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WVU, Herd to talk

Pastilong says game not likely until 2003

The Associated Press

MORGANTOWN -- West Virginia and Marshall could play each other again in football if the NCAA agrees to expand regular season schedules to 12 games, said WVU Athletic Director Ed Pastilong.

"If the 12th game were to take place, depending upon what their conference and our conference requirements are -- and I say that keeping in mind that Connecticut may come into our conference -- there's a possibility we could play Marshall in 2003," Pastilong said.

"I believe 2003 is the first year the 12th-game option would be available," he said.

West Virginia plays in the Big East, Marshall in the Mid-American Conference.

In a recent letter to the presidents of both schools, John Hoblitzell, a member of the state University System of West Virginia board, says he believes either the board or the Legislature could legally mandate that the game be played.

His letter suggested the two schools work out an agreement on their own if the 12th-game option becomes available.

The teams met last season for the first time in 74 years -- a roller-coaster 42-31 West Virginia victory before a sellout crowd at Mountaineer Field.

Talk of regular rematches, however, has inspired little enthusiasm among WVU officials.

Pastilong first blamed Marshall for backing out of an earlier four-game agreement and has since said commitments to the Big East, plus an annual game against Maryland, would make it difficult to schedule Marshall.

When Marshall President J. Wade Gilley proposed an annual game at Charleston's Laidley Field, Pastilong and WVU President David Hardesty criticized Gilley for "grandstanding" and said his proposal was "fraught with problems."

Hoblitzell said he's been embarrassed by the lack of cooperation between the two schools.

Hardesty said he's told Pastilong to meet with Hoblitzell "to acquaint him with the issues" and to talk with Marshall Athletic Director Lance West.

"... I have told Eddie that if the schedule opens up and he can find terms, we would be willing to try and work out a schedule that includes Marshall," Hardesty said.

Hoblitzell offered a proposal in which two of every three games would be played in Morgantown until Marshall Stadium's seating capacity (30,000) is comparable to Mountaineer Field (65,000).

Pastilong said he would only discuss playing in Morgantown, and that WVU wouldn't guarantee more than $200,000 to Marshall. Marshall received a $300,000 guarantee in 1997. He said he has not spoken with Marshall officials recently.

Most WVU graduates who approach him say they don't want the Mountaineers to play Marshall, Pastilong said.

"'They're pleased that we played the game, but some indicate that this game in some respects is divisive. They would prefer to root for both schools," he said.