The loss of Lopez leaves the swimming and diving program looking for a new coach. Hopefully, that search will turn out to be as fortuitous as last summer's search for a men's soccer coach.
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While on the subject of the varsity sports, is anyone else concerned about the state of the WVU baseball program? It seems that the program has been stuck in neutral for the past few seasons, and may have even taken a step back this past year by not qualifying for the Big East tournament. (Note: in baseball, only the top eight teams qualify for the tournament).
As I see it, there are two big questions with regards to WVU baseball. First, does anybody care? Sure, people will get behind a big winner (again, I point to men's soccer), but the stands of Hawley Field weren't exactly full this past season.
The second question is – if there is indeed concern about the state of the program – what can and/or should be done about it? It's hard to justify firing Greg VanZant since his squad wins more games than it loses. But there's a BIG difference between being a good, solid program and a program that competes for championships. It would be nice to see that gap begin to close in Morgantown sometime soon.
And for those of you who say a "cold weather" team such as West Virginia can't compete in college baseball because of low temperatures through half of the season, I say phooey. Try telling that to St. John's, DePaul, or Notre Dame. Heck, try telling that to Cal Bailey, who routinely has the West Virginia State Yellow Jackets competing at the top level of Division II.
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There's no doubt that most in the Mountaineer fan base are dripping with anticipation for football season. Once again, Rich Rodriguez's squad will enter the season as a national championship contender. And, unlike last season, the Mountaineers will have a big test early in the season that could either catapult or derail hopes for playing in the BCS title game.
The Thursday, September 13 game at Maryland (set to be televised on ESPN) will likely be West Virginia's first chance to make a statement to the rest of the country. The Terrapins are coming off of a nine-win season after a pair of sub-par campaigns in College Park, and nothing would make the Friedgen Faithful happier than torching West Virginia's title hopes before the calendar even hits October.
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I stepped into the downtown Book Exchange on Monday afternoon to pick up a Scantron test form and ended up glancing around at the new arrivals from Nike. The shirt that caught my eye first is the new Dri-Fit polo. This year's design – just like the new football jerseys – comes in three colors: white, blue, and gold. The gold number was a tad bit blinding at first, but quickly looked more and more tasteful. It looks like the type of garment that people will either love or hate, with no in between. Personally, I dig it.
Something else caught my eye while I was perusing around the room: a women's basketball t-shirt with the words "Lady Mountaineers". If you read women's basketball game stories here or elsewhere, you're not likely to find those words. That's because the rule of thumb as it's been passed down to me is that the women's team is to be known as the Mountaineers, like every other team.
Perhaps that message hasn't quite made it to an unnamed t-shirt manufacturer.
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Finally, with the NBA Finals starting on Thursday, let's take a look at a few of the Mountaineer connections on the court for the Cavs and Spurs. The Spurs really don't have any solid connections to the Mountaineers. Forward Matt Bonner is the brother of Luke Bonner, who spent one season in Morgantown before transferring to UMass. Forward James White, who is inactive, played for new men's basketball coach Bob Huggins at Cincinnati, and also played against John Beilein's 2005-06 squad. Point guard Tony Parker briefly considered West Virginia, among other schools, before deciding to go straight to the NBA from France.
The Cavs have a solid connection with forward Anderson Varejao. The energetic, mop-topped Brazilian is the younger brother of former Mountaineer center Sandro Varejao, who played for Gale Catlett in the mid-90's. Big man Dwayne Jones (who, like White of the Spurs, is inactive) was born in Morgantown, and is the son of a former WVU football player by the same name. Cavs guard Daniel Gibson was a member of the Texas Longhorns team which knocked WVU out of the 2006 Sweet 16.
Gibson, incidentally, was the subject of a spirited debate between myself and BlueGoldNews.com publisher Kevin Kinder late last week. While trading emails regarding the Cavs-Pistons series, Kinder pointed out that he didn't think the rookie was very good.
"I like Hughes," Kinder wrote, "but Gibson I'm not seeing."
I responded by saying that I felt he was not only good, but one of the key players for the Cavs in the series. On Saturday night, Gibson scored 31 points to clinch the Eastern Conference for Cleveland, and more importantly, boost the morale of a young writer in the midst of a debate with his boss. Since Kinder refuses to compete in the Fearless Picks contest during football (which I also won), it was a rare opportunity for me to get the upper hand.