The West Virginia University Mountaineers take their nickname from the mountainous terrain in the Morgantown, WV area where the college campus is located. Established in 1867, the school with close to 30,000 students has a proud sports tradition with both men’s and women’s teams wearing uniforms that read Mountaineers.
The term “mountaineer” became the West Virginia University (commonly shortened to WVU) mascot in 1890. Every year students compete to portray the mascot for sporting events held both at home and on the road. While the vetting process that includes a minimum GPA requirement, essays, interviews, and a try out in front of a live game crowd may sound extreme to those unfamiliar with the process the reward for attaining the esteemed position is a scholarship and the best seat in the house (the sidelines) for every sporting event. For scores of students the rewards are more than worth the trouble of subjecting themselves to the tryout process.
The history of the West Virginia Mountaineers dates back to the congressional passing of the 1862 Morril Land Grant Act that paved the way for the multitude of state universities that today play a very large role in America having arguably the most envied system of higher education in the world. The Morrill Act gave ownership of certain federal land to states with the understanding that the states receiving the land would either build colleges on the sites or sell the land to raise funds to build state run universities in other locations. The Morrill Act which was directly responsible for the creation of WVU and numerous other public colleges around the country played a tremendous role in shaping the American landscape.
Today the West Virginia University Mountaineers compete in the top tier Big East Conference which features 16 full time schools and one associate school. The curiosity that is the associate school has to do with the January, 2006 inclusion of Loyola University Maryland (located in Baltimore) women’s lacrosse team. The University of Pittsburgh Panthers are the biggest in conference rival for the West Virginia University Mountaineers as both the football and basketball programs have a history of intense competitions with their neighbors 75 miles to the north.
For many West Virginia University Mountaineer alumni their favorite school tradition to look back on fondly is the long held tradition of singing a specific harmonious tune that was first crafted by the late John Denver in 1971. Hearing the words of the country music classic “Take Me Home, Country Roads” is enough to send most West Virginia fans back to the times when they stuck around the stadium after home football games and collectively sang the West Virginia anthem along with 60,000 other fans and the victorious football team.
Regardless of which memories or traditions stand out the most to each individual West Virginia University Mountaineer almost everyone that has had the good fortune to spend some time around the school can agree that the time spent on campus made an impact on their life.