When administrators from WVU and LSU agreed to schedule a home-and-home series between the two schools they hoped that the game's significance would be large enough to draw a national television audience.
That hope came to fruition when ESPN's GameDay selected Morgantown as its destination for this weekend's slate of college football contests. But neither WVU's Ed Pastilong, who has since retired, nor LSU's Joe Alleva could have anticipated just how much this two-year deal would mean to the Mountaineers' future.
Since the sudden announcement by Pittsburgh and Syracuse that they were leaving the Big East to join former-conference members Miami (Fl.), Boston College and Virginia Tech in the Atlantic Coast Conference and more recent speculation that Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech may vacate the Big 12 in favor of adding their names to the new-Pac 16 conference, the future of WVU as a potential player on the national championship landscape has come into question.
Now, instead of just playing a game for ranking points, the Mountaineers find themselves playing in hopes of landing a spot in what appears to be one of four 16-team conferences.
A victory over a heavily-favored LSU-impressive or not-would go a long way in helping Director of Athletics Oliver Luck promote the old gold and blue as a viable member that any conference in the country would be lucky to have. However, a lopsided loss or an embarrassing display by some of West Virginia's overzealous fans could have devastating effects.
Saturday night, nor any other night for that matter, would not be a good time for fans to wear shirts embellished with profane words or to use cleverly devised chants that are meant to result in the same effect. No, this is a time when every "true" Mountaineer fan must step forward to encourage those who would promote such behavior to "save it for another time".
West Virginia, not just its football team, will be on display this weekend. If ever there was a time for Mountaineer fans to show everything that is good about the university-and the state-they love, this is that time.
We live in a time where image means more than facts.
West Virginia has earned a national reputation in athletics. It's football teams, especially during the Rich Rodriguez era, were ranked among the Top 25 every season. Basketball coaches Bobby Huggins and Mike Carey have the Mountaineers playing in the NCAA tournament year after year. The rifle team is second to no one and the soccer, cross country, track and gymnastic teams have competed for national honors.
In fact, under Luck's leadership, every program has seen an improvement.
WVU's national image, however, is one of a school where students go to "party", where drunken students burn couches after every victory, and where the word academics is more often misspelled.
Here is one last chance for the people of this state and Mountaineer fans around the country to show who the Mountaineers really are.