Neutral-site game lets D.C.-area fans in on WVU action
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - More than 20,000 West Virginia University alumni and fans are expected to show up Saturday at FedEx Field, just outside Washington, D.C., as the Mountaineers play a rare neutral-site football game.
WVU athletic director Oliver Luck inked a deal with Football Championship Subdivision James Madison University in July 2011 to play the Dukes at the Washington Redskins' home stadium in Landover, Md.
The deal guarantees WVU a $2.3 million payout.
The game also will allow a large group of out-of-state fans to see their alma mater in action.
"The Baltimore-Washington, D.C. area is one of the larger areas for WVU alums," said Matt Wells, assistant athletic director for marketing and sales.
The National Capital Area Chapter of the WVU Alumni Association hosts several keynote events for the university each year.
For 35 years, the chapter has hosted the state's congressional delegation and DC-area alumni at the Alumni Luncheon on Capitol Hill.
WVU President Jim Clements presented the State of the University address at the luncheon in the Washington Court Hotel.
The National Capital and Baltimore alumni chapters are hosting an alumni tailgate event before Saturday's game.
Wells said the organizations helped drive WVU's ticket sales.
"We worked very closely with them in terms of promoting the game," he said. "The alumni association did a great job of promoting it."
While more WVU fans will attend this game than most other away games, the stadium will be far from sold out.
James Madison sold about 7,000 tickets through its university ticket office.
Wells said the WVU ticket office sold about 9,650 tickets to WVU fans. With about 900 more tickets used for the Pride of West Virginia marching band, coaches' and players' families and recruits, WVU will fill about 10,600 seats.
Tickets also were sold through the Redskins' ticket office and through online specials at discount sites like Living Social.
About 30,000 total tickets have been sold, well below the stadium's capacity of about 85,000.
Wells expected the majority of those who show up Saturday will be wearing gold and blue.
"I expect that we'll have a little bit more than 20,000 Mountaineer fans at the game," he said.
But even though the field is inside the Washington, D.C., beltway, some of the state's most prominent Mountaineer fans likely will not be present.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., will be in Wheeling on Saturday hosting a roundtable event to discuss prescription drug abuse and its effect on high school students. He'll speak at the Ohio County Jefferson-Jackson Dinner that night.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., likely will miss the game.
Manchin spokeswoman Emily Bittner said he would like to attend to help honor his friend and former Mountaineer Sam Huff, who will be recognized by Clements and Luck after the first quarter.
But Bittner said the Senate is scheduled to hold several key votes on a jobs package for veterans throughout the day Saturday. The votes are currently scheduled for 7:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.
"The senator is hoping to be at all of those," Bittner said. "His priority is to vote for the Veterans Job Corps Act, particularly for the vote on its final passage."
Bittner said if the schedule changes, Manchin may try to go to Fairmont to attend the funeral or wake for Ron Radcliff, a longtime friend who served as Workforce West Virginia director when Manchin was governor.
The viewing is scheduled for Friday and the funeral at 11 a.m. Saturday.
Contact writer Jared Hunt at email@example.com or 304-348-5148.