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Pruett MAC move is fair

by Rob Peirce

SPORTS WRITER

Some might think the Mid-American Conference is trying to take its football championship game away from Marshall and the city of Huntington.

That's fine by Thundering Herd coach Bob Pruett, because the way he sees it, Marshall will be playing in the game, anyway.

The MAC title game was initiated in 1997 to determine who will play in the Motor City Bowl. All four years, it has been in Marshall Stadium, and all four years, the Herd have come away victors.

Last week, the MAC changed all that -- at least the first part. In a vote by the council of MAC presidents, the 2001 title game will be held at the campus of the West Division champion.

"The conference has been very appreciative and grateful of the game in Huntington," MAC commissioner Rick Chryst said. "But there's been a feeling that we needed to move it around a little bit."

Despite the fact that Marshall, if in the game, won't have home-field advantage, Pruett says the move is fair.

"It's been on our side for four years," he said. "It should move around. But it should stay on campus."

And that's where the MAC disagrees. The move is only temporary, Chryst said. Ultimately, the game will move to a neutral site. But where it goes is the question. Right now, the site of the 2002 game is up in the air.

"It has to be the right neutral site," Chryst said. "(Until then), I'm optimistic about how it'll do on a campus site."

There are three front-runners for a neutral site. Fawcett Stadium in Canton, Ohio, was the favorite, because of its proximity to MAC headquarters in Cleveland.

Also on the list are Cincinnati's Paul Brown Stadium, home of the Bengals, and Detroit's new Ford Field. Attendance and atmosphere is important in selecting a neutral site, Chryst said.

But in that case, Pruett says the game would be better served on campus and should rotate between the East and West Divisional champions.

"If Marshall's not in the game, there might be people dressed as empty seats, because other teams don't travel too well," he said.

Sports writer Rob Peirce can be reached at 626-1444 or by e-mail at sports@exponent-telegram.com.

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