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Chuck Landon: WVU, Luck are ignoring what's good for West Virginia

May. 27, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

Oliver Luck has thumbed his nose at the West Virginia Legislature.

Brazen, but true.

That is what the forced move of the Capital Classic from its normal date in mid-January to Dec. 4-5 in 2012 amounts to, realistically.

When Luck, West Virginia University's often controversial athletic director, forced the change in dates he also altered the 20-year history of the Capital Classic.

Since Jan. 22, 1992, the Capital Classic has paired the men's and women's basketball teams from Marshall and WVU in the Charleston Civic Center Coliseum.

There always has been a reason for that usual date in January.

It's because the state legislature was in session.

Oh, sure, officially the annual matchups were called the Capital Classic. But that was for naming and sponsorship fee reasons only.

In reality, Marshall vs. WVU always has been the "Legislature Game."

Everybody knows that, including Luck.

You've heard of playing political football? Well, the Capital Classic is political basketball.

It's a payback complete with festivities, luncheons and hospitality rooms just to say thanks to the legislators that appropriate so many millions of dollars to Marshall and WVU.

Especially WVU.

Why, in 2009 the state appropriation to WVU totaled $206.4 million. It has decreased since then, but in Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's 2012 state budget higher education was appropriated $447,872,683.

WVU received the lion's share.

So, playing the Capital Classic in January while the state legislature is in session in Charleston, certainly doesn't seem like asking too much.

It's actually a pretty economical way of sayings "thanks, politicians," considering what Marshall and WVU are reaping in the way of appropriations.

But, apparently, that doesn't matter anymore in Morgantown.

A check of the 2012 legislative schedule reveals that.

When Marshall and WVU's men's basketball teams square off on Dec. 5 -- a Wednesday evening -- in the Charleston Civic Center Coliseum, the legislature will not be in session that entire week. So, the legislators who normally are in Charleston for the Capital Classic won't be in town.

Think that's going to go over well?

I don't.

Oh, sure, the pro-WVU legislators will adopt the expected politically correct stance for public purposes. But in closed chambers? This isn't going to be popular.

Nor should it be.

This is merely another example of the Mountaineer athletic department doing what is good for WVU, while ignoring what is good for the state.

Sooner or later, the rent comes due on that philosophy.

In the meantime, if the annual Marshall-WVU game is going to be played in early December when the legislature isn't in session why play in Charleston? Might as well return to the home-and-home scenario this series used annually in early December from 1980 through 1990.

On Dec. 6, 1980, Marshall lost, 76-73, to the Mountaineers in the WVU Coliseum. Then, on Dec. 5, 1981, the Herd beat WVU, 91-78, in the Henderson Center.

That was the to and fro of the series with WVU winning all five games in Morgantown and Marshall winning all five in Huntington. The only exception was an 81-73 loss by Marshall in 1989 in Charleston.

Eight of those 11 games were played during the first week of December, so a return to playing on campus certainly fits.

I don't know about the legislature, but I'd certainly vote for it.

Chuck Landon is a columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Call him at 304-526-2827, or email him at clandon@herald-dispatch.com.



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