By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian
West Virginia University’s athletic department and the Big 12 have agreed to attempt to make some travel changes to accommodate the problems the Mountaineers faced during their first season in the Big 12.
Athletic director Oliver Luck says the league offered no guarantees because “scheduling is always a challenge” but the league has agreed to attempt to make life on the road easier in a number of areas when it can.
WVU geographically is out of place in the Big 12, with every trip not only being of 1,700 miles round trip or more but fighting a time zone change which costs them an hour returning to Morgantown.
Football did not present as much of a problem as basketball, with weekly trips and mostly weekend games, but, according to Luck, the league was agreeable to trying to arrange it so the Mountaineers do not have to travel on back-to-back week for conference games during the season.
This past season WVU had to travel to Texas and Texas Tech, which is the longest trip in the conference for WVU, on consecutive weeks. While the Mountaineers survived in Texas, they put on lackluster performance in losing to the Red Raiders, 49-14, that set them off on a five-game losing streak.
Basketball scheduling is far more complex than football, and Luck worked out three things with the conference.
The first was to attempt to play a pair of conference road games prior to the start of the academic semester.
Journeys as long as those in the Big 12 and with some arrivals back in Morgantown being in the neighborhood of 4 in the morning are best served if there are no academic responsibilities the next day, allowing players to get back onto a regular schedule.
The second request from WVU is an important one in this same area.
“We have asked that when reasonable they give us a two-game stay over on the road,” Luck revealed.
Twice this past season WVU was scheduled to go out on the road, play a Saturday game, fly home on Sunday, practice Monday and fly out again on Tuesday for a Wednesday game.
League rules do not allow them to stay on the road during that time, so they use up most of two days traveling.
Rather than doing that, they would prefer to play a Saturday-Big Monday on the road with a Sunday stay over, which would cut back on taking the long trip to and from Morgantown.
The third request was to cut back on the number of late trips during mid-week games, not playing 9 p.m. EST games to help with the arrival time back home. Especially in winter, travel is precarious enough without building in 3 a.m. arrivals at the airport.
Luck said the league offered “no guarantees” but said it would do what it could to work with WVU to ease the travel burden in these areas.
“Every season is a grind,” Luck admitted. “It was a grind in the Big East.”
But WVU’s position in the Big 12 is unique and requires some adjustments now that they have been through it for a year.
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.