The most recognizable voice in the Mountain State-Tony Caridi-will be part of the West Virginia University entourage that will converge at J.P. Henry's Restaurant on Emerson Avenue on Thursday evening.
Caridi began his 14th season as the radio play-by-play announcer for Mountaineer football and basketball on MSN and his 26th overall year with the network. He literally has become a household name throughout the state due to his work on MSN and will serve as the Master of Ceremonies when the Mountaineer Athletic Club's annual Mountaineer Coaches Caravan pays its 11th visit to J.P. Henry's.
"The first year we held it (the Coaches Caravan), he did his radio show there," explained event organizer Eric Fitzer. "I don't believe that will be the case this year, but I think the MAC asked that he be the event's M.C."
A multiple winner of the state's Broadcaster of the Year award, Caridi is currently the sports director at the MetroNews Radio Network and hosts a nightly sports talk show as well as working with head coaches Dana Holgorsen and Bobby Huggins on their statewide talk shows. He also continues to serve as co-host and feature contributor for the popular television shows Mountaineer360 and Mountaineer Jammin'.
From all indications, Caridi will be talking to a standing-room-only crowd on Thursday as ticket sales for this year's event have been booming.
"When I left our office (Intra State Insurance), we had zero tickets left," said Fitzer. "I talked to Tom (Hughes) at J.P.'s and he said they only had a few remaining so I'm expecting a packed house."
A situation that has become more of a norm than an exception during the event's tenure at the restaurant. During an average year the event raises between $10,000 and $12,000 for the MAC. The number eclipsed the $14,000 mark on one occasion.
But, those numbers may pale in comparison to this year's event as a plethora of corporate sponsors has Fitzer believing that Thursday night's take will wind up in the $18-19 thousand dollar range.
"This will be our biggest ever," said the event's organizer. "That is for sure. I cannot tell you just how impressed I am over all of the corporate sponsorships that we have received this year."
This year's event will feature Director of Athletics Oliver Luck as well as head coaches Holgorsen (football), Huggins (men's basketball), Mike Carey (women's basketball) and Craig Turnbull (wrestling). Also in attendance will be former Oklahoma head football coach Barry Switzer and 1978 Heisman Trophy recepient Billy Sims.
The addition of Switzer and Sims will give fans an opportunity to ask questions about WVU's new conference affiliation with the Big 12.
The earliest preseason rankings have the old gold and blue as the No. 2 team in the 10-team league-trailing only the Sooners.
WVU elected to leave the Big East, which it joined prior to the 1991 football season.
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