Aug. 30, 2012
Jared Hunt's Charleston Daily Mail story
CHARLESTON -- A statewide poll commissioned by the Charleston Daily Mail has revealed that more than three-quarters of state sports fans want to see West Virginia and Marshall continue to meet in football.
The last game of the seven-year Friends of Coal Bowl contract will be played Saturday at noon when the Thundering Herd visits Mountaineer Field.
The Daily Mail reported today that the West Virginia Poll, conducted by R.L. Repass & Partners, surveyed 401 likely voters from Aug. 22-25. The margin of error is 4.9 percent.
The poll found 76 percent of West Virginia sports fans want to see the football series continue. Only 12 percent said they didn't want to see the state rivals continue to meet. The remaining 12 percent weren't sure.
An even larger number - 83 percent - said they wanted the series, in the future, to be home-and-home, rotating between Morgantown and Huntington on an annual basis.
Among those surveyed, 71 percent said they considered themselves sports fans. Only those identifying themselves as such were asked further sports-related questions.
When asked whether they favored Marshall or WVU, 71 percent said they were Mountaineer fans, compared to 16 percent Marshall fans. The remaining 12 percent said they weren't sure. With a large majority saying it favored WVU, pollster Rex Repass told the Daily Mail he was surprised to see 76 percent of those polled saying they wanted the two teams to continue to play.
WVU fans on online message boards and social media are aggressive in calling for no future games between the schools. Repass said the broader sampling made it clear where public opinion lies.
"We've all seen and read the chat boards and comments," Repass said. "But those tend to be the shrill voices and the loud voices, but it's not necessarily representative. Among sports fans, there is passion for those two schools to play each other on a regular basis.
"Of course, athletic departments are not run by public opinion surveys, but it clearly is a high level of interest."
Marshall Athletic Director Mike Hamrick has been consistently vocal on the Herd's desire to continue the in-state series. WVU Athletic Director Oliver Luck has said the Mountaineers have other regional interests in future non-conference scheduling, including Pitt and Maryland.
The West Virginia Poll sample also had a strong opinion on how the series should play out.
Repass said it was "surprising that the vast majority -- eight out of 10 -- believe those two schools should be playing a home-and-home series. It's overwhelming."
Just 5 percent favored playing the game two years in a row in Morgantown, followed by one year in Huntington. Only 2 percent liked the idea of three games in Morgantown followed by one in Huntington. Six percent said all games should be played at WVU. The remaining 4 percent weren't sure which pattern they preferred.
The poll also revealed that younger West Virginians are more likely to be Marshall fans than older residents.
WVU dominated in the 35-and-over crowd: 80 percent of those ages 35-54; 81 percent of those ages 55-64; and 70 percent of those 65 and older. However, WVU fans made up 52 percent of sports fans ages 18-34. Marshall fans were at 30 percent.
Repass said that represents a significant demographic shift in the fan support. He said that showed that Marshall's success in the 1990s and growth as a Division I school over the past two decades has raised the profile of the Herd.
"Fan bases are built on wins, and Marshall's had success, more so than ever since the early 1990s," the Daily Mail quoted Repass. "That appears to have some impact on younger people in the state, who seem to be following Marshall more."