|Mountaineer baseball should see increased national TV exposure once the new TV-friendly ballpark is completed up at the University Town Centre.
|All-Pro Photography/Dale Sparks photo
West Virginia University’s move to the Big 12 Conference has been beneficial to the Mountaineers on many levels.
At the forefront, of course, is WVU’s spot at the table in one of the five major power conferences in college sports and the huge financial benefits that come along with it. But another major benefit is the increased exposure for West Virginia University’s total athletic program, especially in sports other than football and men’s basketball.
Take WVU baseball, for example, which made just its second-ever regular season national television appearance on Sunday afternoon in Charleston.
FOX Sports 2 televised West Virginia’s 4-1 victory over Baylor coast to coast, making it the first WVU baseball game ever televised from the Mountain State.
And, it was only the second regular-season Mountaineer baseball game to ever air on national TV; the first was at Notre Dame in 2011 on ESPNU.
The Fighting Irish were adamant about playing that game, despite the harsh weather conditions in South Bend that night.
“The weather for that game was just awful,” recalled West Virginia baseball sports information director Grant Dovey. “There were 20 mile-per-hour winds for most of the game.”
There are more TV games on the horizon for the Mountaineers this year. West Virginia’s Sunday game at TCU will be televised on FOX Sports Southwest, two of West Virginia’s three games at Oklahoma later this month will be televised on Sooner Sports Television, and the Mountaineers’ Thursday, May 15, game at Texas Tech will also be televised on FOX Sports Southwest.
More than 120 Big 12 regular season baseball games will be televised this year, not to mention the entire Phillips 66 Big 12 Baseball Championships, which will air on FOX College Sports and FOX Sports 1.
In the future, look for even more national television exposure for Randy Mazey’s Mountaineer baseball program when West Virginia’s new, TV-friendly ballpark is completed up at the University Town Centre.
WarrenNolan.com, a website that rates college baseball, college football and men’s and women’s college basketball teams, has the WVU baseball team ranked 14th this week in its latest RPI rankings.
Nolan rates West Virginia’s schedule the 48th toughest in the country, and that rating should only improve with several games on the horizon against No. 5 Texas, No. 22 Maryland, No. 28 Texas Tech, No. 48 Kansas State and No. 58 Kansas.
Last weekend, I received the very sad news that former Mountaineer tennis player Steve Duffin died unexpectedly.
Duffin lettered for coaches Terry Deremer and Ed Dickson at WVU, overcoming several debilitating injuries to become one of the first six-year players in NCAA history.
Duffin played No. 2 and No. 3 singles early in his career before moving down in the lineup as shoulder and elbow injuries required him to serve underhanded at the end of his college career.
“He was one of the top players in Canada when he came to West Virginia,” said Dickson. “Anybody who had Steve’s heart would be on the (professional) tour.”
Following graduation, Duffin worked in the WVU athletic compliance office and the WVU General Counsel’s Office while earning his law degree.
Since 2001, Duffin had been a member of the NCAA staff as an associate director of enforcement. He was living in Indianapolis at the time of his death.
As noted here last weekend, former Mountaineer standout quarterback Bernie Galiffa passed away recently in Wilmington, N.C. The cause of death, according to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, was sepsis.
While reaching out to some of Bernie’s former WVU teammates, I left a phone message for quarterback Mike Sherwood and he eventually got back to me late Sunday afternoon.
Mike said he was out of town last week playing golf in the Wilmington, N.C. area (of all places) when Bernie died.
Sherwood, who quarterbacked West Virginia to a 14-3 victory over South Carolina in the 1969 Peach Bowl, is now retired and living in Bellaire, Ohio, where he was a three-sport star for the Big Reds in the mid-1960s.
Mike says he now spends a couple of days a week working at Oglebay for the resort’s two golf courses.
Sherwood also informed me that Hayden Buckley, an assistant coach on Jim Carlen’s and Bobby Bowden’s Mountaineer staffs and who later became the head coach at Waynesburg, passed away last year in Stuart, Fla.
Buckley was responsible recruiting the Ohio Valley and Northeast Ohio for the Mountaineers when he worked for Carlen and Bowden, bringing in such players as Sherwood, Terry Snively, Ron Pobolish, Leon Jenkins, Eddie Williams and highly-touted running back Robin Kaser from Cleveland.
It seems like these lists keeps getting longer and longer and longer each year he does them.
Speaking of transfers, former Dayton transfer Juwan Staten
recently announced that he is returning to WVU for his senior year. Juwan finished 2014 as the top scorer in the Big 12 Conference with an average of 18.1 points per game, becoming just the second Mountaineer player in the last 50 years to lead a conference in scoring.
Forward Kevin Jones did it in the Big East in 2012, averaging 19.9 points per game as a senior.
Staten also becomes the first returning WVU player since Jerry West in 1960 to lead the conference in scoring. West Virginia’s two-time consensus All-America led the Southern Conference in scoring in 1959 (26.6 ppg.) and also in 1960 (29.3 ppg.).
Staten will clearly be one of the top returning players in the country in 2015.
And finally, some spring football practice notes as we get ready for this Saturday’s workout at UC Stadium in Charleston – the final open practice for the general public ahead of the Gold-Blue Spring Game to be played on Saturday, April 12, at Milan Puskar Stadium.
Depth is a concern for every college football program, from No. 1 to No. 123, according to West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen. However, the Mountaineers have more players to work with this spring than in Holgorsen’s prior three springs here at WVU.
“Nobody has enough depth,” he said last Saturday. “If you ask the reigning national champions, I would imagine that they’d say the same thing. We have a lot of bodies out here for spring practice. We are two bodies deep on both lines. Whether they’re good enough to play or not, I can’t say.”
The offensive line, especially the two outside spots, have been closely scrutinized throughout the spring.
“We’re still looking for a third tackle,” Holgorsen said. “(Junior college transfer) Sylvester (Townes) and Marcell Lazard
(a redshirt freshman) have been progressing, but not to the point to where we can depend on them to go out and play right now.”
With Pankey and Lucas, West Virginia has a chance of being a little more athletic at the two outside spots than in recent years.
Holgorsen was asked last Saturday about his preference of continuing to run a three-man front on defense.
“It’s what I’ve wanted to do since I’ve been here,” he said. “The reason I run an odd defense is because it can be very multiple. If you’re a four-down defense, you can’t be multiple. If you’re a three-down defense - an odd defense - you can be multiple. I have to look at what gives us problems, because a lot of teams in the Big 12 have similar defenses.
“The thing that gives us the most trouble is an odd defense, so that’s what we’re going to do. It will give us a bunch of different looks.”
Holgorsen added this caveat: the key for his defense is not becoming so multiple that the guys playing it are confused.
“Last year, it was too multiple,” said Holgorsen. “It was still an odd defense, but we were doing too many different things. The one thing (new defensive coordinator) Tony Gibson has done a good job with is getting a little more simplified. When we run offensive plays, watch the defense line up. I’ve been really impressed with how quick they line up. We face so many high-tempo offenses that we need to be able to do that, and I think they’re doing an excellent job with that right now.”
For those of you in Charleston, that will be something to watch out for this Saturday.
As always, have a great week!