News, Notes & Rumors – May 14
Star power helps to sell tickets.
With the likes of Will Grier, David Sills, Gary Jennings and David Long returning to the Mountaineer football team in 2018, West Virginia’s season ticket sale are bucking a recent downward trend.
Since 2012, when WVU sold 37,341 season football tickets, that number had been dropping annually. Last year West Virginia sold just over 27,000 season tickets, which was about a three-percent decrease from 2016.
But this year sales are up slightly from where they were at this point in 2017. The priority date for season ticket renewals was April 27, and with that deadline come and gone, WVU’s senior associate athletic director Matt Wells is reporting 20,000 season tickets sold/renewed. That’s a slight increase over last year at this time.
Obviously there are still almost four months before the Mountaineers’ home opener on Sept. 8 against Youngstown State, so there is plenty of time to sell more tickets. But at this point West Virginia athletic department officials are encouraged by the sales figures.
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Until Penn State joined the Big Ten Conference in 1990, the Nittany Lions’ football rivalry with Pitt had been nearly an annual event since the beginning of the century.
But the two old foes have met on the football field just eight times since PSU jumped ship from the Eastern Independents.
The Lions and Panthers do have football games slated for 2018 and 2019, but Pitt’s recent attempts to add further meetings to the series have been rebuffed by Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour.
According to the Centre Daily Times, “An extension of the storied series might be revisited at some point after 2030, Nittany Lions athletic director Sandy Barbour said Tuesday at Penn State’s first Coaches Caravan stop. But in the short term, relatively speaking, another renewal isn’t in the cards.”
“We’ve had conversations,” Barbour said at The New Yorker Hotel. “I think at this point we’ve both agreed that based on Big Ten and ACC scheduling principles – and it’s a complicating puzzle nowadays – that we’re probably not going to do anything at this point.”
Could such an impasse have implications for West Virginia University?
The Mountaineers already have a four-year home-and-home football series with Pitt slated to run from 2022 to 2025. WVU also has a two-year contract with Penn State in 2023 and 2024. The Nittany Lions don’t seem interested in locking themselves into a lengthy series with Pitt, West Virginia or anyone else.
But could Penn State’s rejection of the Panthers leave an opening to make the Backyard Brawl basically an annual affair again?
In 2015, West Virginia director of athletics Shane Lyons worked out the four-year agreement with Pitt, and now he and his Panther counterpart Heather Lyke have corresponding openings that could extend that deal well past 2025. The two Backyard Brawl opponents both are now members of far-flung conferences, and each would like to maintain some regional rivalries in this new world.
Pitt’s ACC football schedule currently allows for four annual non-conference opponents, while WVU’s schedule has room for three foes each year outside of the Big 12. Both programs also are using two of those non-conference slots for Power 5 opponents, so making the Brawl basically an annual affair even after the current contract ends in 2025 seems to make a lot of sense for each party.
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On step backward, two steps forward.
Less than a week after the Mountaineer freshman forward Teddy Allen announced he was leaving WVU’s men’s basketball team, he revealed via Twitter that he was transferring to Wichita State.
“I have committed to Coach (Gregg) Marshall and Wichita State University,” tweeted Allen. “I want to thank everyone who’s supported me throughout this process and my freshman year. Can’t wait to get to work in Wichita! All the glory to my Lord and Savior!”
Allen’s departure was offset by the addition of two recent signees for West Virginia’s current basketball recruiting class. Jermaine Haley, a 6-foot-8 guard from Odessa (Texas) College, and Emmitt Matthews, a 6-foot-7 wing from Tacoma, Wash., both committed to WVU last week. Those two are added to West Virginia’s class of 2018, which had already included Derek Culver, Trey Doomes, Andrew Gordon and Jordan McCabe.
These moves also currently put Bob Huggins’ program one over the NCAA scholarship limit of 13.
The Mountaineers are still awaiting a decision from Sagaba Konate, who is mulling over his NBA fate. The sophomore center has until June 11 to decide whether to remove himself from the draft. If Konate does return, and all six scholarship members of WVU’s class of 2018 enroll, than one of the other seven returnees with eligibility remaining (Beetle Bolden, Chase Harler, Brandon Knapper, Esa Ahmad, Lamont West, Wesley Harris and Logan Routt) will not be able to maintain their scholarship to WVU.
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Former Mountaineer football player Jason Hardee has a new job.
A defensive lineman at WVU in 2002 and 2003, Hardee is in his first year coaching the defensive line at the College of San Mateo, which is a junior college near San Francisco.
Hardee was a tight end at San Mateo himself, before switching over to defensive line during his years with the Mountaineers. After graduating from WVU, Hardee spent a couple seasons in the Arena League before returning to the San Francisco area, where he began coaching and teaching in local high schools. He even was an assistant basketball coach for a couple seasons at Canada Junior College, which is in Redwood City, Calif. He now returns to the College of San Mateo to concentrate on football.
Hardee is just one of several former Mountaineer players from that era currently coaching in the college ranks. Angel Estrada (West Liberty), John Pennington (West Virginia State), George Shehl (West Virginia State), Quincy Wilson (West Virginia State) are all currently coaching football in the Mountain East Conference.