MORGANTOWN — West Virginia finally has a golf coach. Now all the Mountaineers need is a golf team.
That’s exactly what Sean Covich will try to assemble in the next 14 months.
Covich was named Thursday as the new coach at WVU. The school is re-establishing men’s golf as a varsity sport after a 33-year layoff in order to satisfy Big 12 requirements for the minimum number of men’s sports by conference members.
The school announced a year ago that it had chosen golf to satisfy the requirement. Covich will spend his first year on the job recruiting a roster, among other things.
"This is an exciting time for West Virginia University as the men's golf program is restored,” Covich said in a release issued by the school Thursday. “WVU has a proud tradition in athletics and I am honored to be a Mountaineer.’’
Covich is a 2004 Mississippi State graduate who has spent the last three years as an assistant coach at his alma mater. Prior to that he was the coach at Meridian Community College, also in Mississippi, for five years. He also attended Meridian for two years and is a native of that city.
“Sean has experienced tremendous success in his eight years as a golf coach,’’ West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck said. “He is a relentless recruiter who has been known to find diamonds in the rough out on the recruiting trails.”
Since joining the staff as the school’s first full-time assistant coach, Covich has helped Mississippi State dramatically rise in the college rankings, from No. 125 in 2011 to a school-record No. 27 in 2013. The Bulldogs have been to the NCAA tournament in each of the past two seasons.
At Meridian, Covich was on board as the school went from Division II to Division I in the junior college ranks and turned the golf program into a power, guiding it to a second-place national finish and then a No. 1 preseason ranking before moving to Mississippi State. His teams won 18 various tournament titles and he was a four-time coach of the year winner from various groups.
Now Covich will assemble a squad that will attempt to compete in a conference in which each of the other nine Big 12 schools fields a men’s golf team. Oklahoma State has won nine of the 17 team titles since the Big 12 was formed and Texas has won five, including the last two.
Oklahoma State, Texas, Iowa State and Oklahoma all are among the 30 schools competing in the NCAA championship tournament that begins today. Oklahoma State is the No. 2 seed and OSU, Texas and Oklahoma all finished in the final Top 25.
West Virginia, meanwhile, hasn’t fielded a team since 1982. The Mountaineers did, however, have golf from 1933 until the sport was discontinued.
“As I said last year, golf had a strong tradition on this campus,’’ Luck said. “And I believe the strong tradition and history of Big 12 golf will only enhance our chances of building a championship program.’’
With the addition of golf, West Virginia now fields teams in six men’s sports and 10 women’s sports that are recognized by the Big 12. The school has 18 varsity sports in all, including two — co-ed rifle and men’s soccer — in which the league does not sponsor a championship.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.