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How A Spring Game Could Work Between WVU & Marshall

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With improvements being suggested for annual spring games, WVU could improve the annual Gold-Blue Game by doing away with the split squad format, and playing the Mountain State's other FBS program, Marshall, for in-state bragging rights each April.

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The West Virginia football team closes out the spring practice season with the annual Gold-Blue game at Milan Puskar Stadium Saturday, the last chance Mountaineer fans will be able to see their team in pseudo-action until the 2015 season opener against Georgia Southern on September 5.

Already being a fan favorite event each year, Director of Athletics Shane Lyons could make a change to the Gold-Blue game that would make it ‘can't miss' like most regular season games in the fall.

In place of playing the classic split squad encounter between the Gold and Blue teams each year, WVU could get a better sense of the team's talent level and who will be key playmakers for the upcoming season by playing another college football program. It would give the Gold-Blue game more importance, and certainly bring more people to Morgantown for the game.

That idea has been gaining traction with other college coaches elsewhere in recent days.

Ole Miss Head Coach Hugh Freeze would like to see his Rebels team, which is plagued by injuries, play an FCS team in the spring instead of the regular season, while Central Florida Head Coach George O'Leary had the idea of fellow Sunshine State programs like Florida, Florida State and Miami playing each other in future spring games to help breathe new life into the April scrimmages.

After getting past the hurdle of cost as well as having Coach Dana Holgorsen and the rest of the coaching staff agree to the format change, who could play WVU in the spring game?

Like Freeze's idea for Ole Miss, WVU could play host to an FCS team with an historical connection to the football program like the Richmond Spiders of the Colonial Athletic Association, a team that has played the Mountaineers 25 times over a thirty year span from 1950-1982.

Instead of an FCS team like Richmond, WVU should revive play with their former Friends of Coal Bowl opponent, Marshall, in an intra-state spring game that could bring the fans of both programs together.

The game could do no harm but bring bragging rights for either team, as WVU's strength of schedule would not take a hit in playing a team from Conference USA, while Marshall can see how well they can hang with a team like the Mountaineers from a Power Five Conference.

With both teams having fans across the Mountain State, WVU and Marshall could alternate hosting the game in Morgantown and Huntington on a rotating basis for those in the northern and southern West Virginia to see the state's only FBS programs. The game also could be tied in with a meeting between the two universities' baseball programs later that same day at the new Monongalia County Ballpark that just opened this month.

As for costs that would come with an event like this, the corporate sponsors of the game, like Friends of Coal in the past, could cover any expenses like travel and lodging of the teams, as well getting their name on something people will be focused on across West Virginia.

Similar to the ticket sales for the Gold-Blue game, the proceeds from the game between WVU and Marshall could be split and donated to both the WVU Children's Hospital in Morgantown and the Hoops Family Children's Hospital at Cabell Huntington Hospital in Huntington.

Realistically, could a yearly matchup between WVU and Marshall happen in place of both team's current spring game traditions? Probably not.

But it would certainly make April college football a little more exciting in the Mountain State.