Harry BellCHARLESTON – With West Virginia University having the state's only law school, the West Virginia legal community has an unusually close tie to the school.
And that bond extends to the football program, which is playing in its first Bowl Championship Series game when it takes on the University of Georgia in the Sugar Bowl in Atlanta on Jan. 2.
Several members of the Mountain State legal community are making the trip south for the game.
"I try to go to all the bowl games," said Harry Bell, founder of Bell & Bands PLLC in Charleston. "We're taking my in-laws. They love going to the bowl games.
"Atlanta is a great town, and it's easy to get to. It should be a lot of fun. We'll be going to some parties down there before the game, and we're hooking up with a friend of mine coming in from San Francisco."
Bell got his undergraduate and law degrees at WVU. He called himself a longtime WVU fan.
"The first game I remember was that big blowout between WVU and Pitt in the early '60s," Bell said. "I was a little kid, and my dad took me to it. I remember it being such a long drive (from Charleston to Morgantown) back then. It seemed like it took a day to get up there."
John Hoffman, who works at Flaherty, Sensabaugh & Bonasso in Charleston, also received both his undergrad and law degrees from WVU. He's part of a large contingent of people from his firm going to Monday's game.
"I've got mixed feelings about the game," said Hoffman, who has been to a few WVU bowl games over the years. "I'm a pessimist by nature. But I'm excited because I'm taking my son who is graduating from high school this year. He's going to Penn State, so this could be the last WVU game we attend together for a long time."
Hoffman and his son are riding to the game with another father-son pair from the firm, another lawyer from the firm and its business manager.
In addition to attorneys Ted Martin and Sam Fox riding with him, Hoffman said other lawyers from the firm going to the game are Thomas Flaherty, Chris Brumley and Nate Tawney.
Dave Hendrickson of Hendrickson & Long is more than ready for the game.
"I'd like to already be down there," he said Thursday.
Hendrickson said he can't count all the WVU bowl games he's attended.
"Most of them we've played in since I've been old enough to go," he said when trying to remember them all.
He also received both his undergrad and law degrees from WVU.
"My first year of school was Bobby Bowden's last year," he said.
A season ticket holder, Hendrickson also frequently makes WVU road games.
"I'm very much excited," he said of the game. "We started making our plans as soon as it looked like we would be going to the Sugar Bowl."
He thinks the Mountaineers can defeat the Bulldogs.
"I think the team has one more good game in them, and it's going to be this game," he said. "I think our team has handled whatever competition has been thrown at them. It just seems that no matter what a team brought to the table, we handled it."
Hendrickson said he's taking his stepson to the game, and he'll be there with a large contingent of people he knows from around the state.
"It's going to be a great time," he said.
Elliott Hicks opened the Charleston office of Atlanta-based Hawkins & Parnell in 2002, so he said he might do "a minute of business" while he's in Atlanta.
"But I'm going to have fun," said Hicks, a former president of the West Virginia State Bar. "I haven't been to very many bowl games."
Like Hendrickson, Hicks thinks WVU will fare well against Georgia and senior quarterback D.J. Shockley.
"We have plenty of offense to deal with Georgia," said Hicks, who is going to the game with his wife and children. "Now that Shockley's back, I don't know of any weaknesses they have.
"I think we'll score a lot of points. And I think we're going to win it."
Steve Goodwin, of Goodwin & Goodwin, also is vice chairman of WVU's Board of Governors.
"I think it's going to be a great game," said Goodwin, who also received both his undergrad and law degrees from WVU. "We have a really good chance of pulling what would be considered an upset. I think we can do it."
He says he thinks this WVU team is a special one.
"They've been underrated and have overachieved all year long," said Goodwin, who will attend the game with his wife. "They're young and have developed all year long and have grown in their confidence."