Campus Connection: Weekend Sports Notes

  • By John Antonik
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  • June 09, 2017 10:46 AM
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Earlier this week, West Virginia University coach Dana Holgorsen announced that sophomore quarterback Cody Saunders will medically redshirt the 2017 season and finish his WVU degree, effectively ending his Mountaineer career.
Saunders didn’t appear in any games but did show promise during the 2016 Gold-Blue Spring Game held at The Greenbrier when he completed six-of-seven passes for 92 yards and two touchdowns.
The Panama City, Florida, resident earned Florida Class 5A honorable mention all-state honors at Arnold High after completing 165-of-259 passes for 2,005 yards and 12 touchdowns and rushing for 1,003 yards and 13 scores during his senior season in 2015.
Saunders was vying with sophomore Chris Chugunov for the backup quarterback spot during the spring.
The loss of Saunders means West Virginia right now has just three scholarship quarterbacks heading into fall training camp - Will Grier, Chugunov and late spring signee David Israel from Butler Community College.
Israel is a native of Blythewood, South Carolina.
Former backup quarterback William Crest, Jr., has returned to the team and is now listed as a wide receiver, so it’s conceivable he could play quarterback in an emergency situation.
Although Grier has six games worth of college experience while playing at Florida in 2015, this will be the most inexperienced group of quarterbacks Holgorsen has had on his roster since the 2013 season. He began that year with Paul Millard as the starter, switched to redshirt freshman Ford Childress in week three, and then settled on Florida State transfer Clint Trickett two weeks later following a 37-0 loss to Maryland in Baltimore.
West Virginia managed to thread the needle last year with starting quarterback Skyler Howard taking nearly all of the snaps while attempting 404 of the team’s 409 pass attempts.
Grier is clearly the No. 1 guy this fall, but it will be interesting to see how Holgorsen and new offensive coordinator Jake Spavital develop their backup quarterbacks when fall camp begins in August.
Now, some more summer WVU sports notes …

Dr. E. Gordon Gee
* Dr. E. Gordon Gee being named chair of the Big 12 Conference Board of Directors Executive Committee is tremendous news for West Virginia University. Dr. Gee is one of America’s most prominent higher education leaders and in 2009, Time Magazine named him one of the top 10 university presidents in the United States.
With the Big 12 grant of rights agreement secure through 2025, Gee’s four-year term as chair will give him an opportunity to promote goodwill throughout the conference and continue to strengthen WVU’s ties with the other nine institutions.
* Congratulations to former Mountaineer tight end Anthony Becht on being named “Man of the Year” by the Suncoast chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
Becht, through his vast network of friends, supporters and social media followers, raised $86,391 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Combined with nearly a dozen other participants, almost $400,000 was collected for cancer research.
Becht, who resides in Tampa with his family, does college football analysis for ESPN and radio work for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Becht was a standout tight end playing at West Virginia for Don Nehlen and was drafted in the first round by the New York Jets in 2000. His 12-year NFL career also included stops at Tampa Bay, St. Louis, Arizona and Kansas City.
His last year in the league was 2011.

Randy Mazey
* This coming Monday is West Virginia University baseball coach Randy Mazey’s favorite day of the year - the beginning of Major League baseball’s draft.
It looks like the Mountaineers could come out of it in pretty good shape with none of their five underclassmen currently eligible to be picked ranked among the nation’s top 500 prospects, according to Baseball America.
More than 1,200 players were selected in last year’s 40-round draft happening over three days. This year’s first round starts on Monday, June 12 at 7 p.m. and will be televised live on MLB Network and streamed on MLB.com.
Rounds three through 10 will take place on Tuesday, starting at 1 p.m., while the remaining 30 rounds will begin on Wednesday at noon.
* The number of men’s basketball enrollees has swelled to four with the recent addition of Navarro Junior College forward D’Angelo Hunter. According to the men’s basketball roster available on WVUsports.com, Hunter will wear uniform No. 11.
The other summer enrollees are 6-foot-5-inch, 225-pound forward Teddy Allen from Mesa, Arizona, 6-foot-8-inch, 200-pound forward Wesley Harris from Jackson, Mississippi, and 6-foot, 180-pound point guard Brandon Knapper from South Charleston.
The word from the basketball practice facility is that Harris may be the most athletic player West Virginia has had since Joe Alexander.
* In somewhat of a stunner, Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops announced Wednesday that he is retiring after 18 seasons on the Sooner sidelines, effective immediately. Stoops is one of the most successful coaches in college football with a .748 winning percentage and 190 career victories.
Stoops was 121-29 in Big 12 play, including a 5-0 regular season record against West Virginia.
Dave Weekly asked me on Twitter Wednesday evening where Stoops’ regular-season record versus West Virginia stacks up with some of the other top coaches the Mountaineers have faced.
Stoops was 5-0 against West Virginia during the regular season, and 5-1 when counting the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl loss to interim coach Bill Stewart in 2008.
His 5-0 regular season record matches Pitt’s Jackie Sherrill's 5-0 tenure with the Panthers. Sherrill's Pitt teams defeated the Mountaineers by scores of 44-3 in 1977, 52-7 in 1978, 24-17 in 1979, 42-14 in 1980 and 17-0 in 1981 before he left to take the Texas A&M job.
Of course, Penn State’s Joe Paterno also had great success against West Virginia, winning 18 games in a row before his first loss to the Mountaineers in 1984 and posting an overall record of 25-2.
However, the coach whose teams had the greatest success against West Virginia was Pitt’s Jock Sutherland. In 15 seasons leading the Panthers from 1924-38, Sutherland was 14-1 against the Mountaineers, including a nine-year stretch when Pitt outscored WVU 235-12 with seven shutouts.
West Virginia failed to score a single point against Sutherland’s Panther squads during a miserable four-year stretch from 1930-33.
The Mountaineers’ lone win came against Pitt in 1928 by a 9-6 count when the Panthers outgained them by almost a three-to-one margin.
Considering what Sutherland’s teams did to West Virginia before and after, I’d have to say that ’28 win by West Virginia in Pittsburgh must be filed under the category of “very fortunate.”
* Other than possibly Mack Brown, what coach has done more for the Big 12 Conference than Bob Stoops? Stoops and Brown are the only Big 12 coaches to win a national championship since the league was formed in 1996.
Now, with Lincoln Riley coaching at Oklahoma, that means Dana Holgorsen has the fourth-longest tenure of any Big 12 coach at his present school behind just Kansas State’s Bill Snyder, TCU’s Gary Patterson and Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy.
There have been seven coaching changes within the conference since Holgorsen and the Mountaineers joined the league in 2012.
It will be interesting to see where the media picks Oklahoma in its preseason poll now with 33-year-old Riley taking over a storied Sooner program.
By the way, Riley was born in 1983 - my freshman year of high school - which makes me feel just a little bit older than I already felt after waking up this morning.

Billy Hahn
* Best wishes to Billy Hahn, who announced his retirement earlier this week. Hahn, 64, spent 41 years in college basketball, including the last 10 working as Bob Huggins’ aide. Hahn said he plans on spending more time with his family while doing a little public speaking.
* And finally, it was great to see former Gale Catlett-era standout forward Marcus Goree back in town for last weekend’s Bob Huggins Fantasy Camp held at the Mountaineer basketball practice facility.
Goree was a tremendous player during his four seasons at West Virginia from 1997-2000, scoring 1,183 points and grabbing 675 rebounds for his career.
Goree averaged a career-best 16.5 points per game during his junior campaign in 1999, while shooting 50.6 percent from the floor and 74.1 percent from the free throw line.
He averaged 14.5 points and a career-high 8.3 rebounds per game as a senior in 2000 before embarking on a very successful 15-year professional career overseas.
Goree is now living and working in the Houston area.
Incidentally, Marcus, who prepped at Hillcrest High in Dallas, was once a recruiting target of Huggins when he was the coach at Cincinnati. Huggins’ choice to fill his Bearcat roster spot at power forward in ’97 came down to two players, and he ended up choosing the other guy instead of Goree.
And the name of that other guy?
Kenyon Martin.
How about that?
Have a great weekend everyone!