Unsettled Start To 2019 on Tap For WVU
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The flipping of the calendar page from December of one year to January of the next is one of the most cleansing and nostalgic moments any of us have, for it is time erase the bad of a year ago, celebrate the good and look forward to the fortune of a New Year.
What can we expect in this new year from West Virginia sports?
Certainly, the school has had a long run for big-time success — perhaps reaching the greatest of ambitions, which include a Big 12 championship in football followed by a shot at that sports’ National Championship Game and trip to the NCAA Final to make amends for the one-point loss Jerry West’s team suffered to California in the final game.
But overall there were heroes and thrills, record-breaking performances, large crowds, a smooth transition into the digital era and facility improvements that, while costly, have made the experience of Mountaineering far more memorable.
Now, though, as 2019 breaks, we seem to be in transition mode, a time when expectations may have to lower and where changes may come upon us all.
The talent that moved on within the past few years is difficult to replace, let alone top … the likes of Jevon Carter on the basketball court and Will Grier, David Sills, David Long, Gary Jennings and Yodny Cajuste in football.
It is difficult to imagine this basketball team that lost four games before conference play and its best player in Sagaba Konate being a challenger to Kansas or Texas Tech, which comes to town to open the Big 12 season.
If Huggins pulls off that miracle on Wednesday, then maybe we all can raise our expectations but, right now, it looks as if it is going to be a push to make it to the NCAA Tournament, perhaps depending upon how long Konate is out.
Make no doubt that as this new year chugs on toward March, Huggins will make improvements in the team and there is some solace to be found in the way he looks at the pre-season.
“This was a much tougher preseason than others we have played,” Huggins said, suggesting that they put it together by looking at teams that were expected to win or contend for their own conference titles and scheduling them.
If, indeed, that was case then his young team may have become hardened far more than had they gone through a powder puff preseason and gotten little from it.
But if his situation is rebuilding and retooling, it is nothing compared to what the football program will go through next season.
Notice we say football program and not Dana Holgorsen, because there is no likelihood that he will return to finish out the last two years of his contract.
He has been wrangling for an extension that, quite frankly, he hasn’t earned and the school seems adamant in rejecting such suggestions, which makes him vulnerable to being courted elsewhere.
Houston, to which he has strong ties, is said to be interested and there is no reason to believe he isn’t.
WVU comes into the season without the aforementioned star players, all of whom seem headed for NFL careers of note, which makes one wonder what makes a successful football coach in this era.
If a successful business professor is measured by how well his students do after the graduate a school, should not a football coach be measured the same?
Holgoren has improved the flow of players from WVU to the NFL dramatically, and while the program’s winning record has not improved over where it was for the past few decades, is there not a mix in there where your coach can be considered successful at both?
Whatever, Holgorsen or whomever inherits the reins to the program have a building job on their hands but there is a talented foundation left behind upon which to build.
It is not much different than what Nikki-Izzo Brown, the women’s soccer coach, went through after reaching the NCAA finals with group of special players fated for stardom in college soccer’s afterlife.
It is the ebb and flow of athletics, where year in and year out you can almost blindly predict the nation’s Top Ten teams in any sport and expect to get 70% or 80% right.
But let us all remember that you do not judge your happiness the athletic success of your favorite teams, no matter who they may be. There may be no NFL playoffs in Pittsburgh this year, but next year you can rest assured the Steelers fans will still be waving their “Terrible Towels”.
Enjoy it for what is, root for the best, know that there is a year of sports excitement ahead and have a Happy New Year!