Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

MICKEY FURFARI

December 11, 2013

Column: Is building auditorium really top WVU priority?

MORGANTOWN — West Virginia University announced last Saturday that it plans to build a $6 million auditorium for use as a “team room” for the sagging football program.

The Mountaineer Athletic Club already has raised $2 million in donations toward payment of that project if and when completed.

Dana Holgorsen, whom athletic director Oliver Luck already has granted a fourth year as WVU’s head football coach, apparently thinks — or implies — that it is needed for his teams to be successful.

Holgorsen had been quoted earlier as saying the Mountaineers’ practice facilities, including the Caperton Indoor Building with Astroturf flooring, was virtually inadequate.

If I remember correctly, Holgorsen cited that it wasn’t high enough. That outdoor practice field, whose turf was laid piece-by-piece also does not meet today’s standards — at least in Holgorsen’s and Luck’s opinion.

To some people, however, this latest scheduled football project seems laughable were it not so serious — and costly.

Does anyone really feel updating the facilities will turn around West Virginia’s football program to where Luck’s dream of a national football championship becomes a reality?

Holgorsen, who most certainly was highly successful as an offensive coordinator at a few colleges in Texas and Oklahoma, has found the going more troubling during his first three years as a head coach at any level.

Shouldn’t personality, recruiting, coaching and, of course, winning, be greater factors priority-wise than facilities?

I think they should be.

Perhaps Luck should ask the legendary Don Nehlen how he managed to be so successful with the modest football facilities as the head football coach from 1980-2000.

Nehlen, for whom Luck was the starting quarterback in 1980-81, guided the Mountaineers to 11-0 regular-season records in 1988 and 1993. What’s more, that ’88 team remains the only one ever to play for a national championship (Luck’s dream).

Unfortunately All-America quarterback Major Harris injured his shoulder on the third offensive play against Notre Dame and WVU lost 34-21. If that hadn’t happened, count me among those observers who believed the Mountaineers would have won.

It was Nehlen’s insistence that also resulted in the immediate construction of the Puskar Center and the Caperton Indoor Facility.

Ed Pastilong, then an assistant athletic director, oversaw obtaining and laying of turf for the practice field.

If memory serves, Luck even filled a summer stint on that project just over the hill from Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium.

One would think, meanwhile, that WVU’s priority at this time should be solely on building a football team that’s consistent, well-coached, competitive and winning.

Granted, Dana Holgorsen went 10-3 in his first season here with the late Bill Stewart’s recruits. Stewart also had produced three 9-3 regular-season marks.

But in 2012, Holgorsen’s Mountaineers finished 7-6 and then a totally unacceptable 4-8 this year—just the fifth time in history that WVU has suffered as many as eight losses in a season.

Can the football program be turned around by Holgorsen and his coaching staff in 2014?

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MICKEY FURFARI