I had it all planned. Before driving up to Rochester to watch the Bills in the Super Bowl with my family, I would head to Cleveland first for a few basketball games. But alas, that dream crashed and burned hard. A new schedule was made and from a stadium perspective, it wasn’t a bad alternative. To Pittsburgh for a Robert Morris Basketball game Friday Night and then drive an hour south to Morgantown for a Noon Saturday tip-off with West Virginia. The trip through PA was long as usual, but thankfully uneventful as I only hit some non-accumulating snow showers across the Laurel Highlands.
Robert Morris University is in Moon Township, a suburb about 25 minutes west of downtown Pittsburgh. It’s every bit suburban and the campus is spread out. The star building is right at the entrance as the relatively new UPMC Events Center is spectacular. Now, I went into this game with a little bit of negative connotations because of what RMU unnecessarily did to their hockey program (they are bringing it back, but damage was done). I put that aside, ready for a great experience….and that ended when I went through the front door. The security lady told me no backpacks. OK, the sign in front of her said bags 12x12x12 were permitted, it just needed to be searched. She proceeded to tell me that’s for purses, which clearly wasn’t on the sign she was pointing at. Fine, I’ll bring it back to the car, but next up is the camera I’m carrying. There is no detachable lens, but she decides to pull out her ‘guide’ looking for a way to tell me not to bring it in. Now that this was getting ridiculous, I actually had a media credential for this game. Note: I avoid credentials, because I just want a ticket so that I only get the fan experience. But if that’s the only option, I’ll take it. Well, now that she was informed I had a media credential to pick up at Will Call, her whole demeanor changed. Instead of me being a lowly fan….I’m now SOMEBODY. What a crotchety old woman trying to get the most out of her position. As Roger Bennett would say…”It. Would. Get. Worse”. I’m now in the lobby taking pictures, with my media credential around my neck mind you, and some building worker comes up to me and says who are you with? I explain and she gives me a negative tone and negative look as to why I’m taking pictures. She asks my name (having me spell it out), the name of the person that gave me the credential and if I’ll be photographing students. After offering her to show her my website, she walks away all annoyed that she wasn’t “notified” of me. In all my years of visits, which include nearly 250 stadiums, I’ve never been quizzed and looked down upon for photographing a building (and this was with a credential!). I understand it’s odd and certainly don’t mind explaining what I’m doing to somebody. But instead of feeling welcomed after that, I felt like I was intruding. RMU, I am not a fan.
The detailed review has all aspects of the experience and I will say the arena is really nice. The ground-level entry features some remarkable displays and the whole place pops with team colors. Upstairs, the concourse is spacious and the inside of the arena looks good too. Seating is extends out too far for my liking as there is a shallow slope despite a small amount of rows overall, plus the back levels of seats are very tight and they sit on a cheap aluminum base. The extra amounts of aluminum I believe enhance the acoustics. It was quite loud and the small crowd of 1,000 (or less?) sounded like triple that. They were lively and did well to make noise as the Colonial pep band enhanced that. I was looking forward to the game as Detroit Mercy was in town and that included Antoine Davis, the 2nd leading scorer in NCAA history. He drilled three straight long-distance shots and his accuracy and range beyond the arc was incredible, as it has been all year. But he also had plenty of turnovers and was quiet for long stretches. The Titans also had a bench that didn’t get into the game and a team complaining a lot at the end. This was topped off by Mike Davis getting T’ed up towards the end for a ridiculous amount of arguing with the ref. You could feel the negative energy and see why this is a team below .500 in conference. RMU played well down the stretch and 3-pointers started dropping as they won an entertaining affair 85 – 77.
The next game was a different experience. West Virginia University was awesome and even with a regular ticket, the staff (from the parking attendants to the security to the ushers), made you feel welcomed as opposed to the intruding feeling I had the night before. “Almost Heaven” indeed. I got to Morgantown early so that I could visit the Hall of Traditions in their practice facility, which is a public homage to the basketball program. It was impressive, but even cooler was seeing Bob Huggins just walk right on through to get to the game. He said hello to a few folks and had his usual dry wit. It was great to see and something I just can’t imagine happens with most big time coaches.
The WVU Coliseum is an old concrete structure and the seating inside is simple, but comfortable. That domed roof is the defining feature as the place can be cavernous, but not in terms of noise. The Mountaineers welcomed Auburn in this Big XII – SEC Showdown and even Charles Barkley was in the house as he joined Huggins for cancer fundraiser event the night before (a Fish Fry!). It was a great game as Erik Stevenson was on fire in the first half and he helped West Virginia build a 17-point lead. The Tigers fought back and they almost erased a 6-point deficit in the final minute, but they missed a three at the buzzer and WVU won. The crowd was slow to get into the game (maybe because of the Noon start), but their energy and noise built throughout as it became a loud and energetic building. The ending was awesome and as soon as Auburn missed at the buzzer, they fire the rifle and “Country Roads” plays. It’s a little odd that there isn’t some time to celebrate and you go right into the song, but that tradition is something special and I got goosebumps. Great place to watch a game and be sure to check out the detailed review of WVU Coliseum.