On Saturday, the West Virginia Mountaineers will take the field against one of their most constant rivals: Maryland, their border foe, a team they’ve played 51 times in their history.
Afterward, the two teams will not meet each other again until 2020. Although the rivalry hasn’t been much of a rivalry in recent years – the Mountaineers have taken eight out of their last nine meetings – it’s a rivalry that means something, and the absence of another of West Virginia’s local enemies from their upcoming schedule will be a hard pill for fans to swallow.
The Mountaineers are stepping up their quality of opposition in the coming years. West Virginia is set to face some prestigious Power 5 conference opponents in the near future, including BYU, Missouri, NC State and Tennessee.
But one of the greatest things about college football is tradition. Rivalries that have been played for over 100 years, still being fought harder than ever: Michigan vs. Ohio State, Texas vs. Oklahoma, Auburn vs. Alabama.
While the Mountaineers will challenge themselves on the field in the coming years, they’re generally playing teams with which they have very little history. In sports, college football especially, history is what binds generations together and makes it special, and WVU still doesn’t have that with its Big 12 opponents or most of its upcoming nonconference foes.
While winning a national championship should be valued above all else, keeping the history and tradition of the program alive also has to be one of West Virginia’s biggest priorities. Rivalries like the Backyard Brawl or West Virginia-Maryland simply cannot be allowed to fall by the wayside.
While West Virginia has a better chance at the national stage in the Big 12, it left their history behind in the Big East. When you look at WVU’s history with its traditional rivals, you see just how deep those competitions go: West Virginia first played Pitt in 1895, Virginia Tech in 1912 and Maryland in 1919, and, until recently, all those rivalries burned as hot as ever.
Thankfully, the next decade will see those rivalries begin again. The Backyard Brawl has been renewed to great fanfare, although fans of West Virginia and Pitt will have to wait seven years to see one of the most storied, hated rivalries in college football kick off again.
Although it’s unfortunate to see a hiatus in the West Virginia-Maryland rivalry, the two will at least meet again for a home-and-home showdown in 2020 and 2021. The Mountaineers haven’t faced Virginia Tech since 2005, but the Black Diamond Trophy will again be contested in 2017, 2021 and 2022.
Even Penn State, that hated hump the Mountaineers could never get over, is back on the ledger in the future. WVU has only won nine of their 59 meetings with the Nittany Lions – when West Virginia finally beat Penn State in 1984 after nearly 30 years without a win, the fans stormed the field and tore down the goalposts with nearly a minute still to play.
West Virginia and Penn State haven’t faced off since 1992, but those old memories will be revived with a home-and-home series in 2023 and 2024.
Waiting will be the hardest part, but it will be sweet to see West Virginia finally take the field again against its oldest enemies.