By Ryan Decker, Originally written for West Virginia Sports: Morgantown and Beyond
West Virginia is in the midst of its fifth season in the Big 12.
Even though plenty of Mountaineer fans still relish the days of the Big East with annual games against arch rival Pittsburgh, the Panthers are in the ACC and the Mountaineers are in the Big 12.
Despite the fact that the two are scheduled to meet for four consecutive years starting in 2022, renewing the Backyard Brawl for a few years, WVU needs a rival in the meantime.
That’s what I asked fans prior to the Mountaineers suffering their first loss of the season Saturday against Oklahoma St.
As you can see, Baylor is easily considered to be the favorite amongst those that voted. Though in the “Other” category, a pair of purple-colored teams were mentioned.
You can tell by the hashtag, Pitt is still not liked by Mountaineer fans.
To get more fan involvement, I also polled fans from the U92 Twitter account, where I am the Assistant Sports Director.
Seventy percent of the fans that voted in that poll agreed that Baylor is the top rival.
Since West Virginia joined the conference in 2012, the Baylor football games in Morgantown have been the most highly anticipated games amongst student and non-student fans alike.
That trend will likely continue this year, as the two teams face off on Dec. 3 in what could be the game that decides the Big 12 Conference champion.
Fans polled on Facebook also saw the Bears as WVU’s top rival in the conference. Fifty percent wrote in Baylor over other teams receiving votes like Oklahoma and Iowa St. (15 percent each), TCU (15%), Oklahoma State and Kansas St. (8% each), and Iowa St. (4%).
A number of people, however, mentioned that there isn’t a sturdy rivalry yet, noting geographic differences and saying the Mountaineers haven’t been in the conference long enough to establish a true rival.
That’s just what the fans think, though.
Media members around Morgantown were also asked.
Sean Merinar, who covers West Virginia athletics for WVU Athletics Video (formerly Mountaineer Sports Network), contests there isn’t a clear answer.
“Honestly it’s no one,” he said. “We’re almost completely even with records with everyone and no fan base sticks out as vitriolic that amps us up.”
Merinar went on to say Oklahoma State is the closest school to a rival given it’s, “Always a close game, similar colleges, towns and fan base. Past coaching history (too).”
Executive Producer at West Virginia Illustrated, Chuck Scatterday, however, agrees with one of the fans that it’s the Horned Frogs that should be considered the Mountaineers rival on the gridiron. But what about on the hard court?
“For hoops likely Iowa State,” Scatterday said. “Something just clicked for us against them in hoops. Maybe Kansas would be a close second given they are they big dog and we are the newbie.”