MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — After a Q-and-A session in which he offered reassurances that transfers won’t wreck the program, West Virginia basketball coach Bob Huggins issued a walk-off assessment that modernizing the WVU Coliseum will be crucial to attracting and keeping talent.
“If we really want to move forward, if we really want to become a national presence on a yearly basis, that needs to happen,” Huggins said. “Otherwise we’re going to continue to be pretty much what we are. Can we be really good sometimes? Yeah. Can we do it on a consistent basis without (the upgrades)?”
“The reality is the Coliseum is 44 years old and has never really had a makeover. I’m not one of those people who say we need a new arena. We don’t need a new arena, but we do need to do some things—and I think some significant things—in the Coliseum.”
Saturday’s hastily scheduled news conference came a day after sophomore guard Terry Henderson announced he would transfer, following fellow double-digit scorer Eron Harris out of town and leaving Huggins without his top two perimeter shooters.
While attributing player departures to college basketball’s transfer-happy culture, Huggins emphasized that potential recruits, and even current players, are enticed by arena photos they share across social media. That doesn’t bode well for the Coliseum, which lacks even basic fan amenities and seems dated in comparison to many arenas at major programs.
“We need to modernize, because you’ve got guys going to different places and taking pictures and Tweeting them,” Huggins said. “Don’t think that those things don’t play into (recruiting). … We need to do some things. In fact, we need to do a lot of things.”
Precisely what things could become a point of debate as the athletics department prioritizes projects for a $106 million campus-wide renovation. A chunk of that money is earmarked for football, and Oliver Luck recently noted the only for-certain Coliseum upgrades involve widened concourses, remodeled bathrooms and less-congested concession areas. He specifically said there were no current plans for the luxury suites Huggins desires.
Yet there was Huggins holding up a rendering of the suites to the media, and thanking Luck for raising revenue to provide them. Asked about whether there was actually a timetable for constructing suites or even a firm commitment to building them, Huggins replied: “It is, at the very least, a very hot topic in the conversation.”
Huggins seemed keenly aware that he was airing his arena grievances inside a $24-million practice facility that opened only three years ago. “This facility here is phenomenal,” he said, “and it’s been very well received by everyone who came in here.” Now the coach wants the concrete-domed coliseum that sits across Gale Catlett Drive to receive its own rejuvenation in order to impress players and enhance the fans’ experience.
“I’m happy that Oliver has been able to secure the money needed to do that, and we need it bad,” he said. “I’m very happy that we have secured funds that a good portion of, I would hope, would end up where it’s supposed to go—in the basketball program.”