WVU Sports with Mike Casazza

The grass practice field has to go

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I live a punt away from Mountaineer Field. It’s pretty cool walking to games and practices and press conferences or using the music from the stadium speakers as ambiance when I’m on my deck. I, like many others, walk my dog around the stadium. Sometimes we come across a coach or a player and have a brief chat.

On the busy days during camp or the season, when I’m in and out of the house for press conferences and practice and interviews, I try to walk the beagle around the stadium. It’s good for both of  us.

One such day was Aug. 4. There was practice on the practice field. I watched the open part of it. I came home and knocked out a vlog. I walked the dog out of the neighborhood, down the hill past the practice field and the indoor facility, around the stadium and … wait a second.

The team wasn’t on the practice field. It was in the stadium. That’s extraordinarily weird and, it turns out, important.

It takes time and effort to move from the practice field to the stadium. Imagine all the football and video equipment and the water and training supplies that have to go from one to the other.

I thought it was odd and eventually discovered why it happened. WVU fled the grass practice field that day because it was in horrible shape and kind of dangerous.

That led to what probably looked like, and surely felt like, my awkward question in a subsequent press conference. I didn’t know where I was going, but I knew I had to try … and it’s pretty clear Dana no longer discusses facilities.

But the players? Different story. Two were hurt in the Oklahoma drill that day and another avoided a scary situation. The fraction of the practice they spent up there was sort of spooky and almost completely pointless, which apparently prompted the site change.

“We were pulling large chunks of grass out when we were trying to cut or push off,” one player told the Charleston Daly Mail. “You shouldn’t be slipping like that in practice. You don’t want a guy to injure himself because of the field and not because something else happened that you can’t control.”

After talking to a bunch of players, it was clear WVU has a problem: The grass field is a mess, and if it’s going to remain in the shape it’s been in, the players do not want to work out there.

“I think it would be a problem,” a player said. “Certain guys don’t feel comfortable up there.”

There are two reasons:

1) Nobody wants to blow out a knee or roll an ankle because of shoddy sod.
2) Players can’t practice appropriately (fast, sharp, confident movement) because of No. 1.

That’s an issue, and it’s a new issue atop an existing issue. WVU went from being able to use the grass field a handful of times a year to maybe not at all.

Say what you want about Dana’s belief that you shouldn’t practice where you play — though he’s right that pretty much nobody else does — but an artificial surface where the grass field is now is the solution to all the tempests in that one teapot.

Will it happen?

Maybe.

It’s not in the plans right now and a spokesperson told me “to replace the grass practice field would require a fundraising project.” Football and the Mountaineer Athletic Club just raised the money for the new team meeting room.

WVU has told the University Planning Committee it’s going to spend upwards of around $3.5 million to replace the Mountaineer Field turf after the 2014 season (around $1.5-1.8 million to install the turf, but much more if WVU decides to remove the crown beneath the field, level it out and make sure a system is in place to drain the field appropriately … which seems likely).

Since the practice field and the competition field would have to be the same — and since hardly anyone likes or features crowned fields now — WVU would have to raise somewhere around $3.5 million to put turf on the practice field.