football Edit

Wren Baker press conference summary 8/23/23

--Athletic Director Wren Baker said it's been an eventful summer for the athletic department here at West Virginia and the Big 12. Baker said that he's had a great summer and got his girls moved here and everybody is healthy and happy. He is excited for the fall, he has been to men's soccer and women's soccer and is excited to attend a football game and go through the tailgates.

--Staff structure they are looking at that at the senior leadership level. He wants more efficient and timely decision-making. They will announce in a few weeks a little different staffing structure and how they initiate that. They want to look at more consistency in the way things are done. They want to lay out a four-five year plan on how they will address those.

--Baker said they want to assess facilities. Fan passion and loyalty is the biggest strength, they are always at or near that top grouping in the Big 12 but they want to monetize that loyalty in a big way. They're looking at things like that in terms of facilities to expand suites.

--Baker said that commissioner Brett Yormark is an excellent communicator and he has meetings throughout that process with expansion. Everything gets quiet when you get to the goal line though because you need to ensure confidentiality. He was with the media in not knowing what was happening because Yormark was transparent about that. When you look at where they were at two years ago in the Big 12 the league was on the verge of extinction. The Big 12 is in the top three of most stable, best conferences moving forward. It's a remarkable job of the leadership in the league and that started with Bob Bowlsby and Yormark has been aggressive and making sure everybody was on the same page. They wanted to get the four corner schools and they are a big winner in this round of realignment. If you look at what's happening in the TV markets and shrinking resources they are positioned well.


--Baker said they've got to find a way to bring in more revenue. They don't have a spending problem and are efficient with the dollars they have but they need to eat, breathe, sleep and think how they can bring in more revenue. When teams have been most successful they've been at the top in terms of budget and they have to find a way to do that. There are a lot of buckets, not all big, but they all add up with outside revenue or licensing or premium space opportunities. All of those things are additions but his job is to find the best ways to be successful.

--Baker said that he and Ray Anderson had a great conversation, the athletic director at Arizona State. He didn't mean it the way it was taken but it hit a sore spot on people that are proud of West Virginia. It is a beautiful place full of wonderful people. He said it was an attempt to be funny but was sorry. He said it didn't land how he thought it would. He was in Dallas and doubled down on the graciousness. He knows that if he could go back he wouldn't say that. All West Virginians want is for people to give them a chance.

--Contingent with 9 conference games. Five home games and four from conference schedule. Have six home games or minimum and one FCS game. Power five regional rival is important and they would prefer that to be Pitt and it's an important game to the fan base and the region and if it's not another regional rival. Then can they get a meaningful group of five with a regional meaningness. They aren't willing or eager to go to Huntington but they wouldn't. Schools that don't charter in football they'd like to cut down on travel with the Big 12 schedule but those CFP spots will be meaningful that if you lock into divisions or pods you can put yourself in a disadvantage. Baker seems to prefer the top two teams playing in the league for football but other sports in the Big 12 it would be more regionally based schedule if he had his pick. Students should have a voice and that's something they need to look at. There are subcommittees looking at different scheduling models.-

-Financial people are looking at travel and different scenarios and they will know pretty quick what those schedules need to look like. There is a chance in certain sports they could reduce costs when it comes to travel.

--Baker is exploring naming rights for all the venues and what that could bring. The juice needs to be worth the squeeze because people get attached to certain names on venues but they also get attached to winning and that takes money. They're looking at venues that could have corporate naming and what it could bring in for them.

--Football, Baker has been impressed with coach Neal Brown and the coaches here. He is excited and he feels good about where they are at and the team and their resolve. The prognosticators not having high expectations have helped to motivate them and they want to prove people wrong and there are a lot of things that are done right in this program. You have to value the person over the player and if you do you'll get the full abilities. This staff does a great job of helping people grow and plan for the rest of their lives. They know they have to win games. Brown knows where he is at and that's an expectation to win but he is proud of the way this team has come together and there is a great camaraderie between that group.

--Coach Josh Eilert has done everything he has been asked to do. There was always going to be some roster attrition no matter what they did or how they did it when Bob Huggins resigned. They tried to move as quickly as they could to make the best decisions they could. They have tried to give coach Eilert everything he needed to do to be successful. He is proud of the work they've been able to do. Baker isn't opening up for job applications yet because the job isn't open right now.

--Baker said you have to address the transfer portal in one way, shape or form when a coach resigns because it creates a difficult situation. They had players that wanted to stay here but they want to be somewhere they can make the tournament and have success so it becomes a snow ball rolling down the hill.

--Baker is excited about where the Big 12 is positioned but he is sad for the Pac-12. There seems to be some kind of consolidation around schools there are going to be in power conferences and how many there will be and West Virginia is positioned well. When you talk about student athlete, health, welfare, their experience you have to think about that, too. There is a way to come together as a conference to look at scheduling and not send all the teams to Utah every year. There's a lot of creative things they can do with scheduling and it's their obligation to explore it. This expansion does not have to mean that they have to travel further, they can travel less and more teams to afford not to play everybody round robin.

--Baker and Eilert have had a lot of discussions about expectations and the integrity of what they're looking for. They are not a big you have to win 'x' number of games. They're all very supportive of coach Eilert and they hope he has a great year and gives them something to think about. Baker hopes he does a great job and he's part of the search for the next head coach. But there is no set criteria.

--Baker said that he can't say a lot on Bob Huggins on the back and forth but he said he has a lot of admiration for coach Huggins and what he accomplished here. He wishes the transition would have happened differently and Baker guesses he does as well. Sometimes there are disagreements and hard feelings and his hope is at some point they can look back on it and get past it. The appreciation has not changed for what Huggins did. Nobody has sent him anything to say it's fully resolved, but hasn't seen anything to suggest it isn't either.

--There is appetite to sell suites. He doesn't buy into that they don't have anything to say that can't happen. It's about availability and he gets asked a lot about the opportunity to buy suites. You can get cash flow from the suite rental and pay your mortgage and still have money to contribute. There is a variety of places you can spend the money but right now every metric you can look at they're behind their peers in terms of spending. You have a budget 9th out of 10 and you remove debt service and travel they're 10th. All of it is dominoes and connected so if you spend more somewhere, you have to spend less somewhere else. He wants to invest back into the programs and the support staff. The explosion of video and graphic design and coaches want to do one for everything now but there is a return because fans and recruits engage in that. The player development area needs to be improved and the digital and creative areas that they need to spend more in all sports.

--Baker has known Pitt AD Heather Lyke for eight year and he said they want to play for as much and as long as they want to play. They expressed interest in extending the basketball series. There is willingness on their part to extend and he believes that is the case on their end. They need to follow back up and circle back and see what that looks like.


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