By Cam Huffman
If the West Virginia University basketball team could collect frequent flier miles, the entire team could probably take a summer vacation to Jamaica.
This week, the Mountaineers will travel 850-plus miles to Ames, Iowa, to take on Iowa State on Wednesday, make the return trip to Morgantown after the game and then turn right around and make the 425-plus-mile trip to Lafayette, Ind., for a Saturday battle with Purdue.
Now in the Big 12, where that trip to Iowa is actually the closest conference game, this week’s situation isn’t unique.
In February, WVU will travel to Texas to face TCU on a Saturday, return to Morgantown and then hit the road for Baylor that Wednesday.
In March, the Mountaineers will go to Kansas on a Saturday, back to Morgantown and then to Oklahoma on Wednesday.
Why not just stay?
NCAA rules say it is not permissible for a team to depart more than 48 hours prior to an event or remain more than 36 hours after an event during the regular season, unless one of the events is in Alaska or Hawaii.
So instead of staying out on the road, WVU will almost always have to touch back down in Morgantown, even if its stay is for 24 hours or less.
It’s a rule WVU head coach Bob Huggins said needs to be re-evaluated.
“With conference expansion and the different geography, some rules become antiquated,” he said. “I think it would be advantageous for us to stay at times, rather than come back. I think you’ll see rule changes as college athletics continue to change.”
Huggins said he hasn’t seen the travel have a real impact on his team to this point, but it may be too early to really evaluate its effects.
“I thought we were fine Saturday,” said Huggins of his team’s 65-64 loss to No. 18 Kansas State, three days after a long road trip to Texas. “I thought we played really hard and had good energy. But I don’t think it’s a one-shot deal. We’ll have to, at the end of the season, take a hard look at the cumulative effect and what we can do to make it better.”
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WVU point guard Juwan Staten was on the bench for the second half of WVU’s 57-53 overtime win at Texas last week and he didn’t play at all against Kansas State.
Huggins never went into detail about the reasons for the sophomore’s time on the bench, saying only that Staten was going to have to “get on the same page” if he wanted to play.
Huggins did indicate during Monday’s Big 12 Conference call that Staten will make the trip to Iowa State, but he made no indication as to how much the Dayton transfer will play.
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Moving to football, WVU still hasn’t made any official announcement as to the new coaches on the staff, but sources say all of the vacancies have been filled.
Tony Gibson is said to be returning to Morgantown, where he previously worked as an assistant on Rich Rodriguez’s staff, from Arizona, where he had been reunited with Rodriguez after a year at Pitt. Brian Mitchell, who was let go as the East Carolina defensive coordinator, will also fill one of the spots left open by head coach Dana Holgorsen’s firings of Daron Roberts and Steve Dunlap.
Over the weekend, it was also learned that WVU quarterbacks coach Jake Spavital was leaving to accept a position at Texas A&M, working as the quarterbacks coach and co-offensive coordinator, leaving an open position on the offensive sides.
Sources say Wake Forest assistant Lonnie Galloway, who was the wide receivers coach under Bill Stewart, will be returning to Morgantown to fill that same role once again.
Galloway, who was the only offensive coach retained by Holgorsen, before he decided to head to Wake Forest in 2011, is expected to coach the receivers, with offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson, who had coached the WVU receivers the last two seasons, taking over the quarterback coaching duties.
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