Chuck McGill: Marshall, WVU ADs put prints on schedules
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It's the Mountain State versus the Atlantic Coast Conference this Saturday.
West Virginia and Maryland take the 50th "Border Battle" up the beltway to the Baltimore Ravens' home duds, M&T Bank Stadium. This is the fourth of eight uninterrupted years of play between the college football neighbors, who have a contract that runs through the 2017 season.
The Mountaineers and Terrapins will certainly play again after that, but when? WVU Athletic Director Oliver Luck and Maryland Athletic Director Kevin Anderson will surely sit down this weekend and discuss the possibility of continuing the series, perhaps in 2021 or 2022.
"We want games against sort of the old gang," Luck said Tuesday afternoon, "but scheduling is a bilateral task."
Meanwhile, Marshall travels to Blacksburg, Va., for the final game of a 2-for-1 series with Terps leaguemate Virginia Tech. It is one of the Herd's two remaining series not scheduled by fifth-year MU Athletic Director Mike Hamrick, who has fancied home-and-home deals since he took over in 2009.
The "Battle for the Bell" games against Ohio University scheduled for next season and 2015 represent the last of the work of Bob Marcum, Hamrick's predecessor.
You'll likely see more of Hamrick's scheduling philosophy as future slates take shape, including a yet-to-be-announced series with East Carolina. The Pirates leave Conference USA after this season, but the hunch here is the Herd's longtime football counterpart will appear on future schedules.
It is doubtful Marshall fans will see another series like the one ending this Saturday. Virginia Tech sandwiched home games - 2009 in Blacksburg and this season - around the Hokies' 2011 visit to Huntington.
Hamrick, however, has brokered deals for home-and-home series with Louisville, Purdue, Navy and former Mid-American Conference buddies Miami, Akron and Kent State.
A single-game trip to a power conference school isn't out of the question, Hamrick said.
"The only way I would go on the road and be bought is if we had seven home games," he said. "I'm not saying I'll do that, but that's something in 2016 looks like we could have ... we're looking for a road game. We could either start a series or we could go play somebody big."
That place isn't likely to be Morgantown. Luck has three non-conference openings to fill on future schedules and wants "two of those three opponents to be from what we're calling the power five conference schools," he said.
"I want those power five conference schools to be close, our old regional rivals," Luck added. "Maryland certainly qualifies in that category, the Virginia Tech series is back on and we'll shortly have an announcement about Penn State."
The Virginia Tech-WVU series is scheduled for September 2021 and September 2022. Luck doesn't have an opening until 2017.
"We've had some very thorough discussions with U.Va. and Pitt," he said. "We've reached out to a few other neighboring state schools or close by state schools in the so-called power five.
"I'm not sure we'll have anybody on every year. It will be a rotating system between those old rival schools."
How Luck fills the final spot on the schedule each year depends on how the new playoff system evolves. There may be no value in playing a lower-tier opponent from college football's Championship Subdivision.
Luck wouldn't mind seeing more games at so-called neutral sites like this Saturday's game in Baltimore. WVU is scheduled to open next season against Alabama in Atlanta and will play Brigham Young on Sept. 24, 2016 at FedEx Field in Landover, Md.
"The one thing that has changed in the three years that I have been here is how attractive these neutral site games have become," Luck said. "They're usually in the first two weeks of the season and they're almost like bowl games at the beginning of the year."
Don't be stunned if WVU signs on for more of those games in the latter part of the decade and beyond ... as long as the opponents fit the criteria.
"We're staying in touch with the old gang," Luck said. "We're embracing our new conference-mates, but we want to stay in touch with schools that have meant a lot to us."
Contact sports editor Chuck McGill at email@example.com or 304-348-7949. Follow him on Twitter @chuckmcgill.