The recent announcement that sophomore guard Eron Harris was leaving the West Virginia basketball program after the Mountaineers ended the season on yet another sour note with a first round loss to Georgetown in the National Invitational Tournament (NIT) not only came as a stunning surprise to many, but begs the answer to one very simple question.
What the heck is going on in Morgantown these days?
Back-to-back disappointing seasons on the gridiron have many Mountaineer fans questioning whether offensive-minded head coach Dana Holgorsen was the right choice to lead the old gold and blue.
However, similar less-than-anticipated campaigns by the mens basketball team and veteran head coach Bob Huggins practically goes by unnoticed. Following a disastrous 13-19 mark during the 2012-13 season, Huggins "cleaned house" in an effort to send a message to his players that lack of hard work and dedication would not be tolerated in the future.
Improvements were seen this past season with victories over Iowa State and Baylor teams that have reached the NCAA's Sweet 16 as well as a home win over perennial Big 12 champion Kansas.
Now comes the loss of the team's second leading scorer, Harris (17.2 ppg), and the possibility of Big 12 first team selection Juwan Staten passing up his senior season in Morgantown to try the waters of the National Basketball Association.
What appeared to be a team on the verge of challenging the Jayhawks for the conference title has now become one that may struggle to improve upon this past season's 17-16 finish.
Remember, this is a program that reached the Final Four four seasons ago and has been an annual entrant into the 'Big Dance' under Huggins until last year. What's changed?
While Holgorsen and his staff have been receiving heat for their performance, or lack thereof, over the past two years, Huggins and his assistants have yet to feel the ire of Mountaineer fans.
Following last fall's 4-8 mark Director of Athletics Oliver Luck met with his head football coach and reminded him that expectations for his program were much higher and that he expected some better results for the upcoming season. No threats of job loss were made, but Luck clearly pointed out that the facilities the football team were given were enough to make the Mountaineers competitive in their new home.
Same could be said for the mens basketball program.
With the addition of a new practice facility that even Luck called "jaw dropping", WVU should be able to challenge for top notch recruits every year. But, losing a player like Harris raises questions that need answers.
If the answer is as simple as "just wanting to be closer to home", then so be it. Fans can understand a young player attending a school hundreds of miles away from friends and family to yearn to return home.
But, the gut tells me that there is far more to this story and answers should be forthcoming.
Contact Jim Butta at firstname.lastname@example.org