Morgantown, West Virginia – West Virginia sports is at a very pivotal moments in its history. The landscape of college athletics is quickly changing and West Virginia must adapt, or it will be left behind.
The creation of Country Roads Trust is a tremendous first step, but it is truly just a first step. The top programs around the nation already have organized, focused efforts in place to ensure that they remain relevant.
West Virginia is increasingly in danger of becoming irrelevant in the national landscape.
The West Virginia football program under Neal Brown has lost its identity and identity is important for multiple reasons but most importantly recruiting. Brown has been moderately successful as a recruiter on paper at West Virginia but what exactly has it led to on the field?
It’s remarkable that Brown has convinced players to buy into his program. The product on the field – the vanilla play-calling, the lack of playing time for young players, the losing – certainly can’t match what he’s selling to these recruits.
The “family atmosphere” that Brown has created around his football program is fine, but virtually every program in the country has that. Brown must find a way to distinguish his programs from others and so far, he simply has not done that.
The West Virginia fanbase is a massive selling point to recruits, but Brown has lost a large portion of that with his mediocre results and boring style.
While it’s difficult to understand why a recruit would chose to play for Neal Brown with endless other possibilities available, it may be even more challenging to understand why a top prospect would ultimately decide to play for Bob Huggins.
Huggins, one of the most successful, accomplished coaches ever, is the opposite of a player-friendly coach. He’s tough, he’s hard, he’s abrasive. While players in the past chose coaches like Huggins to become better men on and off the court, today’s players only want what’s best for themselves. Players learn to love Bob Huggins, but it takes time and time is very limited in today’s game.
Huggins selling “playing for 1.8 million West Virginians” to an inner-city kid is commendable in theory, it’s ridiculous and ineffective in the real world. A top recruit in today’s world wants to be prepared to play at the next level and to get paid big money while doing it. A state’s obsession with the team just doesn’t matter like it used to.
Huggins’ track record of putting players in the NBA at West Virginia is not exactly great. His record of developing successful players at the next level is even worse. In addition, Huggins’ handling of Oscar Tshiebwe is a prime, shining example for recruits on why they would chose a program like Kentucky over West Virginia.
Tshiebwe was completely off the NBA Draft radar last season at West Virginia. Now he’s a national player of the year front-runner and considered a lock to be drafted when he leaves Kentucky.
Major changes – both philosophically and financially – need to happen for West Virginia to be relevant in this changing world. What they are doing is not working and unfortunately, it’s hard to see how it’s going to be much better in the near future.
The football team’s schedule is one of the most challenging in many years and there’s no real reason to expect a winning season. The basketball team loses most of its talent next season and Bob Huggins has openly admitted that he doesn’t want to use the transfer portal to build his team.
Although it’s always been difficult to be a West Virginia fan, it’s particularly hard in 2022.