Although WVU has long rewarded those who give extra money to its athletic program with better seating, it has rarely been tough to get tickets for games. Sure, a few contests, like the occasional Pitt, Virginia Tech, Ohio State or Miami game has been sold out, but there have always been friends, connections, or scalpers with ducats available for the games. Contests which sold out usually did so only a few days, or at most, a couple of weeks before the game, and even then tickets were almost always available.
This year, however, we're sensing something a bit different. West Virginia has had to cease selling mini-packages (those are sold out), and also halt new season ticket orders from those who didn't hold season tickets in 2005. That move was to ensure that everyone who purchased season tickets a year ago has the chance to get them again this year. Add in the lightning speed at which FunZone tickets sold out, and the feeling is that tickets will be harder to come by this year. And for the most part, that's a good thing.
Of course, the fact that WVU has cut off open ticket sales for the time being has some people up in arms, but from this vantage point it seems to be a reasonable move. It rewards loyalty, and makes sure that those who supported the program with full ticket orders a year ago get the chance to see the team again in 2006.
Obviously, no solution is perfect. I questioned the advisability of offering mini-packages at all this year. However, WVU's position was that it wanted to make tickets available to those who don't have the means to make it to Morgantown for all seven home games, and the mini-package allows those fans a chance to catch the Gold and Blue in action. Throw in the lower-priced Fun Zone seats, and it's clear WVU is trying to make tickets available to fans of all means.
No matter what ticket solutions are offered, however, there's going to be griping from some quarters. And I'm sure we'll hear a few sad stories from those who don't renew their orders by June 1 of this year, and perhaps get locked out this fall. The moral here is: if you don't know or aren't sure about ticket policies, call the ticket office. And remember that the price of success is often first reflected in the price of attendance.
* * *
West Virginia has made another investment in its wrestling program in addition to the new practice facility that will open this fall. The athletic department has approved a move to upgrade one of the graduate assistant spots to a full time assistant coach, which will allow Craig Turnbull another assistant coach in addition to three-time national champion Greg Jones. That new spot is being advertised now, and will do nothing but add to the program that has the stated goal of building a national championship contender.
* * *
Former Mountaineer basketballer Yelena Leuchanka is making a bid for a roster spot on the WNBA's Charlotte Sting. The Russian expatriate followed a 22-point performance in the Sting's first exhibition game with an eight-point, three-rebound showing against Indiana, which recently released another former Mountaineer, Yolanda Paige. Leuchanka was 4-6 from the floor and had four assists, a steal and a blocked shot in 24 minutes of action in that contest.
Leuchanka will likely have to beat out fellow rookie Tye'sha Fluker of Tennessee to have a shot at a roster spot, and through two games appears to be doing just that. If anyone deserves a break it is certainly Leuchanka, who never reached her potential at WVU due to a pair of crushing knee injuries.
* * *
West Virginia's 1-2 showing at Georgetown over the weekend dropped the Mountaineers into a dogfight to make the Big East baseball postseason tournament. WVU is tied for sixth place with Rutgers (10-11) and hold a slim one-game lead over Georgetown and South Florida (both 9-12). That quartet, along with Villanova (8-12), will likely battle for the final three spots in the league tournament.
The bright side, however, is that Louisville and Cincinnati are only one game ahead of WVU and Rutgers, and the Mountaineers have a big three-game series with the Bearcats coming up this weekend in the Queen City. West Virginia then hosts USF the following weekend to close out the regular season.
With those six games, the Mountaineers certainly control their own destiny. A 4-2 mark in the final half-dozen league tilts would put WVU in the tournament, and anything better than that could have them vying for one of the top four spots in the league.
The key for WVU is simple: avoid walks, errors, and other miscues that help the opposing offense. The Mountaineers hit the ball a ton (they lead the league in every offensive statistic except triples and on-base percentage), and only need to play steady defensive baseball to have a chance in most games. That, and perhaps not put a dent in promising innings by sacrificing so much. WVU is second in the league in that category, and have the tendency to follow leadoff hits, even early in the game and at the top of the order, with sacrifice bunts.