One of the first subjects West Virginia Director of Athletics Shane Lyons tackled was the recent renovations to the east side of Milan Puskar Stadium. Lyons said he is very pleased with how the renovations turned out and said he expects the west side of the stadium's renovations to be finished in the fall of 2017. While on the subject of ongoing renovations Lyons addressed the current progress of the coliseum project and how that will affect the upcoming season.
"We have had a couple of setbacks," Lyons admitted. "Working with a 46 year old building, you're going to have some issues. The architects and construction crews are going to have to build some extra foundations and add some extra steel for places that renovations that occur. With steel you don't get it overnight, you have to order it and it takes time to get here, same thing for footers and foundations."
After discussing some of the setbacks Lyons shot down some of the rumors that have been circulating about the 2016-2017 Mountaineer basketball season.
"I know there are rumors out there that we're going to play basketball somewhere else, absolutely not," Lyons said. "We're going to be playing in the coliseum. The only thing that has been moved is a volleyball scrimmage that is being moved to Morgantown High School."
Lyons was referring to the volleyball Gold/Blue scrimmage that will be played on Saturday, August 20th. Lyons said the main goal for the coliseum is to have all of the renovations done by the time conference play starts in late December or early January. He also noted the ongoing construction shouldn't have a major impact on the non-conference schedule.
"You could have some restrooms that aren't completely open," Lyons said. "You could have some concession stands in certain areas that aren't completely open. The best way I can put it is it's like going through a mall and they're adding a new store. That store front might be kind of closed up for the first couple of weeks for non-conference play. But I will tell you that we'll have more restrooms in our first game this year than we had last year."
Lyons did say the setbacks with the coliseum construction have set some other projects behind as well, but at this point it only appears to be a minor hiccup.
"It's important to continue to look at our facilities situation," Lyons said. "The coliseum has put us a little bit behind on the update on a new weight room in addition to a new update to the shell building and the training room for our Olympic sports over in the annex part of the shell building. Those things are still on the radar, they are not off the table. It's just a matter of trying to play catch up."
After updating the progress of the current renovations Lyons reiterated his previous stance on Dana's Holgorsen contract status, which is something that many fans and media have speculated about in the last several months.
"My philosophy is that I'm not going to discuss coaches contracts during the season," Lyons said. "Coach Holgorsen and I decided last spring that he's going to focus on winning and my job is giving him the resources necessary to win and we're both on the same page with that. We're working very well and the practice facility is an example of that. We have put that behind us and moved on and now we're going to focus on winning football games this season and see what we can do."
Another story that has dominated headlines in national media in the offseason was Big 12 expansion. Lyons addressed that and what he knows about the current situation.
"It's a very fluid situation," Lyons said. "It's a directive that's being handled by the presidents (of the member universities). At the July meeting the presidents directed Commissioner Bowlsby to move forward with further review of possible institutions to add to the Big 12 league. It's my understanding that it's a review and it doesn't necessarily mean that expansion is going to occur but it's an exercise that the presidents wanted the conference to pursue.
"I have had conversations with President (Gordon) Gee and of course he has continued to have conversations with other presidents and commissioner Bowlsby. The league is in a very good spot. We, as athletic directors, came out of our meeting regardless of what was going to happen with expansion wanted to add a football championship game."
The Big 12 championship game will start in the 2017 season and Lyons said that a format and divisions have still not still been decided. Lyons did however say that he believes the conference should do everything in its power to avoid having a repeat of one of the last games of the season, something that could have happened last year if Oklahoma and Oklahoma State had to play in the conference championship game just week after they played each other to conclude their regular seasons.
One of Lyons' biggest accomplishments since becoming West Virginia University's athletic director was getting the Backyard Brawl back on the football schedule, which will resume in 2022 and continue through 2025. When asked about the prospect of the game returning on the hardwood Lyons alluded that it was a fluid situation and something that was high up on the priority list.
"Coach Huggins and I have had some conversations about (scheduling Pitt)," Lyons said. "I know he's been working on it. From an athletic director's chair scheduling is a little bit different from basketball than it is in football. I know where coach Huggins wants to head with that so that's something that's pretty high on our radar. Hopefully that can be worked out in the coming years. I know that's on the mind of the basketball staff and they're working to try to get that scheduled"
One of the biggest roadblocks in the renewal of the game was a lack of interest from former Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon, who has since taken the head coaching job at TCU. Pitt's current head coach Kevin Stallings is a friend of WVU head coach Bob Huggins and that could go a long way in renewing the rivalry game.