September 2, 2006
Photos by Bobby Mitchell
Students Counter Coal PR at University Football Games
Football fans have waited years for West Virginia University and
Marshall University, the state's largest two schools, to play each
Fans were elated to find out the two teams would finally face off,
but many were ticked off to learn the game would be called the Friends
of Coal (FOC) Bowl. FOC is the fake-grassroots arm of the coal
industry; the FOCers had paid to have its name stamped on the game. It
seems no other entity had a chance to bid on the naming rights, even
though these teams are both ostensibly publicly owned because both are
public universities that use state funds.
Public sentiment about the FOCer's moves is reflected in this
letter to the editor by the Rev. Ward Cornett III, published Sept. 3 in
the Charleston Gazette:
One of my fondest memories growing up in Beckley was listening to
radio broadcasts with my dad of the WVU Mountaineers games. As a
1974 graduate of Marshall University, Im an avid fan of the
Thundering Herds exploits. I approached the game between my two
favorite schools with ambivalence.
But my major ambivalence was
not over which team to support, but about the grabbing of naming
rights by the coal industry to try to improve its image. Given
coals history in Appalachia, it is difficult to think of anyone
being Friends of Coal other than those who have a vested interest in
dominant coal companies.
The history of the coal industry is the exercise of raw power and
political clout, usually at the expense of West Virginia. There are
many people who arent Friends of Coal. If you prefer mountaintops
and lush forests to mountaintop removal, you are not a friend of
coal. If you favor enforcement of mine health and safety laws and
protection of workers rights, you are not a friend of coal. If you
favor the enforcement of the Clean Air Act on coal-burning power
plants, you are not a friend of coal. Anyone who takes global
warming seriously is not a friend of coal.
So the FOCers wouldn't get off scott-free with their PR maneuverings,
OVEC hired a small plane to circle the football stadium with a banner
reading, "Stop Mountaintop Removal Now!" And, WVU and Marshall students
greeted football fans with signs. See the pictures below.