Is WVU On The Doorstep Of Its Next Golden Era?
Is West Virginia perched to enter its next Golden Era of athletics?
Overall, there haven’t been too many Golden Eras of athletics at the state university.
Oh, there haven’t been Golden Eras of football and golden eras of men’s basketball, but in truth it isn’t often that they excel at both at the same time.
Think about it for a moment. The Golden Era of basketball for WVU was from 1958 to 1962 through Hot Rod Hundley, Jerry West and Rod Thorn, the basketball team reaching an NCAA final and compiling a 131-22 record, which is an .856 winning percentage.
But during that time football was staggering along at 19-28, including the only winless season in school history — save for an 0-1 record in its first year of 1891 — when it went 0-8-2 under Gene Corum in 1960.
And in what well may have been the Golden Age of football back in the Roarin’ 20s, from 1922 to 1925 under Ira “Rat” Rodgers and Clarence “Doc” Spears, when the football team was 33-3-2, the basketball team went 40-33.
The 1924 team, under Francis Stadsvold, did put together maybe the best record WVU ever had at 14-2, the only two losses being at Kentucky, by a 24-21 score — honest — and to Washington & Jefferson, by a 23-21 score — honest again.
It was a different game then.
The closest thing to a true Golden Era in WVU sports history was one that ended in the school’s most burning defeat, coming from 2005 through 2007 when the football team went 11-1, 11-2 and 11-2 … that second loss in 2007, of course, being the upset defeat to Pitt when WVU was looking at a chance to win a national championship.
At the time they were going 33-5 and winning three bowl games, including the memorable victory over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, John Beilein was having his successful run as basketball coach, going 73-31, including the devastating losses to Texas on a last-second shot and to Louisville in overtime in consecutive NCAA Tournaments.
Somehow you get the feeling now that WVU is standing on the edge of a big-time run in college athletics … in football, men’s basketball, women’s basketball and rifle while growing in the other sports.
What does it take to stitch together a Golden Era?
It begins with coaching, requires star players and support from the university.
In Bob Huggins, WVU basketball is in Hall of Fame-bound hands and Mike Carey has taken a downtrodden women’s basketball program and accomplished big things that may be bordering on great things next season.
As for football, Dana Holgorsen has yet to distinguish himself among the nation’s elite coaches, but he is radiating a sense of confidence that he has assembled the kind of team he wants to have and is bringing it into a Big 12 that at least doesn’t offer Heisman Trophy candidates at the quarteback position … other than his own.
He has to prove he can win big games, but with Will Grier at quarterback, with David Sills returning with his gift for scoring touchdowns and with David Long on the other side of the ball with his gift for stopping them, Holgorsen may just be sitting on a gold mine.
The stars he has twinkle as brightly as any in the college, and Huggins is probably far better off than anyone realizes as they pay attention to his personnel losses rather than his additions.
True, replacing Jevon Carter, who may be one of the top 5 and certainly one of the 10 players at WVU all-time, is no easy chore but Huggins has a group of sophomores about to become juniors who just may blossom beyond recognition.
That includes Beetle Bolden, Wesley Harris and Lamont West, surrounding potentially one of the dominating players in the game in center Sagaba Konate, who almost certainly will return for this final year of grooming.
With Brandon Knapper’s freshman year lost to injury, you have prepared a redshirt point guard while Teddy Allen has a valuable year of experience and maturity.
What makes it intriguing, though, is a solid group of newcomers who may make up the best recruiting class Huggins has brought in — Wisconsin’s Mr. Basketball, Jordan McCabe, to share the point with Knapper and free Bolden to fill Daxter Miles’ role; power forward Derek Culver, guard Trey Doomes and center Andrew Gorden.
As for Carey, he gets back a National Player of the Year candidate next year in Tynice Martin, who limped through this redshirt season after breaking a bone in her foot at a summer Team USA tryout, to go with a strong returning cast that promises to be ready to make an NCAA run.