Another July, another new WJU basketball coach

WHEELING — It is becoming a rite of summer. It being Wheeling Jesuit University hiring a head men’s basketball coach in July.

Jesuit named Will Ryan as its new head coach Monday. He is the 10th to serve in that capacity in school history.

Ryan replaces John Peckinpaugh who returned back home to Indiana this past spring after leading the Cardinals for just one season. Peckinpaugh was hired last July 9 by Jesuit and did a remarkable job of finding some nice talent late in the recruiting game. He also deftly righted the Redbird ship after a 2-17 start.

WJU finished the season surging, winning seven of its last 11 games, being eliminated by West Liberty in the MEC Tournament at WesBanco Arena. Peckinpaugh left Jesuit to be head coach at Noblesville High, located just north of Indianapolis. It is one of the largest high schools in a basketball-crazed state.

Peckinpaugh took over a Cardinal program in turmoil. His predecessor, Danny Sancomb, was inexplicably terminated as Jesuit basketball boss.

Sancomb’s Cardinals won the 2018 Mountain East Conference Tournament Championship after advancing to the NCAA Atlantic Region Championship the previous season. He also took the Redbirds to a No. 1 rating in the National Association of Basketball Coaches poll.

The Maryland native also earned conference and region coach-of-the-year honors. He was a sparkling 216-115 at Jesuit. Such success quickly landed him the head post at Cal., Pa.

While the Sancomb-axing unrest may have quieted to some degree, it still hovers around the program. Sancomb is a class act who won at a high rate, while doing things the right way.

Ryan, while dealing with the ghost of Sancomb, has inherited two other major issues.

First is a roster that is extremely low in numbers.

A majority of players that Peckinpaugh brought in at the 11th hour have opted to leave Jesuit. Ryan will have to mirror Peckinpaugh’s late-in-the-game recruiting magic in order to put a formidable team on the floor.

Secondly, Ryan is coming to an institution that is treading in turbulent financial waters. Jesuit’s budgetary problems are well-documented. Ryan is not only dealing with time constraints but also financial ones.

The school’s monetary shortcomings dealt its powerful wrestling program a lethal – if not — fatal blow. The Cardinal grapplers finished D-II national runners-up this winter. WJU head coach Danny Irwin was named the national coach-of-the-year.

Irwin is now the head coach at rival West Liberty. He left after Jesuit placed its mat program on a two-year hiatus “due to declining participation numbers.”

I do believe Jesuit made a solid hire in Ryan. He is the son of Hall of Fame coach Bo Ryan, who won big at Wisconsin.

Ryan comes to Wheeling via Athens where he spent six seasons as an assistant at Ohio University. Prior to that, he was an assistant coach at North Dakota State for seven seasons.

Ryan boasts solid coaching pedigree. He has 13 years of D-I coaching experience which should prove beneficial. Plus, his dad worked wonders with less with the Badgers. He played for his father on Wisconsin-Platteville’s NCAA Division III national championship teams in 1998 and 1999.

“Will is a good guy. I think he will do a good job,” Peckinpaugh offered.

The Jesuit administration did, however, do Ryan an injustice.

His formal hiring was announced Monday afternoon on a local radio broadcast. One single media outlet was given privy to the news.

What should have been done was to call a press conference, inviting newspapers, television, radio and any other outlet of note. Men’s basketball is one of the premier programs at the school. The administration should have capitalized on an opportunity to bring some good news the institution.

Jesuit did it right in that regard when it hired Zac Bruney as its football coach two summers ago. The news conference was a first class affair and heavily attended media event. It cast the school in a very positive light.

Ryan deserved much of the same.


ALEXANDRA BACKEL and Abby Nickerson, both Weirton Madonna High School grads, have earned spots with the WVU Blue Cheering Team. They are among five freshmen to join the squad for the 2019-2020 school year. The WVU Blue Team will cheer at all WVU women?s basketball games and two home football games. Alex Calvert, a 2016 Wheeling Central grad, has been a part of the WVU cheering team since his freshman year and is now captain of the WVU Gold Team.


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