Chuck Landon: Basketball series vs. WVU also in danger
First football, now basketball.
Everyone is aware that West Virginia University is ending a seven-year football relationship with Marshall. The series between the only two Football Bowl Subdivision programs in the state of West Virginia will conclude after a game on Sept. 1 in Mountaineer Field.
The inter-state rivalry and all the financial benefits it creates will end simply because Mountaineer officials seem bent on rendering any competition with Marshall as meaningless as possible.
Now, it's happening in basketball as well.
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?
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.
It's an afterthought in early December. Fans still are immersed in football with basketball running a very distant second.
So, why is the Capital Classic being moved?
It's because WVU officials gave Marshall a take-it-or-leave-it ultimatum. The Herd women's team could play WVU on Dec. 4 (a Tuesday) with the Marshall and WVU men's teams squaring off on Dec. 5, or not at all.
Marshall athletic director Mike Hamrick obviously is cognizant of which choice WVU hoped he would make. The Mountaineers wanted Hamrick to dig his heels in, jut out his jaw and refuse the early December date.
That would give WVU grounds to discontinue the series -- just like in football -- which certainly appears to be the Mountaineers' goal.
But, to his credit, Hamrick didn't adopt a "Damn the torpedos, full speed ahead" stance. Instead, he kept his gaze on the big picture, checked his testosterone at the door, swallowed hard and acquiesced.
At least, that's my perception.
Hamrick isn't voicing an opinion on this controversy just yet.
"I don't want to talk about the Capital Classic at this time," said Hamrick.
But he will.
Until then, let's debunk one excuse and reveal the real reason.
There has been considerable discussion that the Big 12 doesn't allow non-conference games to intrude on the league schedule. Once Big 12 play begins, no outside competition against non-league opponents is permissible.
But that's not true, according to industry sources. Apparently, the Big 12 allows each member a "mulligan" permitting it to play one non-conference game amidst the league schedule.
The actual reason, according to industry sources, is WVU allegedly has scheduled a non-conference opponent worthy of national television coverage and wants to use the "mulligan" on that foe rather than Marshall.
The opponent could be Gonzaga, which defeated WVU in the first round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament, in a rematch at Spokane, Wash.
All we know for sure is the last five Capital Classics have been played (in descending order) on Jan. 18, Jan. 18, Jan. 19, Jan. 13 and Jan. 22.
But this year it's Dec. 5.
Tough for Herd fans to swallow that? Of course. So, here's some advice.
I suggest the Hamrick -- not to be confused with Heimlich -- maneuver.
Chuck Landon is a columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Call him at 304-526-2827 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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