By J. Daniel Rollins
Register-Herald Sports Writer
When news broke that Woodrow Wilson would be hosting two basketball games in the school’s gymnasium as opposed to the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center, there was an ocean of emotions from Flying Eagles’ fans ranging from befuddled to angry.
But Woodrow athletic director Tim Carrico hopes there’s another emotion fans of the maroon and white will have Friday night, when the Eagles welcome Winfield: Excitement.
“This is a chance for us to showcase our gymnasium and our school,” Carrico said.
The gym has seen its fair share of renovations of late, including new bleachers and a state of the art sound system, thanks to support from the Raleigh County Board of Education.
“They’ve taken an awesome gym and made it even more awesome,” Carrico said.
Having a gym that can support the Woodrow boys basketball team is something Carrico is happy about, but he wants all of Flying Eagle nation to understand that this is not part of a plan to move all of Woodrow’s home games to the gym. It’s simply “Plan B.”
“People think we’re trying to move all of Beckley’s games out of the armory, but that’s never been the intentions,” Carrico explained. “This was a try to give us an opportunity to have a game there if necessary.”
With Woodrow being part of the MSAC, it’s becoming more necessary, thanks to the difficult scheduling the conference requires.
This year, the Flying Eagles had four home games that were initially scheduled prior to Christmas, however the Convention Center would not put the basketball floor down until Dec. 23. That left Carrico scrambling to move four conference games into January and February, while dealing with scheduling issues at the Convention Center.
“We now have an opportunity that we can play games at Woodrow if we need to,” Carrico said. “Back in July, when our games were assigned, I found out that the armory was booked for this date along with another one. We started the ball rolling to figure out a way that we could host a game at Woodrow. This was the date that was chosen, because it is so difficult to move.
“There are only so many Friday and Saturday night games — which we like to play because that generates some enthusiasm. When we have an opportunity like this, we felt this was a good time.”
By opening the gym for boys games, it will allow more flexible scheduling of games in the future, especially rescheduled games due to snow. As it currently stands, the Flying Eagles are playing three games a week. If more games are postponed due to snow, it would result in several four-game weeks being scheduled.
Carrico did confirm rumors that the financial aspect of filling a home gym as opposed to the much larger Convention Center played into the decision to move the game to the gym.
“Dollars and cents figure into everything. People like to think it’s not about the kids, that it’s about the money,” he said. “But come on, we’re always thinking about the kids.
“People have to realize, that money is not the first issue we look at,” he continued. “For Beckley, it’s a small business. It’s like a small college when it comes to athletic funding, and the ends have to justify the means. It’s not about the money, but that is a factor.”
While it is likely that certain games will be played at the gym in the future — such as MSAC opponents who travel long distances to play and possible makeup games due to snow — there are certain games that will always be played on Dave Barksdale Court, Carrico promised.
“I understand the tradition of basketball and the armory,” Carrico said. “We have never, ever intended on moving the ball games out of the armory and to Woodrow. We’re not trying to change that tradition, but times have changed. Things have changed. But we would never try to play Greenbrier East at Woodrow Wilson. That’d be foolish. We’d never try to play Oak Hill at Woodrow Wilson. That’d be foolish. We’d never try to play Westside at Woodrow Wilson. That’d be foolish.”
Carrico invites the public to come out and rally around the Flying Eagles and see the gym that is able to support so many top-notch athletic programs, especially for those who have never seen it themselves.
“As I’ve said, we’ve taken an awesome gym and made it more awesome,” he said. “Our girls basketball team has a place where they can be proud. Our wrestling team deserved better. Our volleyball team doesn’t have to wheel out aluminum bleachers anymore. We now have the opportunity to host the regional wrestling tournament, which we’ve never been able to do.”
Carrico hopes that this showcase will create buzz and excitement not just in the community, but within the student body.
“We’ve had a lot of positive comments about it helping with school spirit,” he said. “I would love to see the students embrace this at their school and make the place crazy on Friday night.”
As an added bonus, Woodrow Wilson students will be able to purchase discounted $2 tickets during their lunch period, starting today, and will also receive a complimentary rally towel.
Game time on Friday is at 7:30 p.m.
— E-mail: jrollins
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