The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

College Sports

April 21, 2013

Did WVU overreact in joining the Big 12?

MORGANTOWN — It remains my firm feeling — and those of numerous other people — that West Virginia University does not need a new baseball park.

Hawley Field has the best ball-playing surface in northern West Virginia. There are adequate dugouts in place, and there is ample space alongside each to construct modern locker rooms in which to dress, undress, shower, etc.

And on the approach to the 1,500-seat area is the Shell Building, where the Mountaineers have adequate access to shower and shave as well as get into uniform and dress.

But, now that WVU is in the Big 12 Conference, we’ve learned that WVU’s Hawley Field is not good enough for that league’s other teams. Perhaps that’s understandable, though.

And if it is, why didn’t the WVU powers-that-be look at that before overreacting in joining the Big 12? In the haste to become a member, why didn’t they also realize that West Virginia U. was shortchanging its 32,000 students — if not a greater number than that already?

No one can afford to go to any road games in Texas, Kansas, Iowa or any of those other faraway Southern/Midwest states.      

Travel expenses have soared uncontrollably. The powers-that-be also failed to consider the physical and mental wear-and-tear on the young football and basketball squads.

Some teams didn’t get back to Morgantown in a chartered jet until 7 or 8 a.m. and faced a full day of classes that morning and afternoon.

Bob Huggins, WVU men’s basketball head coach, complained about that publicly later. But he did say that wasn’t an excuse for the team’s poor 13-19 record last season.

Let’s get back to whether WVU really needs the new ballpark:

As I’ve pointed out herein periodically, baseball never has paid its way in Morgantown. Growing numbers doubt openly that it ever will.

In other words, the meaning obviously is that it might well wind up being what some of us used to call “a white elephant.”

I believe the few students that might attend a baseball game still can walk or ride the PRT to Hawley Field. But now most all of the Big 12 “home” games are being played in Charleston.

In the meantime, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin had the state Legislature in special session to pass a bill that included construction of a publicly owned baseball park at what seems a wasteful projected $16.2 million. It is to be used by WVU and other teams in a reportedly windy, cold, hilly shopping mall.

That bill was referred to as TIF, meaning the benefit of state increments, and the bill included construction of a new, larger interchange exit off I-79.

The latter most certainly would be more meaningful to the public than a new ball park for baseball even at a cost of $40 million, which does seem like heaps of money.

But truth be known, Marshall University really needs a ballpark a lot more than WVU. I’m told that school had to play a conference championship game in Charleston not long ago. The simple truth was Huntington didn’t have a decent ball park.

Marshall might well follow in WVU’s footsteps and have Cabell County demand a TIF bill just like WVU and Monongalia County did.

Tit for tat!

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