Sports, WVU Sports

WVU’s new athletic director is an unapologetic girl dad and college hoops junkie

MORGANTOWN — When Wren Baker was first told he was a candidate for the athletic director job at WVU, he was instantly interested. With the history and prestige of WVU athletics, who wouldn’t be?

But if all Baker cared about was the professional side of the job offer, he wouldn’t have stayed at North Texas for six years. What really got Baker out of Denton, Texas was how well he thought his family would fit in Morgantown.

“I was interested just because I know it’s a program that has a lot of history and tradition, it’s a program that means a lot to the state,” Baker said during a Zoom interview with the Dominion Post Wednesday afternoon. “I had a lot of respect for the program but my first thing was I needed to start doing research and making some calls to learn everything I could about, not just the athletic program, but Morgantown and the community and state.”

Baker started his research the same way any of us would, on the internet. After reading just about every page on WVU’s athletics and institutional websites, he started making calls to people he knew and with every detail he learned, Baker became more and more interested in WVU.

“With every body I talked to I really became more and more excited about it,” he said. “Every day I was a little more interested and a little more intrigued than the day before. With every person I talked to, I got a little more excited about.”

On the family side, Baker kept thinking about his wife, Heather, and two daughters, Addisyn and Reagan, and how such a move would affect them. A self-proclaimed “girl dad,” Baker said the timing and fit for such a career change had to be just right for him to move his family.

“From by daughters’ standpoint, if I had the opportunity to transition in before they get into the high school years I really wanted to do that,” Baker said. “I’d love for them to be able to graduate in Morgantown and not have to change schools once they’re in high school. Hopefully, I’ll do a good job and President Gee doesn’t fire me and we can see that goal out.”

Like with the professional side of the job, Baker did his homework on what it’s like to live in Morgantown.

“There are two people who used to work there and two people who do work there that I know very well and every person we talked to gave rave reviews to (Morgantown),” Baker said. “From the family perspective, I have not seen any tears yet. I suspect we might when the U-Haul pulls out the last time, but for us to have made it this far, there’s not been any tears, there’s only been excitement, that’s probably a pretty good sign we made the right decision.”

His wife did her homework on Morgantown as well.

“My wife did her research and that was mainly to make sure there was a Target,” Baker joked. “Once she could confirm that, she was good to go.”

Even as confident as Baker was, he had still never actually been to Morgantown when he accepted the job and was publicly announced as WVU’s new AD.

“It’s intimidating,” Baker said of accepting the job sight unseen. “We had probably 48 hours to really contemplate and think about it, but you get to a certain place where everybody you talk to and everything you learn and have been able to see on the internet and you’ve got to trust your instincts and trust what you’re hearing from people who care about you. That got us over the hump to do it.”

Baker got into the Morgantown airport Sunday night and said he knew right away they had made the right choice.

“There was a little bit of anxiety there, but it went great and it was everything we had hoped and expected,” he said. “I thought it was beautiful and was imagining how beautiful it will be when there are leaves on the trees…It just seems like the kind of place where you’d want to raise a family.”

The only thing about Morgantown that threw Baker for a loop were the hills and roads.

“I’m nervous I’ll never find my way around because here in Texas, everything’s on a grind so you don’t have all the winding, curvy roads,” he said with a laugh. “I hope GPS is accurate there or else I might be in for some long trouble.”

One place Baker definitely wants to find a good fishing hole. Other than spending time with his daughters, Baker said his only hobby is fishing, something he has in common with hall-of-fame WVU basketball coach Bob Huggins.

“When I had a chance to drop by practice and talk to Coach Huggins for a little bit, it didn’t take us very long to figure out we both love bass fishing,” he said. “I’ll definitely be trying to get all of his honey holes where I can bass fish here in three years or so when I might have a little time to do that.”

Baker said he doesn’t really need any other hobbies because one of his favorite things to do is watch college sports — fitting for someone in his position.

“I love watching college sports,” he said. “I’m the chair of the NIT committee this year so I’m a college hoops junkie. Chairing the committee gives me an alibi when my wife is tired of me watching college basketball, I can tell here I’m working.”

WVU fans should expect to see Baker a lot once he officially starts the job on Dec. 19. He said he tries to go to every home sporting event so long as he is in town at the time.

“It’s important for the student-athletes,” he said. “I don’t know how much it’s important for the fans, but I can tell you the student-athletes know when you’re there. They’ll always come up and say thanks for coming. They really appreciate it.

“If you’re in this job for the right reasons and you really care about them and their development, you want to be there. I go to every game that’s in town if I’m here. I’ve missed very few home contests, I’m probably batting well above 90% during my time at North Texas.”

Once Baker figures out his way around the hills and winding roads, getting to home games shouldn’t be a problem. However, the next thing he’ll have to worry about is the early-spring weather here in the Mountain State.

“I’m going to make an appearance at every event and be there if I’m in town,” Baker said. “Even though I know it’s going to be colder in West Virginia than it is here in Texas.”

TWEET @CodyNespor