Share this story
Close X
Switch to Desktop Site

West Virginians bursting with pride as football team shines

Forgive the innocent traveler if he drives through Morgantown, W.Va., and misses the point. The Days Inn sign doesn't give a clue. The local Bonanza restaurant proclaims cryptically: FIESTA BOUND

WVU 11 0

About these ads


It may be hard to tell from the outside, but this is a big moment for West Virginia. Its premier college football team - the undefeated Mountaineers of West Virginia University - is playing for the national championship in the Fiesta Bowl in Tempe, Ariz., next Monday. And West Virginians are bursting with pride.

``There's no doubt that this is the biggest event for West Virginia that I can remember in my lifetime,'' says John Butler of Buckhannon, W.Va. ``West Virginia [has] financial problems and economic problems. But we have one good thing and that's the West Virginia Mountaineers.''

``It's nice to see people happy,'' adds Becky Gilmore, gazing into the bookstore she manages, which is filled with WVU sweat shirts and paraphernalia. ``People buy them whether they are marked down or the price is up.... Fiesta Bowl hats we can't keep in stock.''

The Mountaineers' 11-0record is the best in the team's 98-year history. The team is ranked third in the nation. But it is still considered the underdog in the Fiesta Bowl, because it will face No. 1-ranked Notre Dame. Some observers, such as the coach of No. 2-ranked Miami, say that WVU has had too easy a schedule to deserve the top spot should it beat Notre Dame.

But none of this fazes West Virginia fans.

``Everybody I talk to thinks they can win,'' says John Lambert, owner of Variety Discount in downtown Morgantown, where the university is located.

About these ads

``There's a direct correlation between the economy and the football team,'' he adds. ``If they win, the economy of West Virginia will be up for three months.''

Everyone in the state seems to echo this sentiment.

``We are having a lot of parties, trying to keep the spirits [up],'' says David Corcoran, editor of the local paper in Welch, W.Va., where a local mine company just closed down. ``If we could beat Notre Dame and get national visibility, that would be a great thing.''

Over his Christmas holiday in the South, WVU provost Frank Franz often wore his WVU sweat shirt. ``People would say: `I now know where Morgantown is,''' he says. ``It's a great opportunity for people to become a little more familiar with the state.''

The university has produced a 60-second TV spot to capitalize on the attention and let people know about the university and West Virginia.

And loyalty? One local bar in Morgantown is charging $100 just to get in and watch the game, Mr. Lambert says.

Follow Stories Like This
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.