Mitch Vingle: Saints, Classic, MU search and money

KENNY KEMP | Gazette Mitch Vingle- 2014

The views from here:

n One has to believe something divine is on the horizon for The Greenbrier owner Jim Justice.

I mean, think about it. The man is moving (almost) heaven and (lots of) earth for many, many Saints.

I refer, of course, to Justice’s agreement to host training camp for the NFL’s New Orleans franchise. One synthetic and two natural grass practice fields are being built at the resort, along with a 55,000-square-foot building to house locker rooms and areas for dining, training and physical therapy.

It’s a heck of a deal. The team will train in White Sulphur Springs July 18 to Aug. 16. And, on Tuesday, the Saints came marching in.

“The Saints people are in for a site check,” Justice said. “It’s good because we’re ahead of schedule.”

If you drive to the resort from Interstate 64, the construction is across the street from the second entrance, off Kate’s Mountain Road.

“It’s all going great,” Justice said. “It’s a big undertaking, but we’ve got 50 pieces of equipment over there. The grading is all done and the site is all set. Wiring and plumbing are done.

“We’ll have two turf grass fields. The irrigation is finished and the soil and sand mix is being put down. Before long we’ll be putting down the turf.

“Our goal is to have it turfed by May 10.”

n If hosting the Saints isn’t enough, of course, Justice has that little PGA tournament coming up July 3-6 on the Old White TPC course. This will be the fifth year of the Greenbrier Classic.

You might know Adam Levine and Maroon 5 and Jimmy Buffett will provide entertainment for the masses. (Lady Antebellum and Lionel Richie will perform for sponsors.) But what you might not know about is Justice’s promotions. The man has gone all Bill Veeck on us.

“We’ve drastically lowered the price of [tournament] badges to $60,” Justice said. “That’s my way of saying I understand. There are a ton of people out there hurting and I understand.”

On top of that, a car will be given away to one fan each day of the tournament. And do you remember how, a couple years ago, he promised to give $100 to each fan around No. 18 present for a hole-in-one? This year, he’s reviving that — and more. If a second hole-in-one is made, each spectator at No. 18 will receive $500. If a third one is made, all there will receive $1,000.

“It’s a fun thing,” Justice said.

As for the big name golfers expected, well, we’ll see. The resort owner said he’s “confident” pro emeritus Tom Watson will be in the field. Ditto two-time Masters champ Bubba Watson, who built a home at The Greenbrier and made a commercial for the resort. Justice said there have been strong indications Darren Clarke will be there.

He’s not so sure about the biggest names.

“Tiger [Woods] has his injury, but we’re hopeful he’ll be back,” Justice said. “He’ll certainly give us strong consideration. There’s always a chance with Phil [Mickelson], but I think he’s going to try and defend his Scottish Open title. He’s really cutting back his schedule. And, there’s no dodging it, he’s had a tough time here.”

Also, it doesn’t seem John Daly will return. When asked about the Classic regular, Justice said “those exemptions are a tough deal.”

n You haven’t read much in this space about Marshall’s basketball coaching search because there hasn’t been much concrete to report.

It certainly does seem like Thundering Herd athletic director Mike Hamrick is waiting to see if the Los Angeles Lakers will keep coach — and MU favorite son — Mike D’Antoni on board. If not, it seems Hamrick is hoping to land the veteran coach. As of Tuesday afternoon, no word had come out of LaLa Land. The latest was D’Antoni and Lakers brass would meet in the “near future.” The coach has two more years on his contract there.

If D’Antoni doesn’t swing Marshall’s way, I hear Eastern Kentucky’s Jeff Neubauer is the leading contender to be next in line. The John Beilein protege has visited Huntington a couple times and would be a fine choice to replace Tom Herrion.

Actually, though, Hamrick has a nice trio from which to pick. Like Neubauer, Stephen F. Austin’s Brad Underwood, another candidate who visited, took a team to the most recent NCAA tournament. Also, if Hamrick is seeking a coach in the mold of football’s Doc Holliday, there’s WVU assistant Ron Everhart, who met MU’s brass in Charleston. He’s a proven commodity who received a very raw deal at Duquesne, his last head coaching position.

Neubauer, by the way, made $269,630 this year at EKU and Underwood $200,000 at SFAU, according to a USA Today database of coaches in the NCAA tournament.

n Some Charleston natives and George Washington High graduates are watching the St. Louis Cardinals more intently these days. A reader wrote to say that Kim George’s sister, Cindy Runyan Fornataro, has a son, Eric, who has been called up by the Cards as a right-handed pitcher. In his first outing, Fornataro shut down my New York Mets over an inning.

n And finally ...

Back to the topic of money.

Gazette reader and contributor Bill Pinella wrote to let me know the San Diego Padres had a Jedd Gyorko jersey giveaway at Petco Park to honor the former Morgantown native and WVU baseball standout.

Pinella also commented on Gyorko’s new contract, which will be for six years and $35 million. He asked if that might make Gyorko the highest paid pro athlete in state history and pointed to stars like Jerry West, Randy Moss and Mary Lou Retton.

My answer: If you’re dealing strictly with athletic compensation, Gyorko certainly is on his way. It’s been estimated Moss is worth about $25 million.

But if the subject is net worth, well, West is still the king. His estimated worth: $55 million.

Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, or follow him at

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