Growing up in Chevy Chase, Maryland, in a family that has large ties to Penn State, and enjoying one Saturday a year at Bryd Stadium in College Park, Maryland, I quickly learned to build a strong hatred for the West Virginia Mountaineers. I remember watching the Mountaineers on national television on Saturday's strongly rooting against them.
Fast forward to the college search.
At this point in my life I knew I wanted to study journalism and wanted to play club hockey. I began my search with those criteria.
Long story short I was reluctantly persuaded to take a day trip to Morgantown, West Virginia, with my mother. In my head there was NO WAY I was going to be going to become a Mountaineer. I did my research and the Journalism school was pretty strong but I grew up hating everything about the Mountaineers.
Pat White and Steve Slaton contributed to a lot of my personal sports anguish and helped build that hatred towards West Virginia.
I set up a date to tour the Journalism school here at West Virginia and being that West Virginia is a big school, I figured I would be a part of a group tour. Upon my arrival, there was not a mortified college searching soul in the building. I arrived at the office and was taken on a one-on-one tour of the Journalism school.
Remember when everyone tells you, "you'll just be a number" at a large university? I have never felt that way here and that one-on-one tour was the start.
After that I was brought back into the office and explained all the journalistic opportunities here at West Virginia University. Those included the D.A., WWVU-FMU92, and freelancing when ESPN and other national networks come to town. My final stop was the West Virginia University School of Journalism Wall of Fame. Seeing all the professional head shots of all the Journalism School Alumni that are reporting around the United States shocked me. I wanted to be on that wall one day.
At that point I ceased my college search. I cancelled my trip to Columbia, South Carolina. I didn't need it. I knew where my best opportunities stood. Academic scholarships to St. Joseph's and LaSalle (only Journalism minors) were turned down.
I was a Mountaineer for life.
That year the Mountaineers made the Final Four. Unfortunately, that was the game De'Sean Butler tore his ACL. I vividly remember watching the game with my family, most specifically my aunt who recently passed away, and how she and I bonded over the Mountaineers. I'll always remember being at football and basketball games and getting a text or two from her about the game. She and I always had a sports bond and even though she is no longer here, we always will.
Cancer can take her away from me but our sports memories will never fade.
The first thing I did on campus was joining the sports staff at the college radio station here at West Virginia, WWVU-FMU92. The greatest career move I have ever made.
My first football game was in 2010 versus Coastal Carolina. I had the time of my life at the first game with friends. I took so many photos and videos. I had never seen an atmosphere like that. The adrenaline was pumping through my veins. The, "Lets go Mountaineers!" chant was incredible. The Pride of West Virginia was mesmerizing.
I then traveled with the Mountaineer Maniacs to Huntington, WV, and saw the Mountaineers take on Marshall. This was the first time I saw the pure beauty that is the state of West Virginia. I remember texting my friends who were from West Virginia on the way there and saying how I was in pure awe.
I had no idea what to expect from the rivalry. I had "herd" about it but never known much about it. That was one of the craziest games I have ever seen. Emotional lows to extreme jubilation when the comeback was completed.
In my four years here, I was able to attend all four games versus the Maryland Terrapins. The games were at home in 2010, at Maryland in 2011, home again in 2012 and then at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland, (I'd like to think this game never happened) in a monsoon in 2013. I am proud that as a West Virginia undergrad, I finished my four years 3-1 versus Maryland, a school and team I now despise as much or more than anyone. Funny how things change!
I attended the home game against Louisiana State University in 2011 and was lucky enough to have had the opportunity to invite my mother. My roommate's father was able to spare a ticket for her. That game day atmosphere was magical. My mom and I attended my roommate's dad's company's tent tailgate by the stadium which had a large contingent of Tigers fans and alumni since they have an office in New Orleans. The best part was the awesome Cajun food they catered the tent party with. Simply amazing. My mom had a blast!
Upon making the Orange Bowl, my two roommates and I booked a trip to attend the game to be there to enjoy the atmosphere and warm weather. Little did we know the Mountaineers would make history. Another unforgettable experience.
I started working for Blue and Gold News in August of 2013 covering the football team and women's soccer team as a video intern. I was able to interview the football players and coaches during their meetings with the press once a week. I covered the women's soccer home games and interviewed players and head coach Nikki Izzo-Brown. An all around fantastic experience. I learned a lot from working with BGN and gained experience interviewing coaches and athletes.
The following two years I continued to attend home Mountaineer football games but I don't really have much to say about them. We all know what has happened to the program since the Orange Bowl win.
This past season my roommate and I traveled to Waco, Texas, to see the Mountaineers take on the Baylor Bears. The experience there was fantastic. Baylor fans are classy but fun people. We tailgated all day and had a blast. The game was obviously a disappointment but being there, meeting and talking with people made up for the West Virginia football team.
West Virginia basketball memories had its ups and its downs. I rushed the court a few times freshman year when the team was good. After that the team went downhill. This year I covered the basketball team as the WWVU-FMU92 Men's Basketball Producer. I attended all but 3 home games. I learned so much about being a sports beat reporter because of it. The experience was huge in my development as a reporter. I was able to interview players and sit in on Bob Huggins' press conferences.
Besides football and basketball, I took a strong liking to the West Virginia Women's Soccer team. In the four years I have attended West Virginia, they have always been dominate. I always felt the students and alumni here under-appreciated them. As someone who is a fan and had the opportunity to cover the team this year, they represent this university better than any other team. Off the field they are all terrific people. Head Coach Nikki Izzo-Brown is not only one of the best coaches in the country; she is a pleasure to be around. She was the first coach I interviewed covering Mountaineers sports and was very welcoming and understanding of my learning curve.
I also had the opportunity to befriend Karoline Szwed. You won't meet someone as nice as her. She's the real life example of the friendly Canadian that you've always heard about. She also has one of the coolest fathers I have ever met. His intensity and dedication to the team is something you wont find anywhere else. He's at every game he can make, even when she wasn't playing (she suffered a career ending knee injury) and always gets the crowd fired up.
You've all heard Francis Silva is one of the best players in program history, but she too is very friendly. Two classmates and I had the opportunity to do a feature piece about her and the team for a capstone class project. She was extremely helpful in allowing us to gain all access to her and the program to perfect the project, which can be seen here.
I've been extremely lucky to have landed two major sports internships in Washington D.C. with NBC Washington and Fox 5. Much of that is in part to the respect West Virginia University's School of Journalism earns throughout the broadcasting industry. I have worked at the Washington Redskins training camp for two straight summers as well as the AT&Tgolf tournament in Bethesda, Maryland. I've assisted a live pregame broadcast at Nationals Stadium and was able to watch the game from the press box.
This past summer I was wearing a WVU shirt while helping a camera man and as Pat White was running off the practice field he saw my shirt while jogging towards me he gave me a, "Lets go!" to which I replied, "Mountaineers!" He said it was a nice shirt and I told him I'm sure the school would give him one and he laughed and shook his head no.
I don't know where I will end up, hopefully as a reporter, but one thing is certain, "Once a Mountaineer, always a Mountaineer." This University, it's teachers, it's students, the state and its people will forever have a place deep inside my heart. I have so much respect and love for West Virginia and its people. I know I speak for my parents in saying the Hirsch family will always be Mountaineers. Whether you are just a fan, an alumni, an employee of the university, or a citizen of this state, what you do in some small way, contributes to my time here which hopefully has lead me to a great broadcasting career.
For those of you I was lucky enough to cross paths with along the way or contributed to my time at WVU, I say thank you, as well.
Montani Semper Liberi
William Anthony Hirsch