Mountaineer football, coal and symbols by Ken Ward, JR. on Coal Tattoo

When last we left my beloved West Virginia Mountaineers, the football program was forced to alter some special Nike uniform graphics to get rid of what apparently was meant to be images of mountaintop removal mining (See previous posts here, here, here and here).

Now, as our state gears up for Sunday’s big WVU-Marshall game, coal and what it means to the state has been brought into the picture again.

First, we had this announcement of something they’re calling the “Mountaineer Mantrip“:

The inaugural West Virginia football Mountaineer Mantrip, a team walk set to rally WVU fans before each home game this season, will make its debut on Sunday, Sept. 4, prior to the No. 24-ranked Mountaineers’ 2011 season opener against Marshall at 3:30 p.

The walk, a nod to the state’s proud coal industry and heritage, will begin when the team is dropped off approximately 2 hours and 20 minutes before kickoff at the corner of the WVU Medical Center and Don Nehlen Drive. Fans are encouraged to line the path, which will take the team and coaching staff, led by head coach Dana Holgorsen, through the blue and light blue lots and to the entrance of the Northeast gate at Milan Puskar Stadium. The team will be escorted by the Mountaineer mascot, the cheerleading squad and members of the Pride of West Virginia, the WVU marching band, on its route.

And then yesterday, this news emerged:

Beginning this weekend and before every subsequent home game, upon entering the stadium, West Virginia Mountaineer players will touch a monument comprised of a very special piece of coal extracted from Upper Big Branch for additional inspiration before hitting Mountaineer Field.

Alpha Natural Resources delivered a 350-pound chunk of coal to Milan Puskar Stadium Wednesday. The coal came from the Upper Big Branch mine, where 29 miners lost their lives on April 5, 2010, Alpha officials confirmed.


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4 Responses to Mountaineer football, coal and symbols by Ken Ward, JR. on Coal Tattoo

  1. Admin says:

    As a former Coal Miner, I take exception with this article. I worked in the underground mines for 12-years, and I’ve seen the destruction done by strip mining. I’ve seen the debre left left behind when earthen slurry ponds have broken and washed towns away. But as a former coal miner, I take great pride in the fact that I was able to work with these men.

    The work is hard, it is dark and each day every miner leaves a little of himself in the mine. Not everyone can be a coal miner. I’ve seen new hires quit within a few hours after going underground, others lasted only a few days or weeks.

    I like what Luck and Holgerson are doing with the “Mantrip”. People who work in the steel Mills, and as police and in emergency resue all put their lives on the line every day. Coal Miners are no different. My father, grandfathers and uncles all worked in the coal mines. I’m proud to be the son of a coal miner.

    Construction crew workers also take risk to do their job.

    You see the down-side of mining. But in reality every job and every industry has its down side. You talked about coal poluting streams, but so chemical plans, drug companies, saw mills, and other industries.

    People who take pride in their jobs do their jobs well, and they work hard to do it right. Its only when management and politics get involved do things go south.

    Every person who takes pride in the work they do should be proud of the occupation they have chosen, and should work to make their industry better. But no matter how hard they work to make it better it will never be perfect. We can’t protect all the coal miners, the police, the emergency rescue personnel, the folks that work with chemicals, the construction workers, etc., but we can all work to improve it. What have you done to make strip-mining better? What do you know about the actual mining process?

    What we all need to do is respect the working class and the work they do, no matter the profession. You sound like someone who only sees the negative side or down-side to everything, and that you have something against coal miners. I take great pride in having been a coal miner, and unlike you I worked to improve mining conditions. I didn’t just run of at the key-board.

    So what have you done lately to improve mining? What have you done to make mining safer for everyone?

    (former Fireboss)

  2. Admin says:


    Do you believe there are alterior motives behind the decision for these actions to be taken pre-game??

    I read most of the articles earlier this week (prior to your post) and came away believing the plans for the simple face value. Instill “hard work” mentallity into a young men to come together as a hard working TEAM. Much like mine crews.

  3. Admin says:

    I think that this blog has done a lot to improve mining, George. It seems that Ken is one of the few journalists who gives a fair shake to point out what’s really going on.

    I think the “Mountaineers” team should be renamed the “Reclaimers”. Because there isn’t much mountaineering to be done anymore on blasted flat MTR sites, since the mountain is gone forever. And in the words of the “reclaimers” of the coal industry, all people want is a flat space to farm and build malls anyhow.

    Soon there won’t be much of a natural world left to cherish, no matter how much coal fired energy there is. And we have the technology to move on from that. It’s just the corrupt politicians, and the good ole company store that keeps a lid on new technology for as long as possible. It’s always that way when you can exploit folks and make easy money. Even if it’s bad for the environment and bad for people. It’s that short sighted type of thinking that is ruining our country.

    I think it’s a shame when miners, or previous miners always think that it’s an affront to them personally. It’s not. All of us appreciate and love miners. We feel for their plight, the health and welfare of them, and their children, and hope for a better day when they could be making money from artsy communities, or vacation communities, or all the things they do in Vermont, or New York or the Rockies or the Sierra. Why is it mainly Appalachian communities that have to be poor and “leave a bit of themselves behind every day in the mines.”? Having a coal rock from the Massey Upper Big Branch on the field in homage to mining is just blasphemous. If I were the family of a miner killed there, I’d be crushed over the very thought of it.

    I applaud Ken for his blog, because we all need to work towards a world where we see the absolute screaming need to move on to a new way of creating energy beyond this antiquated fuel. Like Judy Bonds said about John Peter Salley, who discovered coal in Boone County- “If he had known what agony it would have cost, he’d have covered it up and kept his mouth shut.”


  4. Janet Keating says:

    This news was jaw-dropping to me. Really?? Touching a big lump of coal before the game–one from a mine where 29 precious lives were lost?? What a sad disservice to families who lost their loved ones! Wouldn’t a better tribute consist of state and federal regulators enforcing and strengthening all the mining laws? Instead, this bowing to coal seems strange and idolatrous. What kind of a message is the university sending to our youth? Well here’s another West Virginia joke for the late night talk show hosts…For shame…
    Janet Keating, Executive Director
    Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition

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