From the Cheap Seats: How Bad is WVU's Image? - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

From the Cheap Seats: How Bad is WVU's Image?

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We're about two weeks removed from the Pitt and Syracuse ACC announcement that caused the conference realignment mess to blow up and there are still not many answers about the future for WVU.  If you listen to the experts and/or message boards, one day we're staying in the Big East and adding new schools to the conference, the next we're headed to the SEC or Big 12.            

Nothing's become official yet, but one thing that keeps coming up in the discussion is WVU's image, when it comes to both academics and fan behavior.  Our region, in general, and our state have had an image problem as long as they've existed.  We have to admit that some of it is deserved, while a lot is simple ignorance from outsiders.  That aside, those image issues follow anything associated with West Virginia, including its flagship university.            

Outside of the general Appalachian stereotype, WVU has its own image concerns: party school reputation, couch burning, profane T-shirts, object-hurling fans and now violence.  The academics shouldn't be an issue.  There are tons of very intelligent people from all over the world who go through WVU and like any other public school(and many private ones), there are some people who, for whatever reason, can't cut it.  As the gentleman who wrote this points out very well, WVU has the stats to back it up.            

The real issue is the behavior.  The immediate defense from most Mountaineer fans(I'm guilty of this too) is to say that other schools have badly behaved fans too.  It is true that there are nasty fans outside of Morgantown.  At Maryland alone, I've been hit with lit firecrackers, witnessed students light fires in campus parking lots and have seen fans wearing shirts laced with profanity.  At South Florida, fans pushed my friend's pregnant wife.  I've heard plenty of things come out of Pitt fans' mouths that would make many a sailor blush.  I can't count the number of times I've heard fans using vulgar chants at other schools and said to myself, "Well at least we're not the only ones."  Ok, so it's not just us, and in some cases it's the schools who are turning their noses up at us, but does that make it ok?            

Are we as Mountaineer fans just numb to it because it's what we're used to, or do we just get a bad rap because of the actions of a minority?  The answer is probably some of both.  There are tens of thousands of Mountaineer fans who go to games and don't contribute to any of the problems.  There are fans though, most of them young and students, who apply an "anything goes" mentality to Morgantown.  We have to admit, that to some extent, anything does go in the University City.  Officials have done a good job cracking down on the fires, but there still aren't that many cities in the country where you can walk around with an open container of your favorite alcoholic beverage, park dozens of cars in your front yard and be drunk in public without much fear of being ticketed or hauled off to jail, just because it's game day.  All of these things are technically illegal in Morgantown, but how do you enforce them when 50,000 to 70,000 people descend on the city?

Language is an issue in itself.  Spend time around even middle school students these days and you'll probably be surprised at what flies out of their mouths.  By the time these kids get to college they've got a vocabulary that would make Andrew Dice Clay jealous.  The students spend the majority of their time, in dorms, apartments and bars with other students who talk the same way and aren't offended by it.  When they get to the stadium or the Coliseum, many of them forget that other people at the games don't live the same lifestyle.  This is an issue nationwide, but some of our fans take it to another level at times.     

There are two big questions that come out of all of this.  The first is: what can be done about these issues?  Short of vastly increasing the number of law enforcement/security personnel at the games, I don't know how you control a lot of this.  The other thing about it is that some of the behavior is simply distasteful, not illegal.  I really don't know how you enforce taste.  I do know that the more you try to tell most college students what to do, the more they want to do the opposite.

The second big question is: are our fans really that different from fans of other schools, particularly the ACC and SEC, and is that a reason to keep us out of a conference?  I've only had the opportunity to attend one game on an SEC campus and I don't remember the atmosphere being particularly good or bad.  I've heard stories from lots of opposing fans after visiting Morgantown.  Many have nothing but good things to say, others have horror stories.  While it would be easy to say that is what life is, good and bad, Mountaineer fans should probably collectively make an effort to make sure more of those visiting fans' memories end up on the good side of the equation.  Let's leave the beatings to the scoreboard.

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