Six days, five games, one goal

April 22, 2014 by Mike Casazza

We haven’t really discussed this, what with that tricky seven-game losing streak, but WVU’s baseball team is officially loitering.

The Mountaineers aren’t in the conversation, but they do have a look at things. They play in the country’s second-best conference and are No. 30 in the RPI, and they’ve got eight games left against teams in the top 19. And there’s reason to believe things are falling into place after reshuffling the pitching staff and winning three of four, including two of three over the weekend at Oklahoma.

Don’t confuse the qualifications for the NCAA baseball and basketball tournaments, but don’t simply ignore the RPI, either. WVU could be in a much worse position, and the team is three games above .500 with 16 games to go. The schedule is equal parts helpful and demanding, though. WVU closes with seven in a row on the road and one neutral-site game. Before that? An eight-game homestand that begins tonight (if the weather allows it) as Ross Vance seeks a mid-week encore against very good Maryland.

Show of hands

April 22, 2014 by Mike Casazza

Who’s signed up already?

Let’s take a seat!

April 21, 2014 by Mike Casazza

How often do you feel a little displaced or disenfranchised by your favorite athletic department? More and more is asked from you and your wallet and you’re wondering if requests for additions and improvements are even being heard, never mind considered.

And then when you find yourself celebrating something like the sale of soft pretzels at the closest concession stand, you wonder how crazy things have become and how you can get a greater voice to witness more yummy enhancements.

I think that’s pretty common, and I think that’s why I love this idea from WVU.

The West Virginia University Department of Intercollegiate Athletics is forming a fan experience committee to discuss the needs of Mountaineer fans with the hopes of enhancing the fan experience at its events.

This is a great opportunity for Mountaineer fans to have their voices heard. The Mountaineer Fan Experience Committee is established for fans to provide valuable input to the athletic department on various topics.

Here’s my proposition for all of you: Let’s get a seat among the 12 to 15 people on the committee. Surely this audience has someone who meets the requirements and can make the meetings, and that someone can act as the proxy for all of the great ideas the great people here have up their sleeves.

So apply and let me know if you make the cut. When you do — because of course we’ll have a representative — we’ll gather our ideas and suggestions to include as part of the coming discussion.

Who’s with me?

Let’s just get this out of the way

April 21, 2014 by Mike Casazza

WVU’s newest basketball signee has a legal issue to address. There’s a warrant out for Tarik Phillip’s arrest after he was arrested one day two years ago and didn’t appear in court the following day.

The charge was shelved until Phillip could be located. In North Carolina, that’s called voluntary dismissal with leave, according to a magistrate in the Gaston County office. That’s not the same as having the charge dismissed. If Phillip turns himself in here soon, he’ll have to pay a secured $5,000 bond for failing to make a court appearance two years ago and then face the original felony charge for larceny.

In the big picture, it’s not a deal-breaker. It just looks bad. He’s already signed and Bob Huggins says WVU knew about the arrests — there were two — and looked into everything and WVU thought everything was resolved. Not sure what happened there, and perhaps that’s asking for another story, but there’s no jail time with the larceny charge and nothing additional for failing to appear. The story is that a kid was arrested twice in three months and didn’t appear for a second charge and that he and seemingly unsuspecting WVU have to deal with the look that comes with it.

I promise, I have a different story for Phillip for tomorrow’s paper.

(Update: Mecklenberg County says Phllip is also wanted there for failing to appear in court to fave a misdemeanor injury to property charge. The alleged offense occurred in December 2011. He didn’t appear April 11, 2012, and a warrant was issued a day later. More to come, I’m sure, but I have to believe there’s an explanation.)

Friday Feedback

April 18, 2014 by Mike Casazza

Welcome to the Friday Feedback, which is Logan Moore’s world and I’m just typing in it. This was a week for quarterbacks and walk-ons, so of course a walk-on quarterback captured our attention. Those aren’t like topics, sort of like apples and piano as opposed to apples and oranges, but they have one thing in common, at least around here.

Things are about to change.

West Virginia is going to trot a quarterback out onto the field Aug. 30, and if we’re lucky, we’ll know who a few days ahead of time.

And the NCAA is changing, or is being made to change, and if we’re lucky, the Have-Nots won’t kill this latest adopted legislation with the override. And that can still happen.

Two really interesting things came out of all the calls and conversations I had this week. One was the almost uniform opinion that this may be spiked by the override … because, you know, there’s precedence. (There’d be a side effect attached to that because the Haves would be even more wound up about this disparity between the top and the bottom than ever before. But that’s a story for another day.)

The other interesting thing? It seems there’s movement to no longer refer to the five big conferences as the Power Five. “I think ‘Higher Visibility’ is the talking point now,” a person told me. Tremendous.

Onto the Feedback. As always, comments appear as posted. In other words, there’s a place for creativity.

Dann said:

Hey, did anyone else get a kick out of Dana’s new wardrobe? I think it goes well with the recent additions of people with WVU connections to the staff.
Perhaps there is something to that “school spirit” thing after all, and maybe coach is beginning to see the wisdom of it.

Dann

I didn’t get a ton of email or Tweets or blog comments about state of the union stuff after the spring game. I got some. And most of the some were in praise of Dana’s apparel. And that is that.

Read the rest of this entry »

Are we ready for the new arms race?

April 17, 2014 by Mike Casazza

We hadn’t talked about this yet because I wasn’t ready to, but Tuesday saw the NCAA adopt a handful of well-being rules for its student-athletes. The highest profile belonged to the one granting unlimited meals and snacks to all players — those on scholarship and those who walk on to a team.

It’s a tectonic shift for the same body that infamously billed three Oklahoma football players $11.49 for consuming extra pasta at a graduation banquet.

With time passed now and some of the information, um, digested, I spent parts of yesterday talking to people I know who work at different places in different aspects with different sports. There’s a lot left to be decided and maybe even deciphered still — and that’s if the thing survives the initial override and is approved next week.

What seems clear, at least preliminarily, is this is a game-changer. Literally. It’s great for the nutrition, the sustenance and the development of student-athletes. But it’s also going to become a big part of how a university sells itself to prospective student-athletes.

We know about the ordnance and the ordinances of recruiting, but on the shore today, it seems like this is the next wave in the great arms race.

“I think right now our early discussions are mostly about ‘What does this mean?’” Hammond said. “Is it three meals a day and a late-night snack? Is it having a breakfast and a dinner and a deli bar? What does this mean? There are a lot of questions that need to be answered as we get further into this.

“Certainly down the road I can see there being a recruiting element to it. If School A is doing something and School B is doing something else, what ends up being the most attractive?”

I don’t think I can stress strongly enough how momentous the inclusion of walk-ons is here. Fortunately, I have help. Here’s a real email from a real mom of a real walk-on at a real university.

Mike,

Thanks for writing about this much needed change.  As the parent of a walk on at [a school], it has been very frustrating dealing with the food issue.  [My son] has the largest meal plan [the school] offers but he rarely gets to use it in season. He goes to  practice before dining hall opens, does not normally have time in day because he carries 18 hours then to practice. When practice is over, others eat at meal table but walk ons head out without eating.  Once to dorm, all dining halls are closed. My son has means to buy food but not time to find healthy food after practice.  He was only eating one meal per day due to time constraints and sheer exhaustion when he first walked on.  Because of this he lost 10 lbs in first month.  He has bought plenty of meals for his friends and we never complain but this change is great for the health of all.  We asked to pay extra or if his meal plan could be used at training table like at other schools and answer was no.  It has been very frustrating but as walk ons they try not to create too many waves out of fear of being cut.

Scoop & Score meets the Matrix

April 17, 2014 by Mike Casazza

(Podcast: Tada!)

We’re live again right here at 9 a.m. with a few things to discuss in just one hour. We’ll discuss the adopted NCAA legislation allowing for free food for student-athletes and the inevitable reaction. We’ll put a bow on spring football at WVU and ask and answer some key questions. The highlight, though, is a visit from Dave Bartoo of the indispensable CFBMatrix.com. So many questions about the past, present and future, but so little time.

Randy Mazey needed one, maybe found one

April 16, 2014 by Mike Casazza

West Virginia’s baseball team ended a seven-game losing streak in the snow and cold temperature Tuesday night behind a gritty performance form Ross Vance — a sophomore who’d been used a bunch out of the bullpen this season and who had never made a start in his career.

All he did was shut done a decent Ohio State team and strike out 14 in a 145-pitch complete game. Randy Mazey needed that, in so many ways.

Mid-week games are oftentimes auditions, and Mazey has needed a spark for his rotation. He’s also needed to save a bullpen that has burned the team and that has been burned through far too often this season.

Vance took care of both birds, making sure the bullpen was fully rested before the weekend series against Oklahoma and also inserting himself into the starting rotation. Mazey said after the game that No. 1 starter Harrison Musgrave, No. 3 starter John Means and Vance would start against the Sooners.

That means Sean Carley, who’d been solid as the No. 2 starter, will go to the bullpen. As the closer, Mazey said. This is awesome because here’s Sean Carley …

… and here’s Kenny Powers.

Tricky Tony Gibson

April 16, 2014 by Mike Casazza

We talked only very briefly online …

and in print about this little wrinkle Tony Gibson was ready to iron out in Saturday’s spring game. It’s really not too exotic, but it is effective and there is a purpose for the presence. And Gibson did indeed use it in the scrimmage, though with an added twist. He went 11 up, zero down. Because Twitter happened!

(Probably not, but that’s pretty funny. I simply typed in “Tony Gibson” in my Tweet and didn’t know it would auto-fill with his Twitter handle because I guess Gibby follows me. That in turn sent him a ton of notifications every time the thing was retweeted or commented on that afternoon, and I feel bad about that nuisance he did not need. I should probably know to be extra careful on Twitter now, huh?)

We talked a lot about the defense in the spring, though there were plenty of plots to follow on the field and on the sidelines. At the end, it seems the defense is trending the right way and will follow the lead of what might be a pretty good secondary.

Hits keep coming for Mike Carey

April 15, 2014 by Mike Casazza

In a superlative season full of firsts, West Virginia’s women’s basketball coach can now say this special season also produced the highest WNBA draft pick in school history. Asya Bussie was picked No. 15 overall (in the second round) by the Minnesota Lynx.

They won the 2013 and 2011 titles, by the way, and might be favored to win again after adding a two-time honorable mention All-American.

“I can’t even put into words how excited and blessed I am,” Bussie said. “I was nervous all day, I woke up nervous, and I’m glad to know where I’m going. I’m excited to be playing with Minnesota with some great players like Monica Wright, Maya Moore and Seimone Augustus. It’s a great team.”
The Lynx used their second pick of four chances to get Bussie on their roster. The Randallstown, Md., native is WVU’s highest WNBA Draft pick in program history. The previous highest drafted player from the WVU women’s basketball team was All-American point guard Yolanda Paige who went in the second round as the 16th overall pick of the 2005 draft. All-American Olayinka Sanni went as the No. 18 pick of the second round in the 2008 WNBA Draft, while Kate Bulger was chosen No. 38 overall in the 2004 WNBA Draft.
“It’s shocking to me that I’m the highest pick in program history,” Bussie explained. “That is a great honor and it goes with the theme of this past year– just to make program history.”