The Dominion Post  

WVU’s Lyons: Athletic department will invest in facilities

Created on:   Fri, Dec 1, 2017   12:10 AM

Last modified:   Fri, Dec 1, 2017   12:10 AM

The Dominion Post

MORGANTOWN — Operating on a budget just shy of $90 million, but competing against the likes of
Big 12 foe Texas and its $171 million athletic budget, Shane Lyons said he would not hesitate to invest in facilities for WVU’s athletic programs. 

“What I’m trying to do is put our best foot forward; to look and be able to say, ‘Where do we want to go?’ ” the WVU athletic director told The Dominion Post. “I’m not going to shy away from it. I’ll say that, yes, we are going to invest in facilities, because that is part of the ingredient to help make us successful.”

That includes nearly $80 million already spent to renovate the bathrooms and concourses at the WVU Coliseum and Milan Puskar Stadium.

A private donation also funded new locker rooms for the men’s basketball team.

In the years to come, it will also mean further renovations to the Puskar Center, including a renovated locker room, a new medical facility and training room for the football players, adding on to the front of the building and moving the school’s Hall of Fame into the new construction, as well as new offices for the football coaches, Lyons said.

That price tag is yet to be determined. It will not approach the $400 million-mark that was quoted from football coach Dana Holgorsen’s press conference after the Mountaineers’ loss against Oklahoma last week.

“It was said tongue-in-cheek,” said Michael Fragale, WVU’s senior associate athletic director for communications.

“It was said to tease Shane. People in the press conference clearly knew that.”

An editorial published in The Dominion Post was critical of WVU wanting to spend $400 million on athletics.

“Not only do we not have $400 million, we wouldn’t even know where to get $400 million,” Fragale continued.

“We don’t have some rich oil man lined up outside our doors.”

Lyons introduced his master plan for WVU’s athletic facilities shortly after he took over, in 2015.

Since then, major renovations have taken place at the football and basketball stadiums and Monongalia County Ballpark opened, giving a new home to WVU baseball.

In Lyons’ eyes, he realizes facility upgrades does not automatically equal success on the field, but he said there is enough correlation between the two to justify WVU’s upgrades.

“It’s a big ingredient of the formula, in that In order to be able to recruit and be able to compete at a Power 5 institution, we have to invest as a program,” Lyons said.

“Staying complacent and thinking that what we have right now is good enough, we’ll get put behind.

“It’s my job to see the vision and not look at what we are today or tomorrow. My job is saying, ‘Where are we going to be in five years or seven or 10 years down the road?’ ”

That vision includes a football team that is more than just competitive in the Big 12.

Lyons said he believes that for Holgorsen to recruit against schools like Texas and Oklahoma, WVU has to offer facilities that are comparable to those schools.

“You can see what we did in men’s and women’s basketball; we just finished their new locker rooms,” Lyons said.

“Do I think that correlates as to why we’re ranked in the top 20, because we’re getting the kids we need to get? Yes, and that’s what I have to do for football.

“Now, is it $400 million? Absolutely not. You could build a brand new stadium for that, but we do have to invest in the football program.”

Lyons said there were also plans to improve facilities for WVU’s Olympic programs, including a new training and weight rooms.

In the future, WVU would also like to add suites inside the WVU Coliseum.

Lyons said all of those projects may not approach $100 million, but could not give a specific figure.

All of the money used to pay for the projects will come from donations or through the school’s athletic department’s budget.

Lyons made it clear the WVU is not using taxpayer money or receiving funds from the state government to fund the projects.

“What gets mistaken sometimes by the public, is that most of [the renovations] come from privately donated dollars,” Lyons said.

“These are not state tax dollars. It’s private. If we do go out and secure a bond or a loan, ultimately [the athletic department] pays for that.

“I think some of the message that is there is that we’re taking money away from students or that the taxpayers are paying for this. That’s just not the case.”

Finally, Lyons addressed the need for WVU to remain sensible when it comes to its upgrades.

“Our fans need to know that I want to build facilities that have a sort of ‘wow’ factor to them, but we want to remain sensible,” Lyons said.

“There are stories out there about locker rooms where each individual locker has its own TV. I’m not interested in that.

“I want what’s effective and what’s efficient and what’s the best use of our facilities in a day-to-day process. Do you need a little wow factor? Sure.

“You check out the new team meeting room for football. That’s a nice room. Could we have put a lot more wow factor in it? Yes, but it wasn’t necessary. We’re not interested in going over the top.”