Top 10 WVU Sports Stories of the Year: Numbers 10 Through Six
By Brian McCracken
The 2016-2017 athletic year was one of the most successful (if not the most successful) years in West Virginia University’s storied history. Nearly every program accomplished something of note. Whether it be a legendary coach hitting a career defining milestone or a pair of national championship appearances, life was good for Mountaineer fans everywhere. With the 2017-2018 school year rapidly approaching, it’s time to take a look back and soak it all in. Over the next couple of days we’ll be rolling out the top 10 WVU sports stories of the year. Here’s a look at numbers 10 Through 6.
10.West Virginia Profits From Big 12 Affiliation
While the recent on-field successes of West Virginia’s programs have been well documented, it may have been an even better year financially for Mountaineer athletics. The Big 12 recently announced revenue shares of $34.8 million per school, and that’s before you throw in Tier 3 revenue (WVU is expected to receive $6 million from its partnership with IMG). Coming in at over $40 million, the 2016-2017 athletic year was easily the most profitable in school history. For a more in depth look at the numbers and the significance of what it means for the athletic department, check out Matt Keller’s article from last week.
9. Renovation Projects Continue on Coliseum, Mountaineer Field
West Virginia’s two premier sports venues started to undergo a multi-million dollar, multi-year facelift in 2016. At Milan Puskar, the east side of the stadium underwent drastic changes as the concourses were widened, restrooms and points of sale were increased and televisions were added to the boxes at the top of the stairwells. In addition to those upgrades, the stadium also received new turf and the aesthetics were greatly improved with new banners and signage added throughout the venue.
The coliseum underwent similar renovations (the arena’s concourses were widened, new signage, more dining options, restrooms and new locker rooms were added as well). The renovations received mostly positive reviews by the fan base and helped modernize WVU’s aging arenas. While WVU sports are currently on a two month hiatus construction crews continue to work hard on both projects through the off-season.
8. WVU Basketball Beats No.1 (Twice)
Any time you beat the nation’s top ranked team it will be remembered for a long time. Case and point: West Virginia basketball fans still talk about the 1983 victory over Jerry Tarkanian and No.1 ranked UNLV. In the 2016-2017 season, the Mountaineers beat the country’s top dog twice in as many weeks.
Days after receiving its first No.1 ranking in school history Baylor came to town with a perfect 15-0 record and a number of marquee out of conference victories. Despite squaring off with (and beating) teams like No.4 Oregon, No.24 Michigan St., No. 10 Louisville and No. 7 Xavier it was painfully obvious that the Bears hadn’t seen anything like West Virginia’s pressure defense. ‘Press Virginia’ forced a whopping 29 turnovers and Nate Adrian scored 22 points in what turned into an 89-68 victory for the Mountaineers.
A couple of weeks later Kansas came to town ranked No.1 in the coaches poll. While Baylor may not have been use to the spotlight that comes with being the country’s top team, there’s no doubt Bill Self’s ball club is used to the fame and notoriety. The problem was, the Jayhawks just couldn’t contain Esa Ahmad, who scored a career-high 27 points as the Mountaineers rolled past Kansas for an 85-69 win.
7. Football Reaches 10 Wins
The 2016 football season was the 125th for West Virginia University so it was only fitting that the Mountaineers made it a memorable one. Despite many pundits ruling out the Mountaineers for anything more than seven wins and a (best case scenario) fifth place Big 12 finish West Virginia retooled and reloaded on defense and put together its best season since joining the Big 12 five years ago.
The Mountaineers beat the likes of Kansas State (for the first time), BYU, TCU and Texas en route to its first 10 win season since joining the Big 12. The 10-3 mark also represents just the ninth time in West Virginia’s 125 year history that the Mountaineers were able to put together a 10 win campaign. It’s also worth noting that the final ranking of No.18 marked its first top 25 finish since winning Orange Bowl in 2012.
2016’s successes have the Mountaineers in many early preseason top 25 lists and has renewed excitement across the board for West Virginia’s fan base. With a healthy Justin Crawford, the addition of Will Grier and the return of Dravon Askew-Henry, many feel the Mountaineers could be poised for a better year in 2017.
6. Bob Huggins Gets Career Win No.800
Years from now when people are scrolling through old schedules and media guides Dec. 17th’s blowout victory over the University of Missouri Kansas City may seem like just another out of conference shellacking over an overwhelmed opponent, but the reality is that it was so much more. The 112-67 victory represented Bob Huggins’ 800th career win, the latest milestone in a career that is already Hall of Fame worthy. Although Huggins will tell you he doesn’t pay much attention to accolades and career numbers, joining the 800 win club puts his name next to greats like Knight, Krzyzewski, Smith and Rupp.
The main difference between the aforementioned names and Huggins? Huggins reached win No. 800 without ever coaching at a “Blue Blood” program, and that makes it all the more impressive. Shortly after the final buzzer sounded and cemented the head coach’s 800th victory, almost every fan in attendance stayed and watched an emotional video tribute that featured several colleagues, friends and former players sharing their thoughts on the coach’s latest milestone.
Hopefully everyone makes it back to town for win No.900.
Numbers five through one coming soon.