|Marshall's home game with W.Va. a thrill for ex-coach Pruett|
|Written by Admin|
|Tuesday, 04 September 2007 09:19|
``There's green,'' Pruett said, heading to another table covered in Marshall's signature color, where he immediately launched into a fishing story with a funny twist.
Pruett's humor is as sharp as ever, the bounce in his step just as big as the Thundering Herd prepare to host No. 3 West Virginia on Saturday.
For Pruett, who retired after the 2004 season, it will be a highlight following years of lobbying.
West Virginia comes to town for the first time since 1915. It will be the first-ever sellout at Marshall's 38,019-seat stadium.
It will be Bob Pruett's game. The one he wanted all these years.
``I'm just thrilled for our fans,'' Pruett said at a recent event where he appeared with ex-WVU coach Don Nehlen to promote the game. ``People didn't think this game would ever happen in Huntington.''
It was Pruett who kept the issue afloat after Marshall went to Morgantown in 1997 for the first meeting between the schools since 1923.
The schools had an agreement to play four consecutive years in Morgantown, but Marshall backed out of the arrangement from 1998 to 2000, leaving WVU to play Tulsa, Miami of Ohio and Idaho, according to WVU athletic director Ed Pastilong.
Pruett led a public campaign to resume the series with a game in Huntington.
He often took jabs at WVU officials and coaches who previously made it clear they weren't going to play in Marshall's smaller stadium. ``They don't want to get whooped,'' Pruett once said.
On another occasion he suggested WVU was afraid.
``If you're scared, get a dog,'' Pruett said.
Finally, Gov. Joe Manchin, a friend of Pruett's and a WVU alumnus, met with the schools' athletic directors in 2005 to work out a seven-game contract that included at least two games in Huntington. Pruett wasn't there, but Manchin has said Pruett was a constant lobbyist.
``The governor did it,'' Pruett said. ``You've got to give credit to (athletic director) Bob Marcum and the people at Marshall. Hopefully I had something to do with it. We've certainly pushed hard for it by keeping it on the front burner in everybody's talk.''
West Virginia won a year ago 42-10 before a crowd of 61,077 in Morgantown. The game moves back to Morgantown next year, and WVU can earn home field for the fourth game if it wins on Saturday. If not, the winner of next year's game will host the 2009 contest.
``Bob kept pushing play, play, play. And you can't blame him,'' Nehlen said. ``When I was at Bowling Green, I wanted to play Ohio State. They didn't want to play me. Bob Pruett was doing what he should have done.''
It was fair for Marshall to get the chance to host a few games in the series, Nehlen said.
``Don't misunderstand me. West Virginia's got a bigger stadium,'' he said. ``And if we're going to play Marshall, I think more games ought be played at West Virginia than Marshall just because of the size of the stadium. But I also think West Virginia should go to Marshall now and then, too.''
Nehlen retired after the 2000 season and Pruett followed suit in March 2005. Each is the winningest coach in his school's history.
Both plan to attend Saturday's game in a private box. Pruett and Nehlen have promoted the Marshall-WVU series through the Friends of Coal, the educational arm of the West Virginia Coal Association.
``It's nice to go to these coal meetings with a football guy, because I don't know what they're talking about and neither does Bob. So we get along well,'' Nehlen said. ``We have a good time together. He is a fun guy. I've always told him he missed his calling. He should have been a doggone comedian. He has more jokes than anyone I've ever met in my life.''