West Virginia University athletics, especially Mountaineer football, have been fortunate with a traveling fan base that follows their favorite team to road games across the country.
With neutral-site games popping up on West Virginia football schedules in recent years and plans for more in the future, the fan base now follows the football team to more locations away from Morgantown in addition to road games against Big 12 Conference members.
What if, instead of a one-off game like against the Alabama Crimson Tide this year, West Virginia played a rival school in a yearly neutral site game instead of playing in Morgantown or at the opponent's campus stadium? There are plenty of examples of it working across college football.
Big 12 rivals Texas Longhorns and Oklahoma Sooners just agreed to an extension that will keep their Red River Showdown at Dallas' Cotton Bowl stadium through 2025. Similarly, the Florida Gators and Georgia Bulldogs of the Southeastern Conference have made their game in Jacksonville a yearly occasion for the city since the first in 1933.
Why couldn't West Virginia do the same as those programs with one of the program's many rivals in a yearly neutral-site game?
The process of finding a rival beneficial for West Virginia to play at a neutral-site is a bit tougher task than the proposed idea. Virginia Tech wouldn't be an option being so close to Morgantown and no major stadium between the two programs, not to mention the scheduled home-and-home series in 2021-2022.
Pitt also wouldn't be an option for West Virginia due to being in each other's backyard and the incredible atmosphere that envelops Morgantown when facing the most played opponent in the football program's history. You can also nix Marshall as an option, unless West Virginia is going to play the Thundering Herd at Laidley Field in the Mountain State's capital city.
Presently, Maryland gives West Virginia the best option for an annual neutral-site game at the Baltimore Raven's M&T Bank Stadium. It's relatively close to Morgantown and the two schools have played many times - Maryland ranks as the fifth most played opponent in the football program's history. The prospect of a yearly game in Maryland could give a boost to football recruiting, with the team picking up at least one recruit from the state in nine of the last 10 years.
Unlike most neutral-site games, the abovementioned West Virginia fan base wouldn't have far to go for the game along with a large number of alumni from the university in the Baltimore-Washington, DC area.
However, there can be arguments made against the idea. West Virginia would be at a disadvantage distance wise, having to travel more than three hours to Baltimore, while Maryland's travel time would clock in at little more than a half hour.
In a world of college football being more and more controlled by the almighty dollar, the idea of West Virginia and Maryland could be profitable in leaving their campus stadiums behind to play each other on yearly basis in Baltimore.
That is, if the price is right for the two football programs.
You can find this and many others articles about all things West Virginia University, in the pros and on campus, at WVUPros.com.