MORGANTOWN — West Virginia University Athletic Director Shane Lyons had a fireside chat of sorts with the state’s media on Wednesday.
Lyons went over the school’s athletic and academic accomplishments. He discussed goals and issues in an open forum.
But then a flicker from his fireside chat burned brightly as a news item about an hour and a half later.
“It looks like the track and aquatic center is coming to fruition,” Lyons said. “Hopefully something will be announced very soon from the university side.”
It did. As in very, very soon. WVU announced its “Mountaineer Center,” which will be a $40 million “community wellness facility at Mylan Park. It will include pools and a track and field facility that will serve as home to the Mountaineer swimming and diving, track and cross country teams.
“I couldn’t be more pleased from the athletic side, but [for] the community as a whole,” Lyons said before the news was released.
Actually, much of the news from Lyons’ talk centered on facilities. For instance, he spoke about Milan Puskar Stadium improvements.
“The West side concourse [work] is on schedule,” he said. “I can say this from being here back in 1983: I think the stadium looks the best in its history. The concourse, the widening, the fan enhancements, the rest rooms, the additional concession stands, the field itself with the crown taken out is something special for our student-athletes.”
A new video board is in place. And more work is apparent in the offing.
“An architectural firm is looking at redoing the medical area outside the locker room,” Lyons said. “Also, it’ll look at the locker room itself as well as the Puskar Center as a whole.
“You read a lot in the media about arms races. You can call it that but, at the same time, this is where our student-athletes train and compete. They spend a lot of time in these facilities. It’s my goal to make these first-class facilities to retain coaches that recruit the best student-athletes and have them feel this is our home.”
He said the next focus at the Coliseum is the Olympic sports weight room.
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Aside from facilities, Lyons had quite a few takes. Like …
n WVU having 14 of its 18 sponsored teams finish with a 3.0 overall grade-point average.
“We’re not only performing on the courts and fields and wrestling mats, but also academically and that’s very important. … That’s considered my win come May [when the athletes graduate].”
n The success of last school year, in which the women’s soccer team appeared in the national final, the rifle team won a national championship, the men’s basketball team went to the Sweet Sixteen and the baseball team made an NCAA appearance.
“I just don’t want this to be a one-year anomaly. These are the expectations, where we should be every year.”
n Athletic department finances.
“The thing I continue to be proud of is the department is in a very good financial situation, operating in the black.”
Lyons said with new Chief Financial Officer Simon Dover on board, it’s an opportunity to reevaluate all.
n When asked about resuming a series against Marshall in football or basketball, he said there’s nothing. He said MU isn’t interested in only visiting Morgantown.
He said there is a “focus” on playing Pitt in basketball.
n Big 12 meetings held this week in New Orleans.
“We met for about five or six hours [Tuesday] morning and there really wasn’t anything earth-shattering on the agenda. A lot of what we talked about [centered on] the football championship game.”
More specifically they discussed what defined a travel squad for the game.
n The new clear-bag policy for games.
“We continue to look at the safety of our fans. This is not to inconvenience our fans in any way. This is to help provide safety and it’s a faster process in the lines.”
He responded to negative feedback.
“This is not a money grab. We’re not selling the bags. It’s a $6 bag.”
He then said clear diaper bags work just fine.
n And finally …
Future football schedules.
“A school called about 2035 and 2036. I’m not even going to look at that.”
He did, however, mention the possibility of playing Virginia Tech in 2026 and 2027.