Some salty Mountaineer football fans hope to take the wind out of Florida States sails come New Years Day.
About 160 crew members from the nuclear-powered submarine USS West Virginia and their families plan to accept West Virginia Universitys invitation to the Toyota Gator Bowl, provided the vessel is in port that day as scheduled.
The match-up between the Mountaineers and Seminoles, both 8-3, begins at 12:30 p.m. at Alltel Stadium in Jacksonville, Fla. The USS West Virginias home port is Kings Bay, Ga., about 30 miles north.
Its always a pleasure to watch West Virginia play,said Cmdr. Doug Arnold, the ships co-captain and a WVU alumnus.President (David) Hardesty and the University are very gracious hosts.
The USS West Virginia is a Trident ballistic missile submarine capable of rapidly targeting its weapons should the need arise. Its mission is to deter military or terrorist attacks against America and its allies.
There are two crews aboard the submarine, with about 170 sailors each. When one crew is at sea, the other crew stays in port to train. Arnold commands one crew, and Cmdr. Randy Crites is in charge of the other.
Arnold graduated from the University in 1984 with a bachelors degree in chemical engineering and is a member of the WVU Alumni Association. His wife, Cathy, also attended WVU and the couples oldest daughter, Amy, is currently studying elementary education at WVU .
When members of the crew have the opportunity to visit West Virginia, I always visit the University,he said.If a game is going on, the University invites us to attend.
Hardesty said the University always supports the men and women who put themselves in harms way in defense of freedom.
All of us in West Virginia are grateful to the men and women of the United States armed forces and the sacrifices they and their families make for our country,Hardesty said.Were especially proud of Commander Doug Arnold, a graduate of WVU , and his wife. We are absolutely delighted to invite the crew of the USS West Virginia to the Gator Bowl and are hopeful that mostif not allof them can come.
Meanwhile, Arnolds fellow commander said the crew is looking forward to the game.
Weve got a few guys from West Virginia that the game will mean a lot to, but all of the crew is looking forward to seeing a West Virginia victory over Florida State,Crites said.
Fans unable to attend the Gator Bowl can still assist the Mountaineers bowl effort by purchasing tickets to be donated to military personnel. All tickets purchased through this special effort will be donated and distributed to those stationed on the USS West Virginia and the USS JFK . For more information on purchasing tickets for donation to military personnel, call the Mountaineer Ticket Office at 1-800-WVU GAME .
The USS West Virginia is the third U.S. Navy vessel to bear the states name. Previous ships with the name were an armored cruiser and a battleship. The armored cruisers bell and battleships mast are the main attractions at a plaza in honor of military veterans on WVU s campus.