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Chuck Landon: UCF gets cue to exit local stage

Feb. 02, 2013 @ 12:18 AM

A mind is like balls scattered here and there on a pool table.

It needs to be wracked.

So, I wracked mine for several days this week trying to think of a fitting farewell for UCF.

How does Marshall say goodbye to its most heated and hated rival? How do Herd fans bid adieu to a school they detest? How do Marshall administrators, coaches, athletes, fans and media alike say adios to a fellow conference member that has done nothing but rub everyone here the wrong way for going on 13 years?

God's speed just doesn't get it.

But we have to figure out some appropriate send-off for UCF because the Big East-bound Knights will be making their final appearance in Huntington when Marshall hosts UCF at 2 p.m., Saturday, in the Henderson Center.

After today, Marshall never will have another regularly scheduled football or men's basketball game against UCF here.

So, it's important that we remember some defining moments in this rivalry as it concludes. Such as:

It all began in 2002 when UCF head football coach Mike Kruczek alienated everyone during the Mid-American Conference football media day in Detroit with his brashness and braggadocio. He instantly accomplished the one premise no one thought possible. Kruczek's arrogance actually made other MAC schools and athletes root for Marshall.

When the Knights played at Marshall for the first time (2002), UCF stayed in a Charleston hotel and didn't bother to have a walk-through at Edwards Stadium the day before the game. Then, when quarterback Ryan Schneider had a horrible game while trying to throw sideline patterns in UCF's 26-21 loss, Kruczek whined about the inordinately high crown on MU's field.

The rivalry really got ugly when Marshall head basketball coach Donnie Jones resigned following the end of the 2009-10 season to become UCF's new basketball coach. Herd fans nicknamed him "Benedict Donald."

More gasoline was applied to the fiery rivalry after UCF's punishing 35-14 football win over Marshall in 2010. Orlando Sentinel newspaper columnist Mike Bianchi wrote, "First UCF took Marshall's basketball coach. Now they've taken Marshall's football manhood."

When Jones returned for the first time in 2011, a sellout crowd of 9,036 greeted him and his Florida state troopers. There were six technical fouls and MU's Dago Pena was ejected, but the Herd won, 83-69.

Before the 2012 basketball game here, UCF players tweeted insults about Huntington and the Knights' hotel accommodations on Twitter.

The next day, a season-high 8,379 fans watched Marshall beat UCF, 65-64, in The Cam. UCF's Isaiah Sykes was called for a flagrant foul after running out of bounds along the sideline and hitting Marshall coach Tom Herrion with an elbow.

And, now, it's all ending, which leads us back to the best way to say goodbye.

My suggestion involves the 12 Conference USA banners hanging on either side of the video board on the east wall of the Henderson Center. UCF's is in the bottom row of the right side between UAB and UTEP.

During a pregame ceremony, MU should dim the house lights and shine a spotlight on Marco as he climbs a step ladder and removes UCF's banner.

If the Knights win, present it to Jones as a keepsake. If MU wins treat the banner like WVU fans treat couches.

Don't let the door hit you in the armor, Knights.

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



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