Van Zant will not return to WVU for 2013 season
Published: Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, May 22, 2012 23:05
A little more than an hour following the West Virginia baseball team’s 5-4 loss to South Florida Saturday, WVU Athletic Director Oliver Luck announced head coach Greg Van Zant would not be returning to coach the team for next season.
The Mountaineers finished the season with a 23-32 record and a 9-18 mark in Big East Conference play that wasn’t good enough for WVU to earn a spot in the Big East tournament, something that happened eight times in Van Zant’s 18-year career at West Virginia.
It will be the first time WVU has missed the Big East tournament since 2007.
As the Mountaineers prepare to move into the highly competitive Big 12 Conference next season, Luck felt it was the right time to make the move.
"I just believe that, given the challenges we’re going to be facing in the Big 12 with its baseball institutions, that we needed to go in a different direction," Luck said. "This was the appropriate time to make the change."
Van Zant got his start at West Virginia when he was a four-year starter at third base from 1980-83.
He joined the Mountaineer coaching staff as an assistant in 1991, and took over the head coaching position shortly after the death of Dale Ramsburg.
In his time at West Virginia, Van Zant won 528 games and led the Mountaineers in 1996, his second season as the school’s head coach.
Luck said in a conference call Saturday that he told Van Zant a few weeks ago he would not be returning for the 2013 season.
With the season over, Luck said they have started their search for the next head coach at West Virginia. A press release issued by the University stated that a national search for the Mountaineers’ next manager would begin immediately.
"We will move swiftly but prudently, as well," Luck said. "We want to move swiftly so as not to miss out on recruiting possibilities, but we also want to be smart and take the same approach we’ve taken in the past hiring coaches."
Whoever takes over in West Virginia’s first season in the Big 12 will have their work cut out for them, but they will be inheriting a lot of experience.
Despite struggling this season, the Mountaineers were starting to turn it around at the end of the season, winning four of their last six games of the season. They will return all but one player from this year’s team.
"We lost 10 seniors (last season) and had some tough injuries, so when we started off with these guys, they were all new. They learned on the job," Van Zant said following his final game as the Mountaineers’ head coach. "College baseball is college baseball. It’s not that big of a difference going to any conference. We play top teams in the country already."
Even with the difficulties that will come with moving to a new league, Luck thinks there’s definitely a chance for the new head coach to be successful at West Virginia.
"There are some schools in relatively cold and wet climates that have found some success," Luck said. "It’s not easy, but I do think there are plenty of good baseball players in our recruiting areas.
"The opportunity we can offer a young man from Pennsylvania or Ohio or Maryland or West Virginia or New Jersey or Virginia to play in a tremendous conference is very attractive."
While Van Zant said that he believes West Virginia can succeed in the Big 12, he noted it isn’t going to happen overnight and, in order for that to happen, the program will need support from the school that proves it is committed to making the program as competitive as possible.
"You can go get a coach from wherever, and they’re just going to come from programs that have been fully funded that have success," Van Zant said. "You’re only as good as your support.
"I think our school is going to make a commitment to baseball, and we’ll see what happens."