Sometimes, when the weather gets warm and school is out, I wonder how, WVU, my alma mater, did overall in sports over the past school year.
I mean to me.
Today, though, I acted. I went back and reviewed. I know sometimes the best of times (like WVU’s baseball midseason) sticks out. Sometimes the worst of times (the Mountaineer football loss to Pitt) sticks out.
But overall? Follow my grading exercise and afterward we’ll reveal two conclusions. One will come from me. One will come from the Learfield Director’s Cup.
Baseball – Because it’s so recent most know WVU had a tremendous regular season, winning a share of the Big 12 title with Texas and Oklahoma State with 15-9 league records. Overall, the Mountaineers finished 40-20. Unfortunately for coach Randy Mazey and gang, Texas swept a three-game series at the end of the regular season to snuff dreams of a solo Big 12 title. Two straight losses in the conference championship followed. Then the downturn was completed in the NCAA tournament with losses to Indiana and Kentucky with a win over Ball State in between. Grade A-
Men’s basketball – The Mountaineers rebounded nicely from the 2021-22 season (16-17) with a 19-15 record. In the tough Big 12, however, they finished but eighth. Still, hopes were high because WVU had a No. 9 seed in the NCAA tournament and drew No. 8 Maryland. The Terrapins, however, ended the Mountaineer season in the first round 67-65. WVU’s subsequent success getting quality portal transfers helped buoy hopes for next season, although a scandal regarding coach Bob Huggins comments earned national scathing. Grade C+
Women’s basketball – WVU had a very nice season under then-coach Dawn Plitzuweit, who subsequently left for Minnesota. The Mountaineers finished tied for fourth in the Big 12 at 10-8 and were 19-12 overall. They made the NCAA tournament but lost the opening round game to Arizona by 75-62. It was WVU’s 14thoverall bid since 1989. Since then, Mark Kellogg has been hired from Stephen F. Austin. Grade B+
Women’s cross country – It’s tough to have a bad season when you have Ceili McCabe on your team. The Mountaineer women finished second in the Big 12 championship and McCabe won the 6K in 20:08.4 to secure back-to-back women’s individual titles. She was the Big 12 Runner of the Year and an All-American after finishing third in the NCAA Championships. WVU finished second in the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional. Grade A.
Football – One can’t help but wonder if WVU’s football fortunes turned for the worse with a few minutes left in the Pitt game when QB JT Daniel’s pass to Bryce Ford-Wheaton popped off his hands and into those of M.J. Devonshire, who followed a convoy for a touchdown. Pitt won 38-31 in the season opener and WVU couldn’t get traction during the Big 12 schedule. The Mountaineers finished 5-7. Bright spots included wins over Virginia Tech, Baylor, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. There were more not-so-bright spots. Grade C-
Men’s golf – WVU’s golf team still has a lot of growing to do. Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas and Texas Tech swept the All-Big 12 honors. In the tournament championship, the Mountaineers finished ninth, above only Iowa State. So more growing pains. Coach Sean Covich put forth a very young lineup, though. Grade D
Women’s gymnastics – The toughest news was learning former Mountaineer gymnastics coach Linda Burdette-Good recently passed away. She was both a good person and coach. As for this season’s team, WVU finished with a 12-9 overall record and 1-2 mark in Big 12 competition. The team was third of four conference teams at the Big 12 Championships in Morgantown. They made it to the NCAA Pittsburgh Regional Second Round, finishing in fourth of the first session. Grade B
Rifle – It’s tough to assess WVU’s historically excellent rifle program because the proverbial bar is so high. So many national championships. This season, meanwhile, the team finished 16-4. One of those regular season losses was to Top-4 Kentucky – which WVU defeated two other times. The Mountaineers swept the GARC championships. In the NCAA Championships they came in third and fifth. Is that bad? Grade B+
Women’s rowing – WVU apparently had a smaller team this season with true novices throughout crews. In the Big 12 Championship in Texas, the Mountaineers had a crew finish fifth but the team ended the day seventh of seven teams. Lydia Nicolai was on the All-Big 12 team. Grade D.
Men’s soccer – In the spring schedule, WVU went 5-0, including wins over Wake Forest, Maryland and Navy. In the fall, though, the Mountaineers went 7-7-4 and 3-1-4 in Sun Belt Conference play. They either lost or tied every match against ranked opponents. It was a step back from 2021 when they went 12-3-6 and advanced all the way to the NCAA quarterfinals before losing to Georgetown 4-1 on penalties after a thrilling double-overtime draw. Grade C-
Women’s soccer – Another year, another success for Nikki Izzo-Brown. Defender Jordan Brewster was an All-American. Team members played internationally. And once again the Mountaineers made the NCAA Tournament. This time they made the second round before falling to Penn State. But the best part was Izzo-Brown and company claimed the school’s fifth Big 12 championship trophy. As a No. 4 seed, WVU beat TCU in double OT in Round Rock, Texas. The Mountaineers finished 10-4-7. Grade A.
Men’s and women’s swimming and diving – OK, so sue me for lumping the teams together. In the Big 12 championships, Texas dominated while WVU was third of three Big 12 men’s teams and fourth of five league women’s teams. In 2022-23, the men were 4-2. The women were 6-2. Grade C.
Women’s tennis – There were times when the Mountaineers struggled mightily, losing the last eight matchups in the season. In Big 12 play, WVU finished 1-8, above only Kansas State in the final standings. Overall, they were 11-12. Grade D
Women’s indoor and outdoor track – In the Big 12 Indoor Championships, WVU finished ninth of 10 teams. In the Outdoor Championships, the Mountaineers finished last with 21.5 points. Grade D
Women’s volleyball – Brutal season for the Mountaineer volleyball team. It went 0-16 in Big 12 play and 7-22 overall. There’s not much more to say. Grade D
Wrestling – West Virginia is still struggling to regain its glory of old. The Mountaineers finished 10-5 overall this past season, 2-5 in Big 12 action. There were some good efforts against ranked teams and three wrestlers made it through to the national tournament. I’m sure highly regarded coach Tim Flynn, though, expected better than a 12th place (out of 13) finish in the Big 12 Championship in his fifth year. Grade D
Overall – So, if you average the grades like a schoolteacher, you’d get what it felt like: very average. The athletic school year earned a C.
If you go by the final Learfield Director’s Cup standings (https://nacda.com/documents/2023/6/12/FinalDIOverall__1_.pdf) you might give the year a lower grade. West Virginia finished No. 60 nationally just below Iowa State and above Denver.
But, as every Mountaineer fan knows, well, there’s always next year.
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Mitch Vingle covered sports in West Virginia for 38 years. Follow Mitch on Twitter at @MitchVingle and be sure to check out the rest of Wheelhouse Creative’s website for your marketing and advertising needs. If interested, call us at 304-905-6005.