WHEELING - Stratford Springs was transformed into a sea of Gold and Blue on Tuesday evening as a handful of West Virginia University athletic heavyweights made their way to the Ohio Valley for the 19th annual B-MAC Scholarship Dinner.
Mountaineers athletic director Oliver Luck was joined by head football coach Dana Holgorsen, head women's basketball coach Mike Carey and head men's basketball coach Bob Huggins for the event, which doubled as the second stop on the Mountaineer Athletic Club's annual Coaches Caravan. Michael Garcia - the Mountaineer - was on hand, as was former AD, and Marshall County native, Ed Pastilong.
About 250 raucous West Virginia faithful enjoyed an evening filled with food, drink, laughter and, of course, plenty of chatter about the past, present and future of WVU athletics.
The highlight of the night was when the coaches, and Luck, fielded questions from the attendees. Tony Caridi - the voice of the Mountaineers - emceed the panel discussion.
The first question focused on the recent flood of players who've transferred out of the men's basketball program.
Huggins, who conducted a news conference about the loss of Eron Harris and Terry Henderson last Saturday, again said he believes the program is on firm footing.
''I honestly don't know why (they're leaving),'' he told the crowd. ''Some things are best unsaid. We wish them the best. We hope they find what they're looking for.
''We're going to move on and we're on the verge of recruiting some other guys who we think can come in and do well.''
In answering the next question, Carey touched on how transfers have impacted the women's game, as well. He also praised Huggins, just as many of the coach's former players have.
''I just want to say this,'' Carey, the reigning Big 12 Coach of the Year, said. ''I have watched Coach Huggins practice and, I don't need to stick up for him. He doesn't need anyone to stick up for him. His record speaks for itself. I've learned more from Coach Huggins than I've learned from anyone in my lifetime. He treats young men great and if those young men want to leave, well...''
Luck answered a plethora of inquiries regarding the school's growing relationship with the Big 12, including one asking if the conference has plan to expand past its current 10-school membership.
''We don't have a championship game, but I don't think that's going to hurt (The Big 12),'' he said,'' noting the new college football playoff system which begins this season.
''With a 10-team conference, every team plays everyone in football, so there's no fairer way to determine a champion than that.''
Holgorsen's team is coming off a 4-8 season in which it missed a bowl game. The Mountaineers open the 2014 season Saturday, Aug. 30 in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in Atlanta against SEC power Alabama. It's part of a three-game non-conference slate that also includes Big Ten foe Maryland.
''It's going to be a phenomenal football game and be a great atmosphere,'' Holgorsen said. ''It will be a great game because of the contrast in styles.''
WVU will play six home football games this fall at Milan Puskar Stadium, which is one of many athletic facilities undergoing or slated to undergo facelifts.
''We're going to be investing about $125M in facilities,'' Luck said, noting larger television payouts as a result of joining the Big 12 are aiding the effort.
''We have a team room at the stadium that doesn't fit the entire team,'' he said.
Luck also pointed out deficiencies at the WVU Coliseum. He said former academic space will soon be reutilized.
''As it stands, we're 102 restrooms short of a standard 14,000-seat building,'' he said.
Everything that was said was welcome news for WVU and B-MAC member Marilyn Redosh of St. Clairsville. She and her late husband, Paul, were original B-MAC members. The couple were married 55 years before Paul's death four years ago.
''When he went to WVU he would shot ball with Coach Huggins' dad every night in the old gym on Main Street,'' she said.
The couple had season tickets for football for years, and also attended many basketball games.
''I think it was probably our third date when I found us going to Morgantown for a game,'' she said. ''That was 1953.''
These days, Redosh still makes trips to games with friends and fellow B-MAC members Gwen Dibey and Joyce Grible, also of St. C.
''My husband would be thrilled ... love it.''