Make It So

In the TV series Star Trek: The Next Generation, Captain Jean Luc-Picard often punctuated his orders with the catchphrase, "Make it so."

It won't be easy, but West Virginia has to do the exact same thing to keep John Beilein as its head basketball coach. Picard didn't care what the difficulties were in executing his order. "Make it so," was an absolute. And thus it is as West Virginia tries to fend off yet another raid on its head basketball coach (although we're not ready to label Michigan as the Romulans or the Ferengi just yet).

I understand that's easy to say, "Make it so," from this position. I'm not responsible for coming up with the money and facilities that could (would?) go a long way in keeping Beilein at WVU. There have been lots of good ideas for improvements to West Virginia's athletic program that have gone undone due to lack of funding or support. But in this case, just as it was in the scenario played out with head football coach Rich Rodriguez, there are simply too many reasons to just let the coach slip away.

WVU basketball was becoming a non-entity when Beilein arrived, and he has made it matter again. A lot. And it would be a terrible decision to let him get away without making every effort, commensurate with the one made to keep Rodriguez, to retain him as the head of his program.

Understand that West Virginia made a major shift in philosophy in the way it funded, and committed to, Rodriguez. A number of private donors committed to funding much of the package that kept Rodriguez at West Virginia. WVU has typically been very conservative in committing to new facilities and expenditures without having the money in hand, or the bonding ability to cover it, so making this commitment singalled a change in the way the University was willing to operate.

That doesn't mean, of course, that the school or athletic department has handed over control of sports, or the selection of coaches, to those who committed to funding that package. However, in taking that money and those commitments, there is always the concern that any donor could pull his or her support if something happens that displeases. But WVU has opened that door, and once opened, it's not going to be easily shut.

Again, I'm not suggesting that will be the case, or that West Virginia made the wrong decision in doing so. But it's a precedent that has been established, and now that it has, it should be fully exploited to keep Beilein on board.

The suspicion is that a similar move is already afoot to put together a package for Beilein. It will have to be done quickly, as Michigan is reportedly meeting, either directly or indirectly, with three candidates in Atlanta this weekend. Michigan will likely identify its top candidate, again reported to be Beilein, by Sunday or Monday at the latest, and make its offer, so West Virginia is again under the gun to make its countermove quickly.

The bigger question is, are there enough heavy hitters who support basketball to get something done in this area? Football remains king in the state, and there is a bigger clamor to be a part of that than there is basketball at this point. Would some of the same people be willing or able to pony up again to keep another coach? Or commit to fundraising for a basketball practice facility, which could be the item that would put West Virginia's offer over the top?

In whatever manner West Virginia's final offer to Beilein is funded or structured, it has to be one that makes it impossible, or nearly so, for him to leave. WVU is riding a wave of unparalleled athletic success, and one of the biggest reasons for that is the quality of the coaches it has hired and retained. The school as a whole is also in growth mode, with a target of reaching as high as 30,000 students in the next decade. Study after study has shown that a strong athletic program contributes to student population increases, so keeping Beilein, just like keeping Rodriguez, can certainly be termed an investment for the entire school.

Again, it won't be easy. The resources of West Virginia University, and its benefactors, aren't unlimited. Those who have to pay the bills and keep finances under control are under immense pressure to keep the budget balanced while maintaining and improving the infrastructre. At every turn, they are faced with someone saying, "This project has to be done." In this case, however, it really does.

Make it so.

The opinions above are solely those of the author, and do not reflect the views of the Blue & Gold News or BlueGoldNews.com.


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