Don’t you remember the days when you could just go to a ballgame and not worry about what color you are wearing, who you might encounter, or what may happen to you during the game? In a world of Brian Stow, Raiders and 49ers fans killing each other in and around the stadium, the world doesn’t need any more fan horror stories. So before any of your Cardinal fans travel down to Morgantown this weekend, there are a few things you should know.
Now before I go into this, it’s important to note that the MAJORITY of the fans of the Mountaineers are what you would expect out of fans. They are kind, compassionate, and just want to root on their team like a normal fanbase would be. However, the MINORITY of their fans that cause problems are in a greater number proportionate than normal. And those ‘bad apples’ are more noticeable and outlandish than the good people that make up the majority of the Mountaineer fanbase. I’ve traveled to Morgantown twice for Louisville games and both times there were fans that would come up to me going out of their way to make me feel welcome and safe. That doesn’t happen anywhere else, and it happens because their fanbase is a known issue and the good fans are trying to make up for the bad ones. Unfortunately though, by the time you encounter several of their more unsophisticated fans, your guard will be up dealing with anyone wearing Blue and Gold.
I could write this piece a lot of different ways, but I’m not going to do any name calling or use any hyperbole at all. I’m going to speak ONLY on published reports and my personal experiences that I can draw from. West Virginia is a beautiful part of the country and the University is deserving, but a certain segment of their fanbase is a public safety concern, and this piece is to educate any of Cardinal Nation who might be traveling to Morgantown this weekend about what they can expect, and any future opponents who might also make their way to Morgantown. So here we go:
Earlier this year vs. LSU, a Pittsburgh man (who is a LSU fan) was attacked in traffic and beaten. Also his wife, who is 22 weeks pregnant had a rock thrown through her window, the rock landed in her lap along with all of the broken glass, and was also thrown to the ground while trying to stop the attack. Two passengers in the back seat of the car they were riding in were also attacked as well. You can read the whole account here in the Charleston Daily Mail.
This isn’t the first time this pyro-crazy fan base has been accused of violence or misbehavior. After ANY game that happens in Morgantown you can go to their fan forums or the forums of the team they play and hear a myriad of fan accounts of how the visiting fans were abused verbally, assaulted, prompted into physical violence, and just a general disgust with the treatment they received in Morgantown.
I have had my share of experiences with WVU fans at Milan Puskar Stadium. I attended the Louisville vs. WVU game in Morgantown in 2005 and 2007. I can honestly say that I met one group of fans that made the 2007 trip worthwhile, but I thought I was lucky to make it out of the 2005 game with my life.
My personal experience in 2005 went like this: I was with another guy and 3 girls. 4 of us were dressed in Cardinal Red and we parked along a road at the direction of a parking official and began walking towards the stadium. While doing so there was probably an item hurled out of moving vehicles every 3-4 minutes or so. Bottles, newspaper, cups, fast food bags, etc. Nothing made contact, but it was thrown in our direction and was obviously on purpose. I’ve been all over the country following the Cardinals, and this is certainly not the norm. Once we were off the main road (I believe it was 705), and were more on campus the treatment changed from anonymous flying objects to direct verbal threats. I’ve experienced this before in various venues, and the general rule is to just keep moving, which we did. The picture next to this is an example of what I am talking about, and is not me or the fan(s) I am talking about.
On the walk over, we had enough of the verbal assault and after asking several West Virginia State Troopers if this was normal and being basically ignored we decided we would try our luck with stadium security and just go into the game early. The problem with this is that the stadium was not open yet, and we were in a long line of UofL fans that had also had enough. What that did was create a quasi-feeding frenzy for the culprits causing all the trouble. Essentially the line to get in through the visiting will call section is lower than the surrounding hill and as a result several youthful WVU fans stood on top of the hill hurling verbal assaults and occasionally more trash in the direction of the line. Also, there were several times where they actually came down into the hill and attempted to cut line, or draw people (mostly elderly and people that would not want to draw into a physical confrontation) into a actual physical confrontation. The West Virginia State Police witnessed the entire activity but elected to wait until a physical altercation actually took place rather than trying to restore order.
Thankfully, the stadium was opened and the UofL section was a bit of a haven. Also it was a comfort to see that WVU has the good sense to chain in their student section so as to not allow their youthful enthusiasm to roam the concourses or visit other parts of the stadium. Even so, a few did make their way into the Louisville section. Once there they basically tried to stand in front of people, get in other people’s seats and refuse to move until security was called, and were generally annoying trying to cause a problem.
The game did not help my exit. As some of you may recall the Cardinals rolled up a huge lead on the Mountaineers and folded late under the breakout performances from Pat White and Steve Slaton and a lot of the departed fans came streaming back from the parking lot and surrounding areas to witness the come back and WVU eventually won in overtime. Riding a high of confidence and booze my walk out of Mountaineer Field and to my car was beyond anything I have ever experienced. Beyond the verbal assaults, more throwing of objects, and the direct confrontations were even more brazen. Luckily I linked up with an undercover police officer and though it did not stop the threatened violence, they did back off when they saw the badge throughout the walk back to the car.
Once back to the car we all exhaled and looked at each other like we just got out of an extremely dangerous situation. Before we were able to pull out, we noticed a piece of paper on the windshield. That paper: White Supremacy Literature that detailed the importance of getting more white players on the West Virginia football team. This was after a game where Pat White (who is black) replaced a virtually useless white QB and Steve Slaton (also black) single-handedly won the game in comeback fashion for the Mountaineers.
In 2007, I had a different tactic. Instead of wearing Cardinal Red, my father and I dressed in black with our Cardinal gear not visible underneath and decided to change once inside the stadium. This was purely to avoid aggression and activities I had to endure two years prior. Also I had linked up with a WVU fan online after sharing my experiences after 2005, and he vowed to show me a better time. Ron absolutely did show me a better time. We parked in a different place, we were anonymous as we walked through the crowds, and we had a good time with Ron at his tailgate.
It was hard, however, to not notice the general behavior of a huge number of WVU fans (mostly young) who are literally out of control. Beer bottles are broken as they are finished directly onto the asphalt. The groups of college girls actually walk arm in arm so as to not get boys to single them out of the line. Once with my fellow Card fans it was obvious nothing had changed from 2005 except for the fact that I was not wearing red for them to target this time. With my Cardinal red on inside the stadium, the abuse started to rain down. I was sitting on the last row of the lower level and a few items were tossed into our section from the lower concourse. But, other folks had worse times than I did. Most of the stories were a lot like the ones I had endured two years previous. But I’m going to stick with what I know for sure.
The LSU Game
Prior to WVU’s game vs. LSU WVU Athletic Director Oliver Luck asked the Mountaineer fanbase to not wear vulgarities on their shirts after it was clear that there was a large number of the “West *&!$ Virginia” shirts were produced for the LSU game. See Article Photo. The shirt was replaced with a more “tasteful” variety (tasteful when you consider the original). If you can’t see the photo on your screen, let me help you. The front of the shirt in a West Virginia State shape says, “Kicking A$$ Since 1863″. The back of the shirt in a Louisiana State shape says, “Relying on FEMA Since 2005″ in direct reference to the tragedy that was Hurricane Katrina. I don’t think the “buyback program” instituted for the original shirt was intended for these.
As sick as this is, I’m actually not surprised. There really is nothing out of bounds for this fanbase. Burning couches? No problem! Pushing down pregnant women after throwing a rock through the window and beating her husband into the hospital? Check! The fact that the Athletic Director has to spend one ounce of his energy to ask his fanbase to not wear vulgar T-Shirts is abhorrent. As members of humanity it should be automatically understood that is not acceptable, but in West Virginia a certain segment of the population has yet to learn even basic human dignity. I wonder if Oliver Luck needs to explain to not cause property damage, violently beat visitors, or assault pregnant women. It seems there are more problems in Wild and Wonderful West Virginia than the Mountaineers might care to admit. The LSU game was not the first T-Shirt controversy of the season, earlier this year there were Shirts printed prior to the Marshall game with “We WERE Marshall” and on the back was a picture depicting the Marshall plane crash in November of 1970.
The Blame Lies with the WVU Administration. Props to Oliver Luck for heading off a PR nightmare for the school during last week’s College GameDay, but the University President needs to step in and put all of this non-sense to an end. To be fair, current University President James Clements has not been on the job long, and Mike Garrison and Peter McGrath were not in the position very long prior to Clements arrival. David Hardesty held the position from 1995-2007, which was the time frame I visited. This mentality and behavior from the fan base didn’t happen overnight. But it needs to be reigned in immediately. From my experience the Police employed to work these events and have a sworn oath to protect public safety are not doing their jobs. President Clements and Col. C.R. “Jay” Smithers (Colonel of WV’s state police) need to have a meeting where Clements asks Smithers to have his guys do their job, and President Clements needs to make sure the individuals are prosecuted and if they are students expelled.
I’m all for fan creativity. I wouldn’t want to squash that out of the WVU fanbase. What I would like to squash is the violent and lawless behavior that occurs on Saturday’s on campus inside and around Mountaineer Field. It’s an abomination that this is even a topic of discussion. On TV, the scene on College GameDay for the LSU game was fantastic, something an outsider would want to be a part of and experience. But as evidenced from what happened in traffic outside the stadium, it probably isn’t a place or situation that you would want to subject yourself to.
Bottomline, criminals need to be arrested & prosecuted just like any other day. And those who have ties to WVU through enrollment or donation need to have those ties cut. The people who aren’t connected to the university and cause problems should have restraining orders levied so that they are breaking the law by even being there if they are found to be breaking the law during a Mountaineer football game. Until the laws are enforced and punishment for acting like a total buffoon and embarrassing a good university is handed down this behavior will not stop. If I were President Clements I would aggressively put this kind of behavior in the rear view mirror and start re-establishing his school’s good name.
Also, every ticket to every game is a revokable license. The Administration should begin ejecting and not admitting those with vulgarities on their clothing. Until the fans see consequences for soiling the universities reputation this will never end. Unfortunately there are a lot of fans (definitely not all of them) that need their hands held and taught manners.
Bottomline, there seems to be a disconnect from the segment of the West Virginia fanbase that I have been referring to on respecting your opponent, the game, their school, etc. It’s all about respect. Without your opponent there is no West Virginia Football, there isn’t a game. Why soil that relationship with your opponents and alienate your opposing fans week after week when they traveled to Morgantown trying to have good time, support their team, and experience a new college atmosphere? Why ruin that? Why not become ambassadors for your school?
There are other examples
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s_n9jAWwkzM&feature=youtube_gdata_player (unable to embed for some reason)
WVU Fans Take Issue with a Georgia Student Newspaper writer
-Here is a link to Deadspin.com where Deadspin outlines the abuse a University of Georgia writer for the student newspaper takes abuse for describing her experiences with West Virginia fans at the 2006 Sugar Bowl. The original story has been deleted (for reasons I can’t determine) but the writer Lauren Morgan did a follow-up piece which described the abuse and harassment that followed her column. Ms. Morgan describes her on-line stalking as physical threats, sexual harassment, via e-mail and phone calls. WVU fans fervently e-mailed University Administrators, her boss, demanding action be taken. They found out all of her information (pictures, resumes`, phone numbers, e-mail addresses) and shared it and encouraged their fan base to antagonize her.
Kind of makes you wish the Red & Black still hosted the story so you can read it. To be fair, Ms. Morgan did take some jabs at the West Virginia stereotypes while describing her experience in the Superdome on January 2, 2006. It is sometimes easy to get the ‘low hanging fruit’ while trying to get your point across. Ms. Morgan had a bad experience and wanted to share her interactions, but also went and categorized the WVU fanbase without talking about her direct experiences with the fans, generalized West Virginia people, and had to suffer the whirlwind.
Basketball Fans on TV
Here is an article that outlines the WVU basketball fans during a stretch of bad basketball behavior. In the article, the author notes audible curse words being loudly chanted at Ohio State’s Evan Turner, Jamie Dixon, and then later the throwing of items (bottles T-Shirts, coins) on the floor and an assistant coach getting hit with some of those objects. The Administration came out after this incident and said: “Boorish and unruly behavior by our fans will not be tolerated. It is a shame that a terrific performance by our team was overshadowed by the unfortunate actions of a few fans.” A statement went on to add that WVU officials are: “appalled and embarrassed by the fan behavior.”
It’s really easy to get this one out there because there is so much in one published article! In this one from SunSentinel.com in October 1998, UM DB Nate Brooks talks about his previous interaction in 1996 with WVU Fans and also about how Randy Shannon was hit in the head by a 55-gallon plastic garbage can thrown from the stands. Shannon sued the school, and Brooks was talking about how just before Shannon was hit with the 55-gallon garbage can he was almost hit by an unopened can of beer. In 1993, UM players were hit with cups of tobacco juice after a WVU win. In 1994, Miami defeated West Virginia and the UM players wore their helmets to the locker room due to being constantly spat on through the tunnel. In 1998 vs. Maryland the Mountaineers were penalized twice for throwing objects onto the field.
WVU and Virginia Tech have a long history of playing each other for the Black Diamond Trophy. The final game of the series was in 2005 and Frank Beamer has been quoted that his team will not play at Milan Puskar again. WVU will say this is because VT went to the ACC. But I don’t think Beamer and VT is scared of playing a traditional rival, I think they just don’t want to go through the abuse that the team had to endure in their last encounter that had a ton of racial assaults directed towards Marcus Vick and objects thrown on the field at the end of the game.
Now I’m not going to defend Marcus Vick……EVER. That guy is complete trash too. Vick elbowed a WVU coach in the game on purpose, and later in the Gator Bowl he stomped on Elvis Dumervil’s leg. Vick is complete trash, and he would enrage anyone. But this is just another example.
Published Articles that Express their Distaste in WVU fans
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zLqNQqpM3JY (unable to embed for some reason)
EVENTS AFTER ORIGINAL POST
After West Virginia’s first Big 12 game, a win vs. Baylor, police had to respond to 7 street fires. The blazes spread to 3 vehicles and destroyed them, and caused damage to one home. Estimated damage $35,000. Link to USAToday article.