PARKERSBURG-It may have lacked the fan fare it held a year ago when West Virginia University announced it was leaving the Big East to join the Big 12, but Thursday's annual Mountaineer Athletic Club's Coaches Caravan still played to a jam-packed house at J.P. Henry's Restaurant on W.Va. 2.
"I think these are the type of events that typify why West Virginia University athletics are so special to this state," said Tony Caridi, who served as the master of ceremonies. "You can go North, South, East or West and you get an incredible amount of support."
Caridi, who serves as the play-by-play announcer for the football and men's basketball teams, was joined by longtime MAC director Gary McPherson, who will be retiring from the position this summer, as well as head football coach Dana Holgorsen, head men's basketball coach Bobby Huggins and head men's soccer coach Marlan LeBlanc.
Photos by Jim Butta
West Virginia head men’s basketball coach Bobby Huggins discusses the upcoming season with Michelle Hawkins while local organizer Eric Fitzer listens in the background at last night’s MAC Coaches Caravan at J.P. Henry’s Restaurant.
Also in attendance was former Mountaineer assistant head football coach Steve Dunlap and standout player Quincy Wilson.
"It (the support) comes from every part of the state," continued Caridi. "No matter where you go there is a passionate fan base that just wants to see the state's flagship university succeed."
In addition to funding scholarships for WVU student-athletes, Mountaineer Athletic Club members play a pivotal role in the enhancement, construction, and maintenance of first-class facilities and in the establishment and operation of key services and support functions for the athletic department. All monies raised from the event goes to support the MAC.
"I love coming here (Parkersburg)," said Huggins. "I really enjoy getting out and meeting the people of this state. West Virginians are passionate about their Mountaineers and I want to give them something that they can feel passionate about."
The men's basketball program is coming off of a 13-19 mark and the veteran head coach made sure he told the sold out crowd that it could expect a lot of changes before WVU takes to the hardcourt for the 2013-14 campaign.
"I've been coaching for a long time," continued Huggins. "I can't ever remember losing 19 games. And, you can bet that we are going to do everything we can to make sure that we don't lose that many games again."
That transition started last month when three members of this year's team transferred out of the program. Huggins and his staff hit the junior college circuit to find their replacements and added power forwards Jonathan Holton from Palm Beach State Community College in Florida and Remi Dibo, who attended Mountain State Academy in Beckley before heading off to Casper College.
"You are never really done recruiting," said the coach. "And, we will still be out there looking for the players that we need to compete in the Big 12."
Words echoed by Holgorsen.
"It takes time," he said. "But, we are committed to going out there and finding players that we will need to compete in the Big 12. We are coming off of a very, very good spring and we are anxious to see how our players use this summer to prepare for camp in August."
That includes bringing players in like former Florida State University quarterback Clint Trickett.
"He (Trickett) grew up in West Virginia and still has a love for the state," continued Holgorsen. "He'll come in and compete with the other two-Ford Childress and Paul Millard-for the starting job.
"But, we will have a lot of players competing for starting jobs when we begin practice."
Parkersburg is the second of six Carvan stops. The group was in Wheeling on Wednesday, the Caravan will be at the Martinsburg Holiday Inn on May 15, the Chuck Mathena Center in Princeton on May 22, The Resort at Glade Spring in Daniels on May 23 and closes out its tour at the Village Square Conference Center in Clarksburg on June 5.
"These events give us (the coaches) a chance to see our fans and talk Mountaineer sports with people who really care about Mountaineer sports," said Huggins. "I can't think of a better topic to talk about."