In Morgantown, W.V., on the campus of WVU where ESPN’s “College Gameday” will be this Saturday, students like to torch their couches, especially after big-time games involving their beloved Mountaineers. All of us in Appalachian academia have seen a couch or two burned, but West Virginians blaze theirs. It’s a tradition, apparently. Police and faculty also consider it such a nuisance that in 2011 it became a felony to burn a couch.
However, that’s still not a deterrent. Bet that fans will riot if the Mountaineers beat no. 10-ranked TCU on Saturday afternoon. Actually, they’ll probably riot and create hellish blazes even if they lose.
In honor of “Gameday”‘s impending arrival in Morgantown and the town’s pyromaniac football fans, here are five notable WVU couch burning episodes. If we’ve missed worse examples, drop ’em in the comments and shame us*. We didn’t go there.
Oct. 22, 2003 — West Virginia vs. No. 3 Virginia Tech
The Mountaineers scored a huge upset over the No. 3 Hokies in 2003, taking a 28-7 win in Morgantown. For that big of a victory, the students were ready to f*cking rage, brah: they attempted to tear down the goal posts and took to the streets to light stuff on fire. The police stymied the goal post destruction, using force and pepper spray to eventually dissuade attendees, but students and fans did manage to “set nearly 60 fires… a dozen of them ‘sizable.'” The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote about the incident later and how it intersected with the university’s cracking down on the rioting, which drew both positive and negative criticism.
Mar. 13, 2010 — No. 22 West Virginia vs. No. 7 Georgetown, Big East Championship (Basketball)
The Mountaineers, in one of their last seasons in the former Big East Conference, got their first Big East Tournament championship when they beat the No. 7-ranked Georgetown Hoyas in 2010. Students consequently sent their couches up in flames to celebrate the accomplishment like in the above video, which the uploader considers to be one of the liveliest burnings in recent memory.
Oct. 6, 2012 — No. 8 West Virginia vs. No. 11 Texas
West Virginia’s first huge Big 12 win–after joining the conference for the 2012 season–came against the Longhorns in Austin. The Mountaineers’ high-flying and eventually flawed offense took down UT 48-45. Students rioted, even after police upgraded burning couches to a felony offense the year before. Morgantown Fire Marshall Ken Tenant called the resulting riots “the worst that [he has] witnessed,” with rioters pelting first-responders with various objects. Oof. Mountaineer News Service notes that four students were arrested during the riots, while another 12 later went before a student affairs board to receive disciplinary action.
Oct. 22, 2014 — West Virginia vs. No. 4 Baylor
West Virginia’s been on the precipice of top-25 notoriety this year after they took Alabama to the wire and when they upset then-No. 4 Baylor Bears in Morgantown. The win sparked the latest round of craziness on campus, as 39 reported fires were sparked and eight people were arrested. Police tear-gassed and pepper sprayed the crowds, but that didn’t prevent rioters from costing the city more than $45,000 in damage.
May 2, 2011 — AMERICA vs. Osama bin Laden
From the above video’s description, which filmed riots that occurred the night SEAL Team Six assassinated Al-Qaeda founder, Osama bin Laden: “Couch Burnings, People getting sniped with fireworks, Riot Police. Definitely one of the craziest nights in Morgantown. Hate or love it WVU was home of one of this biggest parties in the world on May 2nd 2011.”
* — Note: Most of these are recent couch burning episodes. WVU students supposedly started their particular tradition in the mid-1970s; however, YouTube obviously didn’t exist then to capture the incidents.