In the early '80s, a humorous college handbook ranked WVU as the No. 1 party school. In 1987, Playboy said it was the nation's seventh-best party school.
Ground Zero for WVU partying was an uphill stretch of University Avenue called Sunnyside, known for its ramshackle, hill-hugging student housing and its string of about 10 bars, all within arm's reach of each other. These were classic dives, where you could stand blissfully in beer mud up to your ankles, clutching a plastic cup of some evil swill and shouting above the AC/DC at the cute girl from your PoliSci class. After one early '80s football victory, students barricaded University Avenue with an impromptu bonfire of thrift-store sofas lugged from their houses. Now, there are only two bars left in Sunnyside. Even the head shop has closed. The social scene today is downtown Morgantown, in tidy restaurant/bars selling $3 microbrews. What a buzzkill.
The weekend before fall semester started each August, entire blocks of Sunnyside's Grant Avenue shut down and 10,000 students flocked there for a sweaty bacchanalia of drinking, dancing and fun. No one quite knew when it would start. It just did, on its own. That was, until the university and city police shut down the whole shebang a couple of years ago, after university President David Hardesty took office. Hardesty was himself something of a longhair student body president in the '60s, and persuaded Hubert Humphrey and Pete Seeger to come to WVU to speak. But that was then. Since he's been president, he's fought hard to dispel the party-school reputation. In lieu of the Grant Avenue block party, Hardesty -- joined by the student government -- substituted a university-supervised gathering in an open area behind the student union where students were carded and allowed to drink only five beers each.
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