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The Future of WVU Basketball in Charleston

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WVU assistant coach Erik Martin shed a little light on the future of the Mountaineers at the Charleston Civic Center.

NCAA Basketball: Marshall at West Virginia Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

A possible peek into the future of WVU basketball games being played at the Charleston Civic Center surfaced on Friday.

In an interview with Cincinnati sports radio host Andy Furman on his podcast, WVU assistant Erik Martin talked about coaching with Bob Huggins, recruiting in the digital age and the 1992 Cincinnati Bearcats.

Another thing he briefly mentioned was the situation with playing regular season games across the state:

“There’s only two Division I schools in the state, Marshall and WVU, and we used to play one or two games a year in Charleston because that’s another big area that does a lot of supporting of our school. Last year I think we played maybe one game. But as the economics of college basketball start to evolve, every time you play a game in Charleston, it’s like you’re taking money out of WVU’s pocket because we’re selling out the Coliseum. So, as I said, as the economics of the game start to evolve, we really are cutting back on the amount of times we go to Charleston or go anywhere else, because really that’s just taking a home game away from us. As you know, these administrators love to make money that they can upgrade facilities. So, as of recently, we’ve done a lot more of just playing in Morgantown or just true road games...”

This shouldn’t be very surprising news. Bob Huggins has been bashing the fans in Charleston for years.

Plus, numbers don’t lie. Attendance has gone down in the Civic Center lately (not counting the Capital Classic). Here are the numbers since Huggins has been at the helm:

DATE OPPONENT ATTENDANCE (PCT) WVU'S RECORD
DATE OPPONENT ATTENDANCE (PCT) WVU'S RECORD
Sat., Dec. 29, 2007 Oklahoma (L 88-82 2OT) 12,380 (100%) 10-1, #23 AP
Tue., Nov. 25, 2008 Delaware State (W 76-42) 10,434 (84.6%) 2-0
Tue., Nov. 24, 2009 The Citadel (W 69-50) 12,348 (100%) 1-0, #8 AP
Sat., Nov. 27, 2010 VMI (W 82-66) 12,367 (100%) 3-1
Tue., Nov. 22, 2011 Morehead State (W 83-48) 10,122 (82.0%) 2-1
Sun., Dec. 29, 2013 William & Mary (W 82-45) 8,885 (72.0%) 7-5
Wed., Nov. 26, 2014 VMI (W 103-72) 8,102 (65.7%) 5-0, #21 AP
Mon., Nov. 16, 2015 James Madison (W 86-73) 8,101 (65.7%) 1-0
Wed., Dec. 7, 2016 Western Carolina (W 90-37) 8,384 (68.0%) 6-1, #15 AP

Now there are many reasons why attendance is down. Going to WVU games isn’t as high of a financial priority to the people of southern West Virginia as it used to be, the opponents they schedule aren’t particularly intriguing, and the games are almost always scheduled in the middle of the week.

On top of all that (let’s be honest here), the Charleston Civic Center itself isn’t that great of a place to watch a game and the parking situation is terrible.

In my opinion, basketball games in Charleston can still be played. However, the opponents would have to be improved and the game should be on the weekend.

In addition, the game should take place during WVU’s winter break. That way, you wouldn’t be missing the students because they wouldn’t be in Morgantown anyway.

As far as opponents go, they shouldn’t be Duke or Kentucky or anything. But the opponent should still draw enough interest to buy tickets. Perhaps VCU (regional upstart) or Cincinnati (former conference rival and Huggins coached there) or Penn State (crappy Big Ten team and historic rival) or Wake Forest or Clemson or Georgia Tech (ACC teams that aren’t blue bloods).

Another thing that WVU could try around the same time or during Thanksgiving break is playing the low major teams (like Northern Kentucky or Cleveland State) at the Wesbanco Arena in Wheeling.

The Gold-Blue Debut took place there back in October and it drew a fairly decent crowd.

Andrew Spellman/The Daily Athenaeum

The Wesbanco Arena has been renovated recently and it’s not that far from Morgantown. Plus, a sold out Wesbanco Arena (that seats about 5,500) would probably look better on TV than a half full Coliseum, especially when the students aren’t around.

That’s just my approach on trying to solve the problem. Hopefully we’ll get to see more meaningful games across the state, but as Coach Martin said, it isn’t likely.

Please leave your input in the comments below or on Facebook.