The final edition of the Friends of Coal Bowl is slated for Saturday at Milan Puskar Stadium. But it would appear that a 13th hour campaign is being waged to keep this from being the final meeting between the combatants, West Virginia University and Marshall.
U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) seems determined to convince Directors of Athletics Oliver Luck (WVU) and Mike Hamrick (MU) to continue the series despite both sides apparently being locked into future schedules that would force one, or both of them, to have to buy their way out of contracts with future opponents.
While buying itself out of a contract isn't something new for Luck and the Mountaineers, it doesn't appear to be something the former Mountaineer quarterback is prepared to do. Especially since WVU is already locked into a 9-game Big 12 schedule-a slate of games that could increase if another wave of expansion happens over the next 12 months.
Yes, the Mountaineers have some patsies slated to visit Morgantown over the next few years. Games against William & Mary (2013), Towson (2014), and Liberty (2015) will serve as "training games" for Dana Holgorsen's air raid offensive attack.
And, yes, Marshall appears to be headed in the right direction under head coach and former WVU assistant John 'Doc' Holliday. But, how does that translate onto the football field? Will fans attending Saturday's noon kickoff be treated to a repeat of the 1997 classic that featured a Thundering Herd team led by future NFL stars Randy Moss and Chad Pennington-a 42-31 WVU win-or last year's weather-shortened 34-13 Mountaineer victory that wasn't as close as the score implies?
It is a debate that apparently will outlive the game as no new contract looms in the future and neither Luck nor Hamrick seem prepared to budge from the hard line stances they took following last year's heated debate that took place during delays that lasted a total of four hours and 22 minutes.
Personally, like many of the WVU and Marshall fans with whom I have discussed the issue, I could care less if the game is resumed. Yes, I've heard all of the arguments for and against the Mountain State's two NCAA D-I schools facing one another on the gridiron. I agree with many of the points that so many of you have made in both regards.
But, in the end, both Luck and Hamrick must do what they believe is in the best interest of their respective university. If that means facing one another on the football field, then it will happen. If not, it will fade into the memories of those who opted to attend the contests or watch them from the comfort of their homes.
Luck and Hamrick are charged with making decisions that will carry a huge impact on the financial success of their respective institutions. Decisions that rarely take in the fan's point of view.
And, decisions that don't need help from Manchin.