Mountaineer Mantrip to debut Sunday
West Virginia University's ceremonial Mountaineer Mantrip will debut this Sunday in the Friends of Coal Bowl against intrastate rival Marshall University.
A mantrip is the small train or shuttle coal miners traditionally use to enter and exit an underground mine.
The Mountaineers won't be chugging along to get to Milan Puskar Stadium on Sunday, but they'll be walking from the corner of Don Nehlen and Medical Center drives to the field along the pathway that divides the Blue Lot and the Light Blue Lot.
The idea for the 300-yard march into the stadium is credited to new head Coach Dana Holgorsen, said Matt Wells, WVU's director of sports marketing.
"It's something that Coach Holgorsen wanted to do to bring the team closer to the fans on game day," Wells said.
"He wants to do things to really energize our fan base and to develop a bond between our team and our fans. It gives our fans the chance to be up close and personal on game day, so I think that's an exciting part of this new tradition."
The walk is expected to take 10 to 15 minutes, and organizers hope WVU students and fans will line the path to create a tunnel of enthusiasm.
While lots of interaction among coaches, players, members of the band, cheerleaders, the Mountaineer mascot and fans is expected, Wells says security will be on hand to keep things under control.
The walk could take a bit longer because of all the commotion.
"Obviously, there will be some interacting with fans, so it's hard to say how long exactly it will take," Wells said.
Steve Staffileno, the director of WVU's Mountaineer Maniacs fan support group, says the scene could get wild. He anticipates many members of the group will show up on Sunday.
The Maniacs have about 4,000 members this year.
"It's a new Mountaineer football tradition, and it's gonna get fans excited when they see the players up close and personal. The whole goal here is to get everyone pumped up and fired up before they go into the game, I guess," Staffileno said.
About 35 members of the 350-piece Pride of West Virginia marching band will play the fight song as they walk along with the team and cheerleaders.
WVU Band Director Jay Drury says the band divides into mini versions of itself for occasions like this.
Of course, Holgorsen and most of his staff will make the walk, as well.
But, interaction with fans isn't the only reason for the Mountaineer Mantrip. Making a connection with the state's coal industry is equally important.
"He wanted to do something to tip his hat to the impact that coal has had on this state, and this was a way to tie the two things together and start something as a new Mountaineer tradition," Wells said.
When players reach the east end of the field, they will stop to rub a 350-pound chunk of coal that was delivered by Alpha Natural Resources on Wednesday.
The energy company donated the coal to WVU from the Upper Big Branch mine in Whitesville.
The Mountaineer Mantrip will continue for home games throughout the season and is similar to traditions established by other schools. Marshall players, for example, have walked through a crowd to Joan C. Edwards Stadium for several years.
Notre Dame players tap an historic placard reading "Play Like a Champion Today" before each game.
"There are other college football teams that do things like this, so the team walk itself is not necessarily a unique concept, but the tie to the coal industry certainly is," Wells said.
The buses carrying the players will arrive at the starting point of the Mantrip at 1:10 on Sunday and will begin walking around 1:15, Wells said. Fans are encouraged to show up early.
Contact writer Amber Marra at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4843.