The Times West Virginian

Mickey Furfari

April 2, 2014

FURFARI COLUMN: Is $106 million in facilities updates really key to WVU sports success?

MORGANTOWN — You may have heard or read that West Virginia University Department of Intercollegiate Athletics is planning to spend $106 million for major projects.

According to published reports, that is to improve athletic facilities, including Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium and the WVU Coliseum (yet to be named for a rich donor).

This might well be good in the eye of some folks. But to the thinking of many WVU fans, it would be a colossal waste of money.

What’s even more baffling is that I’ve been told only one project has really been set. That’s a $6 million auditorium addition to the already updated football locker rooms at the Puskar Center.

I’m told no other specific so-called updated projects are clear-cut. If those are, why didn’t athletic director Oliver Luck call a press conference and answer questions?

He’s not even quoted in this latest story, leaving a couple of others who could say there’s “no further comment at this time.”

To me, it appears an attempt on the part of my alma mater to make WVU fans believe football and men’s basketball, in particular, will improve in the near future.

If the intended influence is that the improvement of facilities is a true answer to winning records in sports, any coach who has been reasonably successful will tell you that’s not true.

As a journalist for some 75 years, I’ve covered a dozen different head coaches in football at WVU. And most of those with outstanding records said recruiting, coaching and players’ performance are the key ingredient to success.

I can’t recall any of them ever mentioning facilities. Yet most of these, even Oliver Luck’s Don Nehlen, thrived making the best with those available.

The WVU Board of Governors, which admittedly approved of the highest paid football and men’s basketball spending in history, would be perhaps wise to keep this in mind.

That is, if members of that panel do take up that purported $106 million athletic spending matter in early April for serious consideration.

Instead, why not urge Mr. Luck, a former board of governors member, to cut back on spending?

Since taking over as athletic director three years ago, he has seemingly turned the program into more than the intended status.

To many, it has become more of a concentrated money-making program. In the process, there are those who firmly feel he has made numerous mistakes that hurt.

So have the outrageous rising cost of game tickets and the $20 charge Luck initiated for Coliseum parking when he came.

Most of that parking for games had been free previously.

At times some people wonder whether the university gives much consideration to not only its alumni but also its sports-interested students among the 33,000 or so.

Those late basketball weekday starts certainly haven’t helped. Neither has IMG’s failure to put WVU football and basketball games on an AM radio station in Morgantown.

A heap of fans in the Greater Pittsburgh area are deprived of following the Mountaineers, and that’s sad. Nobody officially seems to care at WVU, though.

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Mickey Furfari
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