By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
West Virginia University’s annual Coaches Caravan is always a good way to further stoke fans’ excitement for football season.
Of course, that might not be necessary this year. With all the offensive firepower returning from a team that laid 70 points on Clemson in the Orange Bowl, the gold-and-blue faithful haven’t stopped talking about the 2012 season.
Led by quarterback Geno Smith and a bevy of returning players on offense, the Mountaineers are projected as a Top 10 team when the preseason polls are released in August.
Still, the caravan rolls on, and will make its annual stop in Beckley next Thursday, May 24. The event will start at 5:30 p.m. at the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center.
“The fans enjoy talking to these coaches, and it helps create enthusiasm and sell a lot of tickets,” said Doug Ball, director of the Mountaineer Athletic Club. “Of course, it looks like (the fans) have made a rush for football tickets, so they probably won’t have much problem selling them.”
Several WVU coaches, as well as athletic director Oliver Luck, will be speaking at the banquet. Among them are football coach Dana Holgorsen, men’s basketball coach Bob Huggins and gymnastics coach Jason Butts. Also there will be WVU radio play-by-play man Tony Caridi.
The school’s impending move to the Big 12 Conference, which will become official July 1, is a hot topic.
“I’m sure Oliver will go over a lot of that, as familiar as he and coach Holgorsen are with the Big 12,” Ball said.
Count Ball among those excited about the switch. He recalled traveling to see the Mountaineers play Oklahoma when quarterback Jeff Hostetler was a senior.
“I would say some of the nicest fans I have encountered were in Norman (Okla.),” Ball said. “They have a great following. It will be an exciting time when they come (to Morgantown).
“That West Virginia will be in a conference with the Oklahomas and Texas’ and TCUs, a lot of college football’s powerhouses, is very exciting.”
The Sooners will visit WVU Nov. 17.
The golf portion of the caravan is scheduled for Aug. 20 at The Resort at Glade Springs. More information on that event will be available at a later date.
Tickets for the dinner are $50 each, or a preferred table that seats eight can be purchased for $500.
For more information, call Ball at 304-254-2169 or 304-545-0252, or call the convention center at 304-252-7361.