Archive for Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Mizzou who? WVU’s nice too

October 26, 2011


West Virginia, on the verge of joining the Big 12, brings a ton of fascinating history.

For starters, it counts as alumni the greatest clutch shooter of all-time and the worst-ever shooter under pressure.

The greatest, of course, was Jerry West, Mr. Clutch himself, so named because he buried winning shots galore for the Los Angeles Lakers. West was too great for just one nickname. His other is “The Logo,” because the NBA logo is based on a photo of West in mid-drive. Mr. Clutch also was a great defender blessed with super-quick hands and was the most successful NBA general manager not named Red Auerbach.

The worst shooter under pressure? Barney Fife, the bumbling deputy portrayed by West Virginia graduate Don Knotts on “The Andy Griffith Show.” Fife had such a shaky trigger finger that his boss, Sheriff Andy Taylor, made him carry his lone bullet in his shirt pocket, instead of in his pistol. It turned green from lack of use.

But conference realignment, we constantly are reminded, isn’t about basketball or tradition or the greatest sitcom character in television history. It’s about football. In part, football is about mascots and marching bands and painted faces and, most of all, TV ratings. West Virginia earns straight A’s in all of those departments.

The student mascot, The Mountaineer, wears a buckskin costume, a coonskin hat and a beard, except when a coed fills the role. The Mountaineer carries a period rifle and powder horn. The marching band, known as “The Pride of West Virginia,” has had as many as 390 members at a time. John Denver’s “Country Roads” isn’t the school’s official fight song, but it does get the biggest rise out of the wild crowds in Morgantown.

Never having seen a football game in either Columbia, Mo., or Morgantown, W.V., I can only go on how the atmospheres jump out of a TV set. Based on that, it’s no comparison. West Virginia’s a more exciting conference member than Missouri. A bonus: Mountaineers basketball coach Bob Huggins ranks among the most candid interviews in the game. And if Kentucky’s John Calipari or Butler’s Brad Stevens isn’t the best college basketball coach without a national title, then it’s Huggins. Missouri couldn’t keep its elite hoops coach, Mike Anderson, but West Virginia won’t have that problem. Huggins played at the school he coaches and enjoys hanging out with the buddies he made during his college days.

Missouri’s expected departure to the SEC spells an end to the great rivalry with Kansas, which has no reason to want to continue it. That’s one of the more unfortunate victims of conference realignment, but life goes on for Kansas and the Big 12.

Now Missouri must develop a conference rival. Upon departing the Southwest Conference in 1991, Arkansas left Texas, its chief rival, behind. The Razorbacks figured they would develop a new rivalry in no time. They still don’t have one. Provided Mizzou and Arkansas end up in the same division of the realigned SEC, they could become each other’s border rivals. They could play for a box of chocolates, or to give it a more local flavor, a bag of Tootsie Rolls.


Eybea Opiner 6 years, 8 months ago

Why in the world would the Big XII want West Virginia? They're nearly 900 miles away from their nearest competitor in the Big XII. There is no natural regional rivalry between WV and any of the Big XII schools. Kids attending West Virginia didn't likely make a choice between WV and, say, Kansas for instance. The prospect out of southwestern Pennsylvania probably didn't decide between WV and OU. There is no natural rivalry.

College athletics is trying its best to drive me, and like-minded fans, away as they chase the almighty dollar. Soon, our Jayhawks will be flying over Missouri, a TRUE rival, to engage West Virginia, a school about whom we couldn't care less.

Robert Rauktis 6 years, 8 months ago

College athletics is self-destructing the way the Olympics did. Lots of money, no soul. Many people don't relate to these semi-pros anymore with good reason. They have no personal or geographic reference.

Might as well be the NFL or the NBA.

Joe Hyde 6 years, 8 months ago

Suppose the NCAA imposed the same restrictions on universities moving to new conferences that it imposes on Div. 1 student athletes who quit one school in order to enroll at a different Div. 1 school. Were that to happen, any university that quit one conference and moved into a new one would be barred from participating in any organized sports activity with the other member schools of that conference for a period of one year.

A rule like that would seriously slow down the frenzied musical chair re-alignment schemes we've been hearing about daily for the last couple of months. Jeez, this stuff is getting really old.

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