Dodge Ball

Published 1:31 am Friday, August 20, 2010

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The athletic directors are new at Marshall and West Virginia but the rhetoric remains the same over whether a series should continue between the state’s only Football Bowl Subdivision teams.

Oliver Luck, who took over as WVU’s athletic director last month, and Marshall’s Mike Hamrick, himself on the job only a year, have held discussions over extending the series after the current seven-year contract expires in 2012.

“He’s new. Obviously I’m relatively new,” Hamrick said. “My goal would be to get the series continued. I’d like to try to do that.”

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Hamrick is taking the same stance of predecessor Bob Marcum in insisting that WVU should come to Huntington as a tradeoff for every game Marshall plays in Morgantown.

Longtime WVU AD Ed Pastilong had said a home-and-home series with Marshall wasn’t feasible and he wanted a 2-for-1 agreement. Luck apparently hasn’t backed down from that.

“West Virginia has indicated they want to go 2 for 1,” Hamrick said. “So we’ll just have to see how that plays out and we’re discussing all that and talking about that.

“The discussions have been good. They’ve been professional, very cordial.”

Luck will only say that the pair have talked.

“All I’ll tell you is Mike Hamrick and I have sat down and had a couple of phone conversations as well, and we’re working on it,” Luck said

Luck attended a WVU fan gathering in Charleston on Wednesday night at the same time Hamrick took part in Marshall’s annual preseason festivities in the capital city about a block away.

Hamrick wants to ensure that Marshall has six home games each season, and traveling to Morgantown each year would disrupt that.

Hamrick points to Marshall’s future home-and-home agreements with both Purdue and Louisville. He also said WVU has a home-and-home agreement with East Carolina, a rival of Marshall’s in Conference USA.

Although WVU and Marshall meet on the basketball court every year, the football teams have played just nine times with the Mountaineers winning every one of them, including all four games in the current series that started in 2006.

The 2007 and 2010 games are the only ones being played in Huntington. Thanks in part to WVU’s visit on Sept. 10, Marshall’s season ticket sales have increased by 5,000 compared to a year ago, Hamrick said.

Gov. Joe Manchin, who attended WVU and helped broker the agreement five years ago, said last year he would leave it up to the schools to reach a new agreement. Right now Manchin is busy running for the seat vacated by the late U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd. The Democratic primary is Aug. 28.

In a 2006 interview, though, Manchin said he wanted the WVU-Marshall series to become permanent before he left office.

Hamrick said if no new deal isn’t reached before the upcoming season starts, more discussions would likely have to wait until 2011.

“My hope would be to get something resolved before we both kick off the first of September,” Hamrick said.