Huggins… Herd not a true rival

The long and winding road West Virginia men’s basketball head coach Bobby Huggins traveled back to his alma mater is well documented.

A season as a graduate assistant for the Mountaineers following his graduation witnessed him serve as an assistant at Ohio State, as a head coach at Walsh College, an assistant at Central Florida, then head coaching stints at Akron, Cincinnati, and Kansas State before taking over for John Beilein at WVU in 2007-08.

It was at those final two stops, however, where Huggins learned about rivalry games. And, WVU’s head coach was quick to bring up both-Cincinnati and Kansas State-when posed with the question about the rivalry between his Mountaineers and the Thundering Herd from Marshall University.

“I don’t think so,” Huggins said following WVU’s 74-64 come-from-behind victory. “I tell you guys (media)…… This isn’t as big as-go have a Xavier/Cincinnati, go have a Kansas/Kansas State-It’s not.”

The seventh-year head coach of the old gold and blue did not stop there.

“It’s proximity. I really believe that, at the end of the day, it’s proximity. You’ve got two campuses in Cincinnati that are about five minutes apart. And, Kansas/Kansas State is an hour.

“We’re three and one half hours man. Three and one half hours from Huntington. It’s not the same. As much as everyone wants to make it, it’s not. I could say it is, and I probably should lie and say it is because someone will say that I’m a jerk for saying it. But, the truth is, it’s not.”

And, the explanation continued.

“Our guys are not looking forward (on the schedule) and saying, “Ah, we’ve got Marshall’. And, I don’t think they are either. They (Marshall) play in Conference USA which is a heck of a league and they are trying to win games and we are trying to win games.”

Huggins even singled out the media as being part of the problem.

“The truth is, you don’t get all of the hoopla that you get in those games, I just telling you. I mean, it’s front page of the paper. It’s not here. You guys (sportswriters) want to make it bigger? Then, you’ve got to do it. It’s not going to be unless you do it. I’m just telling you.”

And, this coming from the head coach of the program that has won three straight in the series and holds a commanding 31-11 margin in a series that began in 1929-18-5 since the games were moved to the Charleston Civic Center.

Making his argument even more sound was a crowd of just barely over 11 thousand fans which is nearly 3,000 shy of being a sellout on a Saturday night in the Mountain State’s capital.

Maybe Huggins is right.

The Friends of Coal Bowl is gone and, it appears, never to return. Now might be the right time for both schools to go their separate ways.

Contact Jim Butta at jbutta@newsandsentinel.com