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Chuck Landon: Series with WVU like political football

Sep. 22, 2010 @ 12:32 AM

Sometimes irony is delicious.

This isn't one of those times.

Ever since Gov. Joe Manchin surprised the audience during a brunch in Huntington with the announcement the Marshall-West Virginia University football series definitely would be renewed, an ironic situation has developed.

The series has been turned into a political football.

Literally.

Although it remains a matter of the state of West Virginia's two major colleges meeting in an annual intra-state rivalry game on the surface, the subtext has become all about the political battle between Manchin and John Raese for West Virginia's vacant seat in the United States Senate.

Think about it.

After Manchin, who has championed this series, made his surprise announcement on Sept. 10, his camp says the governor's poll numbers in northern West Virginia dropped five points overnight.

That's significant.

What has happened since then is, too.

In what appears to be an orchestrated effort, WVU-oriented media outlets have systematically tried to discredit Marshall head coach Doc Holliday, the Herd football program and, of course, the Marshall-WVU football series.

It began on Monday, Sept. 13, when a MetroNews radio program reportedly accused Holliday of not shaking hands with WVU coach Bill Stewart after the game.

It was a false accusation.

Holliday walked to midfield after the game, accompanied by state trooper Tony Bolland, Marshall sports information director Randy Burnside and Huntington Mayor Kim Wolfe, to shake hands with Stewart.

But Stewart never showed up.

Which is interesting considering the story that was written by Register-Herald sports editor Dave Morrison on Sept. 12 in the Beckley newspaper.

At the end of the story, Morrison quoted Stewart about shaking hands with Holliday.

"I shook his hand," Stewart was quoted. "I didn't have much to say."

That, too, is false.

The two coaches never shook hands.

Then, later last week, MetroNews talk show host Hoppy Kercheval was critical of the Marshall-WVU series, reportedly saying it shouldn't be continued because there wasn't enough interest in the game.

That's questionable insight considering 3.375 million households watched the game on ESPN, according to industry sources.

But, then again, there has been a lot of misinformation floating about in WVU media outlets lately.

For example, there are the story and column which appeared in the Morgantown Dominion Post last Friday (Sept. 17). The articles accused Marshall of violating NCAA rules by wearing protective pads during the first two practices of preseason.

That wasn't true, either.

Yet, the damage has been done to Marshall, Holliday, the Marshall-WVU series and, yes, Joe Manchin's senate campaign.

That's the crux of the matter.

Manchin's stance on this series has become a simmering issue in his battle against Raese.

I mean, does everyone realize who owns MetroNews and the Dominion Post?

John Raese.

Am I suggesting Raese told his employees to produce negative commentary toward Marshall, the series and, therefore, Manchin?

No, I am not.

But the implications certainly are clear. It doesn't take a political analyst to connect these dots and come to the realization that the Marshall-WVU series is being used as a political football.

Voters might want to remember that on Nov. 2.

Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Call him at 304-526-2827. E-mail him at clandon@herald-dispatch.com.

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