Major college football is on the doorstep of its first national championship playoff.
Because of that, WVU athletic director Oliver Luck is trying to position the Mountaineers with what he’s called an NFL-like schedule.
Luck said in the future WVU will have to face a schedule that presents a challenge each week — a la the NFL. Toward that end, he’s whittled down a previously announced series with East Carolina and is finalizing a neutral-site game against Tennessee in Charlotte, N.C.
In addition, WVU is having conversations with Virginia Tech officials about meeting in the Washington area. A 2015 game with Georgia Southern has also been added.
“We initially had a six-year deal with East Carolina,” Luck said. “[Former WVU athletic director] Eddie [Pastilong] did that at the end of his tenure because he needed, what, five non-conference games. But we’ve had a number of conversations with ECU about a litany of changes and they’ve been open to them.”
“Currently, that [WVU-ECU series] is now home-and-home,” said Alex Hammond, WVU’s director of football operations. “It’s a two-year deal. The teams will play in Morgantown in 2017 and in Greenville [N.C.] in 2020.”
WVU last played ECU in 2009 and moved to 18-3 in the series with a 35-20 win in Morgantown. East Carolina is moving to the American Athletic Conference this year.
“Moving the six-year deal to two provides us the opportunity to schedule neutral-site games,” Hammond said.
Playing Tennessee and Virginia Tech would be the most significant fruit of that labor for the Mountaineers.
“We’re close to finalizing a deal to play Tennessee in Charlotte in 2018,” Hammond said. “That would give us a marquee game in a marquee venue. It would be exciting for the fans and the team.”
WVU has already announced like games versus Alabama (this coming season in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome) and versus BYU (2016 at FedEx Field, home of the Washington Redskins). Another game at the latter site could be on the horizon.
“We’re in conversations with Virginia Tech about a D.C. game,” Hammond said.
If plans to face Tennessee are indeed finalized, WVU could be facing former Mountaineer assistant coach Butch Jones, the Volunteers’ current head coach. Also, former WVU running backs coach Robert Gillespie and assistant strength coach Dave Lawson are there. West Virginia and Tennessee have never met in football.
So, as it stands, WVU’s non-conference opponents for 2014 are Alabama, Towson and Maryland. In 2015, East Carolina has been scratched in favor of Georgia Southern. WVU will also play Liberty and Maryland that season.
In 2016, WVU will play the BYU game.
“We’re working on the other two [non-conference] games,” Hammond said. “One will be an FBS school and one will be an FCS school.”
In 2017, WVU will host East Carolina and officials are working on the Virginia Tech deal. Hammond said he’s also working on an FCS team there.
In 2018, Tennessee seems to be the replacement for East Carolina.
Hammond said Mountaineer officials are also looking at potential neutral-site games for 2019 and 2022.
Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.