To play, or not to play: should West Virginia, Marshall play a home-and-home football series?

Former Mountaineer running back Shawne Alston carries the ball during a game against Marshall.
Former Mountaineer running back Shawne Alston carries the ball during a game against Marshall. / Justin K. Aller/GettyImages
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The biggest benefit in favor of doing so, in this author's opinion, is to help both preserve and re-ignite the regionality within the sport of college football. One of the most cherished aspects of the sport for many years was that each program played a multitude of traditional regional and cultural rivals. Now, as we expand towards a smaller number of conferences that stretch coast-to-coast and bring together a larger number of programs under the umbrella, the regionality is falling to the wayside.

In the past, Mountaineer fans in particular cherished regional and cultural rivalries with Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech, Syracuse, and others which held a sacred spot on the schedule each fall. Even out of conference games designed to benefit smaller schools via a large paycheck and provide a potential easy win for larger schools were sometimes kept regional.

Alongside the rivalry with Marshall, East Carolina, Cincinnati (prior to their Big East tenure), and Ohio were regulars on the schedule throughout the 2000s. And when schools such as Cincinnati and Louisville were brought into the Big East in the mid-2000s, WVU fans were willing to forge newer rivalries with them before leaving for the Big 12.

While fewer non-conference slots on the schedule means less opportunity to preserve those types of games, it can be done. And with more and more non-traditional, long-distance conference opponents like Arizona State, Houston, and Colorado becoming the norm for WVU, one could argue preserving that regionality by scheduling a regular series with Marshall could help put on display the benefits of the regional aspect of the sport and preserve the tradition of college football.

And while the rivalry with Marshall does not have the deep history that the Backyard Brawl does, it certainly can earn it's place in WVU culture. Particularly as Marshall's conference, the Sun Belt, continues to assert itself amongst the brightest of the remaining Group of 5 conferences.

The game can also be used as a showcase of state culture and pride. As earlier noted, there are only two universities that sponsor college football at the Division 1 level in the state, and it could certainly be a prominent display of what West Virginia offers to both the sport of college football as well as the world as a whole.

Use the event to put state pride on full display. Showcase local businesses and state culture and history. Secure a decent TV contract with a network to do so to a large audience. Give FOX or ESPN a Babydog appearance. Both WVU and Marshall fans can likely agree West Virginia is often underrepresented, overlooked, and mischaracterized. This could be an opportunity to rebuff that image as a state while also presenting the best football we have to offer.