Hate Springs Eternal
By Brandon Priddy
It’s something many of us as college football fans have taken for granted over for the duration of our sporting lives. We don’t worry about the existence of our favorite rivalries anymore than we do the water that magically appears when we turn the faucet, the power that runs our HDTVs or the garbage truck that carts away our refuse each week. They are so ingrained into the day to day fabric of our lives that we don’t waste a minute dwelling on where they came from or how they came to be.
Until they’re gone.
This season WVU fans have found themselves in their own private version of the new show “Revolution.” Someone turned off all the old rivalries and they’re not coming back on. But life must continue. The games will be played. We must rebuild from the ground up and it is in the midst of that effort that we ask ourselves that most elemental of sporting questions.
What makes a rivalry?
It’s a lot of things. A few of them we all know…a dash of proximity, a heavy does of familiarity, continuous competition….and that something else. That game you’ll tell you’re kids and their kids about where you walked out of that stadium or arose from that couch hating the holy hell out of that other team more than anyone has a right to hate anything. When you swore you’d spend the rest of your days pulling against them as hard as you pulled for your own team. You’d check the ticker at the bottom of the screen and rejoice when those bastards got smacked by an underdog. You’d tune in to their games just to lambaste their sorry program on Twitter and move their t-shirt to the back of the rack at the department store, preventing the foisting of their disposable wares on some unsuspecting soul.
And now it’s gone.
Man I miss Pitt.
For the better part of the last decade, WVU fans have watched those rivalries they held so dear stripped away one by one. First the Hokies and BC Eagles and then the Orange and finally the Panthers. Sure the hate remains but time and inactivity will dull those feelings. We need a new crop of candidates upon which to heap our scorn. So now, as WVU fans perched on the precipice of a brave new world, who will we hate?
Fortunately with change comes possibility and there are 9 new worthy candidates of our loathing just waiting in the Big 12. Here we’ll run through each team, looking at the WVU record against them (as compiled in theSignalCaller.com Magazine) and at any past history that could fuel the fire (it’s pretty thin). More than anything, I’ll examine the prospects of true hate blossoming and give each team a 1 through 7 ranking on the “Burning Hate-o-Meter” (1 being Rutgers, 7 being Pitt) of how heated things could get in the not-to-distant future.
Let the hate begin.
Record vs. WVU: Never Played
With no history to build on, there doesn’t seem to be cannon fodder here at first glance. The Bears don’t have much of a tradition of winning to build on and you’d like to think WVU would be looking to scrap with a foe of equal stature. However there has been a surge from Waco in recent years with Robert Griffin III’s Heisman win last season and an offense that looks to remain prolific. Baylor will be traveling to Morgantown to open up Big 12 play this week and in the event of disaster there’s no telling what kind of bad blood crashing that party could create. Whether or not the Bears are competitive in the long-term will be the biggest factor in how their annual series with the Mountaineers plays out. I’m unimpressed.
Burning Hate-o-Meter: 2.5
Iowa State Cyclones
Record vs. WVU: Never Played
You’re scanning through Iowa State stats, lazily scanning the info because you can’t imagine that anything about this moribund football program could possibly be worthy of your hate or even attention. You’re a WVU fan….you’re team is routinely in the Top 25 and sometimes the Top 10. Iowa State won’t be near the top of any ranking that doesn’t include corn subsidies. There is nothing that coach Paul Rhoads could possibly do to –
Who was that again?
(scans memory….thinks he has something….Googles Paul Rhoads…..)
“University of Pittsburgh Defensive Coordinator from 2000-2007″
Oh it’s on.
Burning Hate-o-Meter: Eleventy-Bazillion
Texas Tech Red Raiders
Record vs. WVU: 0-1
Hard to imagine much hate brewing between WVU and the conference foe that resides the farthest away from Morgantown (1,466 mile drive), not to mention has one of the smaller fanbases in the league – so much for the intermingling of fans. Some history does exist between the coaching staffs, as WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen spent 2000-2007 on the Red Raider payroll, but you just don’t get the feel that it’s the type of thing that will build any animosity. The man who hired Holgorsen, Mike Leach, is long gone and up in Washington State. The Tech program has taken a significant step back since his departure and may or may not be ready for prime time. Until proven otherwise it looks like another mediocre program with a place staked out in the bottom half of the league. Doesn’t inspire much in the way of feeling.
Burning Hate-o-Meter: 1.8
Record vs. WVU: 0-1
This is one WVU fans would love to believe is near the top of the list, but any honest assessment has to recognize that the Longhorns are football royalty and the Mountaineers still simply upper-middle class. There’s certainly a high chance that WVU fans will resent the arrogance of a program so self-important it created its own network, but rivalries take two to tango and whether or not the big man on campus will notice the new kid remains to be seen. Texas has one of the richest football traditions in America and nothing short of beating them on the field will earn the type of respect that begets a real rivalry. We will certainly have fertile ground for a beginning when the two square off for only the second time ever (WVU won the initial meeting in 1956 by a score of 7-6) in what is certain to be one of the higher profile games of the week. You never know what can happen to provide that pinch of magic that allows true loathing to grow, but until they prove otherwise WVU will just be another conference team on the slate that isn’t Oklahoma.
Burning Hate-o-Meter: 5
Texas Christian Horned Frogs
Record vs. WVU: 0-1
This is a rivalry that has tried so hard to be a rivalry it just about HAS to work, right? First the Horned Frogs were slated to open their inaugural Big East season against the Mountaineers in Ft. Worth, then TCU left, then WVU left and joined TCU and now they’re together again. This HAS to work! Much like Texas Tech, TCU has enjoyed a recent resurgence, but after a tumultuous off-season that saw some key departures the jury is out on whether they have any real staying power. I’ll give them a small leg up on the Red Raiders, but only because their BCS Bowl games gave them more visibility and prestige as a program.
Burning Hate-o-Meter: 3.5
Record vs. WVU: 0-1
You don’t know anything about Kansas. I don’t know anything about Kansas. Charlie Weis used to coach at Notre Dame, thus marring his name forever. Does that count? Give me a call back when the roundball hits the peach baskets and we unleash the Huggy Bear on you Jayhawks. Until then you’re on the pay no mind list.
Burning Hate-o-Meter: -4
Kansas State Wildcats
Record vs. WVU: 1-1
Now THIS one is interesting. Traditionally forgettable program located in an area of low population that, through the amazing efforts of a single coach transformed itself from the ground up into a fringe power at the precipice of breaking through. Sound familiar? It should. If anything, the job Bill Snyder’s done in Manhattan is MORE impressive than the program-building job of Don Nehlen. Did you know Kansas State has the third most losses of any team at the FBS level (only Indiana and Northwestern have more) and was named the worst program in America by Sports Illustrated in 1989? They traveled from there to a #1 ranking in 1998 and from there to long-term respectability. It’s said that you often hate those who are the most like you, and in the Wildcats WVU has found a kindred soul. How bright the fireworks will be when the two square off in Morgantown on October 20th is anybody’s guess. But it could get hot.
Burning Hate-o-Meter: 4.9 with a big chance to blow
Oklahoma State Cowboys
Record vs. WVU: 1-2
With an outspoken coach (He’s a man!) and some recent cross-pollination (Dana Holgorsen’s last stint before heading to Morgantown was as Cowboy offensive coordinator) many have this one circled as a pre-packaged rival. With the offensive onslaught that is almost certain to take place when these two meet in Stillwater the action is sure to run high – and action begets passion. Also the Cowboys lend themselves to some easy loathing with their shiny facilities and their high-profile benefactor. Isn’t there always something about the spoiled rich kid in class that made you want to deck him? When Mountaineer fans make the trip to Stillwater, we’ll see if the class warfare heats up.
Burning Hate-o-Meter: 5.6
Record vs. WVU: 2-2 (Including that time WVU BEAT THE SOONERS TO THE GROUND in the Fiesta Bowl and that other time they shocked the #9 home team in Norman…..remember us Oklahoma!!!)
I put this one at the bottom on purpose. Old writer’s trick. I know you guys. I AM you guys. This is the one WVU fans want. This is the Superman on who’s cape they’ve tugged. This is the national juggernaut that they want to take head on. This is the game that’s been circled on the calendar since that first Big 12 schedule came out and THIS is the one we want Chris, Kirk and Lee to come back to Morgantown for.
What WVU fans don’t want to hear is that the Sooners already have a pair of well-known named rivalries in “The Red River Rivalry” and “Bedlam.” There’s always room for one more, right? If a big-time rivalry signals your arrival as a program, this game will be WVU’s best shot to, as the great Nuke LaLoosh said, “announce their presence with authority.” The Sooners inhabit the upper-crust of the college football world and for the first time since the Miami Hurricanes were a schedule fixture the Mountaineers will get a year in, year out chance to test themselves against the best (along with the Texas game of course). Sure Oklahoma might not pay them much mind when things first get started, but knock them off their perch a couple (more) times and things could get real heated real fast. How much spice there is to that heat will depend on if WVU can keep doing what they’ve done to the Sooners so far. Beat ‘em.
Burning Hate-o-Meter: 6.3 (and rising)