While sitting at FedEx Field on Saturday, I was worried that West Virginia’s first home game outside Mountaineer Field was poorly attended. At least that’s how it appeared. It looked half empty because it was half empty. But you have to remember FedEx Field has a capacity of 91,704 for Redskin’s games. It turns out, attendance was 45,511, far greater than anticipated according to Mike Casazza of the Charleston Daily Mail. Game attendance at Maryland’s home games just a few miles away in college park was only 35,491. Pretty impressive that the Mountaineers have a bigger draw in the DC area than the Terrapins. And the Mountaineers had nearly as many people in attendance as Pitt did in its home upset of highly-ranked Virginia Tech, a game where I wish both teams could have lost. I have to give JMU fans credit here, they were there in large numbers (I’m guessing 10-15000), were loud when they needed to be, partied hard before the game, and many of them stuck it out until the end. It bugged me that the JMU band is bigger than the Pride of West Virginia. Some JMU fans near me said their band has grown rapidly over the past several years. It still bugs me!
West Virginia gave up a home game in Morgantown have the game at FedEx Field, something I don’t think they had to give up for next year’s game against Maryland at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore (Sept. 21, 2013). WVU says it made more money by having a game in DC (Maryland really) than it does for a home game and also gains additional exposure to the Washignton, DC/Baltimore markets. I’m really not sure how much additional exposure we got other than people who are already West Virginia or JMU fans…it seems the DC area media barely mentioned the game. It may have made the game more attractive for local recruits. I don’t know the financial details, but I’m sure it was the local Morgantown businesses who lost on this.
The West Virginia University Alumni Association, the National Capital Area and Baltimore alumni chapters hosted an official WVU Alumni tailgate party which was attended by WVU President James Clements and had appearances by the West Virginia Cheerleaders and the Mountaineer. They had the event on private property adjacent to FedEx Field parking lots because the demands by the Redskins were not suitable. The Redskins require organizations to use the Redskin’s vendors and guarantee high numbers of attendees. Using the Redskins facilities and vendors would have meant $9 beers outside the stadium. The decision to have the party on a nearby private lot was a good one with 500-600 fans, friends and alumni in attendance (WVU Alumni tailgate photos here). The alumni groups looked at this as a rehearsal for 2016 when BYU plays against West Virginia at FedEx Field, a game that could draw far more fans. WVU was designated as the home team for this game, but that was under contract to the Big East Conference. With West Virginia out of the Big East and now in the Big 12, I don’t know what happened to the contract, but as far as I know the game is still on.
One funny note from the game: During the West Virginia vs JMU game, an ad for Virginia Tech was aired on the HD Video screens. All 45,000+ fans, JMU and WVU fans, protested by continuous booing during the entire length of the commercial.
James Madison showed a lot of heart, but the Mountaineers won easily (as they should have) 42-12. Geno Smith had another great game to keep himself atop the Heisman conversations and the WVU defense showed signs of considerable improvement. As with every home game, most Mountaineer fans stayed in until the very end so they could sing Country Roads at FedEx Field.
Next up the Maryland Terrapins visit Morgantown for a sold out game at Mountaineer Field on Saturday, September 22. Kickoff is set for noon. The game will be televised by FX Networks.