News, Notes & Rumors – June 4
I thought the announcement would have been made by now, but it’s likely coming soon.
From what I understand, at some point this summer, West Virginia University director of athletics Shane Lyons is going to announce plans for renovations to the Puskar Center at Mountaineer Field.
The building, on the south end of the stadium, is the day-to-day center of the WVU football program, as it houses the lockerrooms, weight room, coaches offices, team meeting rooms, training room, etc. There have been some renovations to the Puskar Center over the years, but much of it remains as it was when the two-story structure, which was originally known as the Facilities Building, first opened in 1980.
At the very least, Lyons will be looking to repurpose the old team room, which is no longer needed since the construction of a larger, theater-style team room in a west wing off the Puskar Center. The old team room and the position meeting rooms that surround it will almost certainly be changed.
WVU recently completed two years and $45 million worth of renovations to the east and west concourses at Mountaineer Field, wiping out the old concession stands and restrooms and rebuilding newer, larger ones. The concourse area at the WVU Coliseum also underwent major renovations last year, and there are further projects inside the Coliseum and others near it that are still planned, but have not yet begun. In all, West Virginia’s athletic department has budgeted $106 million for all these renovations as part of a plan that was first revealed in the spring of 2014 when Oliver Luck was still WVU’s A.D.
Now Lyons has his sights set on another major project for his athletic department. This one won’t be covered by the money set aside for the last round of upgrades, which was paid for in large part by $75 million in university-issued bonds.
With that kind of loan already on the athletic department books, Lyons wants to pay for any new Puskar Center renovations with private donations. How much money he can raise will ultimately determine the scope of the project. WVU could probably get by on the cheap by just renovating the old team room and meeting rooms for a million or two. Lyons would like to do much more, though, and for $20 to $25 million, the entire Puskar Center could get a pretty good make over.
But there’s another, more radical idea floating around. That concept is to basically wipeout most everything in the footprint of the old facilities building and construct a new home for Mountaineer football that is worthy of a Big 12 program. One as good as any in the league, if not better. Make it bigger – out is not an option, so it would have to go up – and grander so that it would rival anything not only in the league but in the country.
Such a dream facility wouldn’t come cheap. The state-of-the-art, 145,000 square-foot one Oregon constructed in 2013 came with a $68 million price tag. Outside Chicago, Northwestern is nearing completion of a 425,000 square-foot facility that will serve as the practice home for Wildcat football and six other sports. NU’s Ryan Fieldhouse and Walters Athletic Center is costing $270 million.
Even if WVU didn’t go for all the Oregon or Northwestern bells and whistles, the cost of a grandiose Mountaineer football home would probably be least $75 million. That’s a lot of private donations for Lyons to obtain, but in the end, it would be a game changer for West Virginia football. It would put five-star recruits, who currently don’t pay much attention to WVU, within reach of the Mountaineers. It wouldn’t be an easy or cheap project to fund, but if West Virginia fans want to see their team compete with the very best, such a dream needs to become a reality.
Lyons likes to say that anything is possible, “it’s only a matter of time and money.”
If he can find the money, imagine what could be possible in time.
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One former Mountaineer football player received a nice raise recently.
Chris Haering, who was a linebacker at WVU from 1986-89, is heading into his fourth season as the special teams coordinator at the University of Wisconsin.
After spending 17 seasons as the head football coach at Mount Lebanon (Pa.) High School outside of Pittsburgh, Haering joined Paul Chryst’s staff at Pitt in 2012. They spent three years together with the Panthers, and when Chryst was hired as the head coach of his alma mater, Wisconsin, in 2015, Haering followed him to Madison.
Chryst, who was a graduate assistant at WVU in 1991, thinks so much of Haering’s special teams coaching that he recently presented him with a hefty raise. Haering’s salary skyrocketed from $250,000 a year to $425,000.
Among the salaries I can find, only one other West Virginia University graduate is making more for coaching college football – Marshall head coach Doc Holliday, whose base salary is $600,000. Even current Akron head coach Terry Bowden ($400,000) isn’t making as much as the Wisconsin special teams coordinator.
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Former Big East football supervisor of officials John Soffey passed away on May 12. He was 76.
Soffey was on the field serving as the referee when the 1992 West Virginia/Syracuse football game at Mountaineer Field erupted in a brawl. It was started when Orange quarterback Marvin Graves spiked a ball off the helmet of Tommy Orr in the fourth quarter for what Graves perceived to be a late hit.
The bench-clearing melee that followed resulted in ejections to three WVU defensive starters and one Syracuse backup. With the Mountaineers depleted, Graves proceeded to lead the Orange on a last minute TD drive that gave SU a 20-17 victory at Mountaineer Field.
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West Virginia will finally get to use the lights at Mountaineer Field again.
Of its six home football games last season, WVU saw five kickoff at noon and one at 3:30.
But as the details for West Virginia’s football games this fall are filtering out, WVU again will be turning the lights on at Mountaineer Field.
The start times for three WVU home games were announced last week, and all are night games.
West Virginia’s first home game of the 2018 season will take place against Youngstown State on Saturday, Sept. 8. It will be broadcast on AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh and will begin at 6 p.m.
The start times for two of West Virginia’s Big 12 home games also have been revealed. WVU will host Baylor on Thursday, Oct. 25 in a contest that will start at 7 p.m. and will be broadcast by FS1. Then on Friday, Nov. 23, Oklahoma comes to Mountaineer Field for a game that will be televised by ESPN and will begin at 8 p.m.
In addition to those home games, WVU’s season opener against Tennessee, which will take place on Saturday, Sept. 1 in Charlotte, N.C., will kickoff at 3:30 p.m. The game will be televised by CBS. This will be the first time the Mountaineers have appeared on CBS since the 2010 Gator Bowl.
On Sept. 15, WVU will be in Raleigh, where it will face N.C. State in a game that will start at 3:30 p.m. That contest will be televised by ABC or one of the ESPN channels.
The start time and TV affiliate for West Virginia’s other seven games this fall will be announced on a 12-day or six-day window beginning in September.
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Want to feel old?
Former Mountaineer star receiver Shawn Foreman turned 43 on Sunday.