The absence of football will make for a decidedly different landscape this fall on the WVU Tech athletics scene.

But Athletics Director Frank Pergolizzi says the school’s remaining sports teams are poised to continue taking positive steps on the playing fields and in the classroom.

The Golden Bears’ football program was eliminated last November when the Legislative Oversight Commission on Educational Accountability accepted a recommendation from a Higher Education Policy Commission team exploring ways to revitalize the Montgomery institution.

“I’m sure the first Saturday when there’s not a (football) game, that will be weird and different,” Pergolizzi said recently. “But we still have over 200 athletes in 13 sports.”

And those sports have enjoyed recent success, he notes.

“Perhaps for the first time in Tech’s history, we won 104 games last year in all sports (men’s basketball, baseball and softball each had 20-plus win seasons). From a competitive standpoint, we’ve started to turn around a corner.

“All are excited about that and we want to continue to build.”

“After going through a year with no postseason opportunities, now we’ve got multitude opportunities from which to pick and choose,” he added.

Players will be eligible for individual postseason honors, too.

Tech fields men’s sports squads in basketball, cross country, baseball, soccer, wrestling, golf and swimming, and women’s sports teams in basketball, volleyball, softball, soccer, swimming and cross country. Swimming, which is NAIA but is affiliated with another conference, was added to the lineup last winter and will begin its first season later this year.

Last year, Tech withdrew its affiliation with the Kentucky-based Mid-South Conference after several years in the league following its departure from the West Virginia Conference.

This season, Tech remains a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), and, as an independent, is a member of the Association of Independent Institutions (AII).

In addition, Tech was accepted last spring into the United States Collegiate Athletic Association (USCAA), which is a national organization for the athletic programs of 82 mostly small colleges, community colleges and junior colleges. According to www.wikipedia.org, the USCAA holds 11 national championship tournaments in seven sports.

All Tech teams will be eligible for postseason play, and Pergolizzi says various factors, such as distance, will come into play in the decision to participate in independent championships or USCAA events.

“Both memberships give our coaches flexibility ... to develop their own schedules,” he said. “At this point, we’re either USCAA or NAIA Independent.

“I’m not saying this is what we’re going to do forever, but for the time being that’s the plan.”

Obviously, the Tech athletic budget will reflect the money previously budgeted for football not being reallocated. Pergolizzi says reduced travel will help tighten the financial ship some, and personnel are being moved around to take better advantage of resources.

One of the overall positives he has seen in the past couple of years has been less staff turnover. “I’m pleased. There’s nothing that impacts stability more than changing coaches (often).”

Scott Tinsley, who coached the football team for the past few years, will coach the school’s golf team on a part-time basis, Pergolizzi noted.

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Veteran Tech men’s basketball coach Bob Williams is among those who’ll miss watching football at Martin Field this fall.

“I was jogging on the football field the other day and thinking that, for 10 years, I’d been coming to football games here,” Williams said. “I’m really gonna miss not having football games on campus.”

“Change happens,” he continued. “You have to adapt to change constantly. We’re going to change as an athletic department.”

On the heels of a stellar season which, unfortunately, didn’t include postseason play due to NAIA sanctions, Williams is anxious for his 2012-13 squad to get ready for a full campaign with the possibility of postseason play as a season-ending reward.

“Fortunately we had a real good season last year, and that helped the athletic department and the school,” he said. “This year, going independent and leaving the Mid-South Conference, it’s been harder scheduling (mainly because 18 league games were automatically penciled in). Now, we have to come up with 30 games. Our schedule’s probably going to be tougher.”

The goal, as always, is the NAIA Tournament in Kansas City. “We want to go to the NAIA Independent Regional Tournament, where the winner gets a bid to Kansas City.”

Williams points to a still-evolving schedule which will feature two games each with Concord and Salem, possible multiple games with Bluefield State College, and single encounters with Glenville State and Fairmont State.

— E-mail: skeenan@register-herald.com

 

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