A major reason some Division-I athletic programs are considered ‘elite’ is not only for the amount of victories on the field of play, but also the money they put into their facilities.
Schools such as Ohio State, Alabama, Oregon and Florida are considered elite because of a combination of things, but there’s a common denominator with all of them: They feature top-notch facilities.
Granted, many of those top tier schools have wealthy boosters who can help generate the money needed in order to build these world class facilities. That leaves other schools such as West Virginia University at a disadvantage. But under Oliver Luck’s watch, WVU has made up ground in the facilities race – led by the construction of the brand new baseball stadium, which is set to open during the Spring of 2015.
“I think infrastructure, bricks and borders are very important,” Luck said. “Morgantown is booming. I mean, this is like New York City; it’s incredible. There are a lot of things that we’re working on. Some we’re doing on our own, while some in conjunction with Monongalia County – like the baseball park which is a joint venture between the county and WVU. I think at the end of the day, the most important thing is that these [facilities] will benefit not just our student-athletes, but folks in this North Central West Virginia community.”
“I think getting the stadium in place – once that happens that will be hopefully a big boost to the program,” WVU Baseball Head Coach Randy Mazey said. “Our recruiting will pick up a lot. This time of the year, that’s all we do is get on the road and try to find players. But having that stadium in place sure would help.”
That leads to the next point: Recruiting.
Facility upgrades may not impact any area of an athletic department more so than recruiting. High School athletes want to practice and play in the nicest facilities possible. Courting over high school players becomes a bit easier when you have new structures to show off.
Randy Mazey was hopeful for a new stadium at some point down the road during his tenure as the WVU Baseball Head Coach. Not only will he have a new stadium, but he’s winning over recruits in the process. Essentially, things are coming together quicker than originally planned. However, construction workers do not have a ton of time on their hands.
“I’ve got a game scheduled in there next March, so they’ve got deadlines that they’ve got to meet,” Mazey added. “That’ll be exciting. The kids that we recruited last year – we told them that they would have the first chance to play the first game in the new stadium. The recruits that will come in this year will finally have the chance to walk through it. So like I said, that will be a major step in the future of this program.”
Mazey has signed, sealed and delivered the best recruiting class, ratings wise, that the WVU Baseball program has ever seen. Perfect Game is an online college baseball recruiting service, which has ranked WVU’s 2015 class as the 48th best in the nation. Not to mention, WVU’s class is also ranked fifth in the Big XII Conference, only behind four of the five league teams that advanced to this year’s NCAA Tournament.
Other project proposals have been widely documented in recent months, such as upgrades to Milan Puskar Stadium and the WVU Coliseum. The upgrades are needed to provide a modernization for facilities that are starting to show their age.
Regardless of facilities, Luck had a proposal to his three highest money-making programs – football, basketball and baseball.
“I think this year in football we’re going to be a heck of a lot better in a very tough conference. We open up against Alabama. We’ve got some tough opponents. So it’s a tough schedule, and then we’ve got our Big XII Conference schedule. But I think we’ll be better.”
“Coach [Bob] Huggins I think is on the right track. Yeah, we lost some players, but everybody is losing players. It’s sort of an epidemic that’s going on in college basketball. But I think we’ll be better next year.”
“In baseball, I’m kind of heartbroken that we didn’t make the regional tournament. It would’ve been the first time since 1996. But it is what it is. We have to get a little bit better and Randy [Mazey] understands that. I think the new ballpark is going to really help him.”
Upgrading athletic facilities may not seem like a highly important task to the average Mountaineer fan. But the reality is that it’s critical to a program’s future success. In order to keep up with the Big XII Conference, and most importantly, the entire nation, then WVU needs to keep up the pace.
New facilities can turn a program upside down. Luck is hopeful that the baseball stadium will do just that, while the football and basketball upgrades will provide a much-needed boost to the most profitable pair of teams that any athletic department has to offer.