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BY JOHN MILLER
(September 14, 1998) While Ohio State has the best football team, West Virginia University has the best facilities.
Just ask Buckeye coach John Cooper, who was enlightened during his team's recent visit to Mountaineer Field.
While the Buckeyes were showing the Mountaineers the Xs and Os of the game, Cooper was learning more about providing his student-athletes a better opportunity to advance off the field as well as on it.
That's a big concern in Columbus, where Cooper spent as much time in the preseason worrying about the eligibility of key starters Andy Katzenmoyer, Rob Murphy and Damon Moore as he did pondering the proper defense to stop WVU's sprint draw.
Academics became paramount to Cooper when he learned that while the three players he fretted most about were eligible, two key reserves, who were thought to be in no danger, were lost for the season because of academic support services snafus.
Cooper believes Ohio State should copy West Virginia's blueprint for academic success -- a facilities building that keeps all team activities from position meetings to meals to study halls in one central location.
Right now, the OSU players have to travel all over campus to enjoy the services WVU players receive in the Puskar Center, which is connected to Mountaineer Field and adjacent to the new indoor practice facility.
Cooper and his players have plenty of reasons to be jealous.
WVU's Puskar Center offers "first-class facilities that reflect and enhance the stature of the Mountaineer football program," according to the university.
The center features:
· A state-of-the-art training facility with 22,000 square foot of space, a three-lane indoor running track, almost 14 tons of weights, Hammer Strength weight equipment and computers to help develop programs for each athlete.
· The Andy Clark Academic Support Center which includes 10,000 square foot of study space, 15 computers and a three-member student services staff led by assistant athletic director Garrett Ford.
· A complete kitchen and dining hall for the players and coaches.
· A 160-seat auditorium perfect for team meetings.
· Ultra-modern computer and video equipment used by the coaching staff to prepare for opponents.
· Numerous coaches offices.
· A players' lounge with pool tables and a big-screen television.
· Numerous suites and position meeting rooms.
· Spacious locker rooms.
· An 800-seat banquet room.
Throw in the 63,500-seat Mountaineer Field and the indoor practice facility and it seems WVU has the total package -- a great place to practice and play, and great academic support all in the same location.
At least John Cooper thinks so. And he wants Ohio State to consider building similar facilities.
And I'm sure he's not the only one that's envious. WVU's facilities are arguably the best in the Big East Conference.
WVU has much to offer potential student-athletes, even more than Ohio State and some other football powers.
Everything, that is, except a history of winning the big game.
Remember that the next time WVU loses a recruiting battle.