If there’s one thing evident with West Virginia University’s athletic program, it’s that it will pay for quality.
According to the USA Today coaching salary database, basketball coach Bob Huggins is the ninth-highest paid coach in Division I at $3.85 million a year. Football coach Neal Brown’s average annual salary of $3.19 million is the highest of any football coach hired in the Big 12 this offseason.
WVU had better write another big check pretty soon and drive it over to Monongalia County Ballpark.
Randy Mazey’s run as Mountaineer baseball coach, especially the last three seasons, has been phenomenal. WVU reached its third straight Big 12 tournament semifinal. Regardless of the team’s finish in Oklahoma City, it will be playing in its second NCAA regional in three seasons. Before that, West Virginia hadn’t played in a regional since 1996.
Prior to Mazey’s arrival, WVU baseball had become an afterthought. It played at tiny old Hawley Field, a ball field the Big 12 forced WVU to move from as part of its entry into the conference. It had finished higher than fifth in the Big East just twice since 1996. In 2011, university officials seriously questioned whether to eliminate the baseball program.
Think about that. There were actual questions at the start of the decade as to whether WVU baseball would continue to exist. Now, playing in a shiny new ballpark, the Mountaineers have spent the 2019 season nationally ranked and in the running to host an NCAA regional.
Randy Mazey’s coaching has plenty to do with that. And he’s one of the lowest-paid coaches in the Big 12.
Of the eight Big 12 baseball coaching salaries available via database — Baylor’s as a private institution was not available and Iowa State doesn’t field a team — Mazey’s $385,000 annual salary was tied with Oklahoma’s Skip Johnson for sixth-highest. Only the $373,000 annual salary of Kansas’ Ritch Price was lower.
WVU sits at 36 wins with games left to play. It’s the third time Mazey has hit the 36-win mark in the last four seasons. West Virginia hadn’t won 36 games before that since 2006. And let’s be frank — the Big East isn’t the Big 12.
Put that together, and that needs to add up to more dollars in Mazey’s pocket.
Sure, he signed a new contract in 2017 that runs through May 2022. There’s still three years on that deal.
Rip it up. At least go through it with a gallon of Wite-Out. Mazey has earned a better deal, and if WVU doesn’t think so, another team will. And it wouldn’t be hard to get him.
According to that 2017 contract, after May 31 of this year, Mazey would owe WVU $50,000 if he left for another job. For a lot of athletic programs, that’s a couple of phone calls to a couple of wealthy donors. WVU shouldn’t leave the door open for that with the way momentum has built for Mountaineer baseball.
Mazey is a proven commodity. He took East Carolina to three regionals and a super regional in three seasons. He guided five All-Americans as pitching coach at TCU between his stops at ECU and WVU. And he has pushed a baseball program once in danger of disappearing into the national rankings.
A bump to $500,000 annually, even though it would keep him in the bottom half of Big 12 salaries, would be a pretty nice good-faith gesture. An extra $115,000 should be able to be found.
Mazey helped get WVU into the upper echelon of college baseball programs. The most important thing for WVU’s program now is stability. The university showed that was a priority in football with Brown’s six-year contract. It should show in a new contract for Mazey that it is the same level of priority in baseball.