marshall’s sense of the importance of the internecine struggle, which brings visitors and their money to Charleston every year:

The annual Capital Classic pitting the Marshall men’s and women’s basketball teams against their WVU counterparts in the Charleston Civic Center Coliseum has been moved from its usual date in mid-January to Dec. 4-5, according to sources in Charleston with knowledge of the situation.

Does that diminish this annual sellout game?

Absolutely.

The first week of December is still football season. In fact, most conference championship games will be played that weekend. If Marshall and WVU have as much success as anticipated, both football programs will be preparing for bowl games.

As any basketball fan knows, when hoops and gridiron go head-to-head, the linemen knock out the power forwards. Even more so in football-crazed West Virginia. The issue here seems to be that the Big 12 only allows for one non-con game to intrude on the league schedule, and most of the time, it’s a made-for-TV doozy. For instance, Kansas last used a schedule exception on January 22, 2005, when the Jayhawks traveled to take on Villanova of the Big East.

To his credit, Marshall’s AD isn’t blustering about being pushed around. He’s wisely taking his time to examine the pros and cons of a December game before he says yea or nay. Odds are, he’ll see if anyone shows up to the darn thing in December, and then cut his losses if it looks like a waste of time. Still, it’s sad to see the ripples of realignment destroying rivalries that don’t even have anything to do with league affiliations.