WVU Tech and the city of Montgomery are enduring their first fall without college football in over 90 years, but a different Golden Bears team is finding success and vying for the attention of the community.
The Tech men's soccer team, playing under the United States Collegiate Athletic Association banner, reeled off seven wins in a row to begin the 2012 campaign before losing its first game 3-2 to Brescia on Thursday. The early success catapulted the Golden Bears to a No. 1 national ranking in the latest USCAA coaches' poll released on Sept. 14.
"We're very proud and very excited," Tech athletic director Frank Pergolizzi said. "I think there is definitely a buzz around campus."
That buzz would be great for a school facing some tough financial times. Those monetary problems are what killed the football team and, alas, life as a Tech soccer coach, player or trainer isn't easy despite what the results would indicate.
For instance, out of the 18 games on the Golden Bears' schedule, 13 are away games. Even home games are a bit of a road trip, as Tech must travel the 30-plus miles from Montgomery to Schoenbaum Stadium in Charleston's Coonskin Park for four of its five "home" dates.
For the record, the next opportunity to check out Tech in Charleston will be at 6 p.m. Monday against Bluefield College in the team's only appearance at Trace Fork Soccer Complex scheduled for this year.
"It's tough. The school is going through a hard time and everybody understands we have to do our part to represent the school the best we can," Tech coach Luis Cortell said. "We're a small school that doesn't have a conference, so we have to do what we have to do."
Cortell said the lack of local appearances is also slowing support for the upstart program.
"Since we play our home games in Charleston, we never really have a whole lot of support," Cortell said of the home crowds.
Also, a lack of funds makes recruiting difficult. As a result, Cortell has had to rearrange his criteria for prospective players, placing academics at the top of the list, well ahead of talent.
While this method may sound like it results in a diminished product on the field, Cortell said the opposite has actually been true.
"The difference has been that I've recruited kids that wanted to do so well academically that when you put them on the soccer field they want to listen and play for the team," Cortell said. "There are no superstars on this team, they all play for each other and that's the thing I'm most proud of.
"Recruiting students with higher academics has allowed them to get academic scholarships. I'd be shocked if 50 percent of our kids are getting athletic money."
Then there is Cortell, who is an interesting story in his own right.