When it was announced that the Syracuse Orange would not be putting the Schwartzwalder Trophy on the line against the West Virginia Mountaineers, I derided the decision. A lot of WVU fans wrote to tell me they appreciate it and were on the same page with me. That felt horrible. I wanted to do something to rectify the situation and get those WVU fans back on the other side against me so we can properly hate one another. This should do it.
West Virginia started playing football in 1891. They lost their first-ever game to Washington & Jefferson 72-0. Since then, things have improved.
West Virginia now sits at 14th all-time in Division 1 with 708 wins. They're ten wins ahead of the No. 15, Syracuse (698). They have fifteen conference championships, fourteen bowl victories and a whole host of accolades, awards and trophies.
What they do not have is a national championship. And they are the only school in the Top 15 in wins all-time that don't have one.
Another thing you can add to that list? A Heisman Trophy winner. WVU has never had one of those either, making them one of only two schools in the Top 15 with the empty spot in their trophy case (along with Tennessee).
In other words, West Virginia walks among the greats, but it is not great. West Virginia dines with the Gods, but it is not itself God-like. West Virginia is a program among the elites...but it is not elite. And it certainly is not as elite as it thinks it is.
They are Jack Shepard but they are Jack Shepard before he got to the island.
Stick West Virginia is a big game that doesn't matter, like last year's Orange Bowl, and they can throw down with the very best in the nation.
Stick West Virginia in a game that matters, and, well, this happens.
They're the Houston Oilers of the early 90's. College football's Greg Norman. Dominique Wilkins' Atlanta Hawks. Patrick Ewing's Knicks. Whichever one works for you, it still works.
Let that information color the way you remember West Virginia fans during their exodus to the Big 12. They spoke with such disgust for their fellow Big East compatriots. They looked down on the rest of the conference with a superiority. Nevermind that they only won the Big East outright twice, which is the same amount as Syracuse. They certainly did.
Remember all of this when you remember Joe Madsen's comments when WVU finally left the Big East behind:
"I hate to say it," the senior center said, "but we kind of put it in neutral in some games we played last year in the Big East. There were teams like Syracuse where you thought, 'OK, we beat them so many times.' "
In a way, it encapsulates everything about West Virginia Football. It's smug, superior and completely ignores reality.
Finally, think of all of this when you remember the way West Virginia fans reacted to the announcement that they would be playing Syracuse in the Pinstripe Bowl. Syracuse was an "inferior" opponent. "A program like West Virginia" shouldn't be in a bowl like this. They "deserved" better.
That's West Virginia Football. They'll get you 10 wins. They'll put up points. They'll win you a bowl game. And they'll point to all of that as proof they are among the nation's great programs.
But great programs win National Titles and Heisman Trophies. And only one school playing in the Pinstripe Bowl have them...