When West Virginia University invited the public to attend a joint-groundbreaking ceremony for White Hall, future home of the Department of Physics, and the Basketball Practice Facility, future home to the men’s and women’s teams, surely more than a few people wondered: What in the world do physics and basketball have to do with each other?

As those who attended Thursday’s (Feb. 4) virtual groundbreaking in the Ruby Grand Hall at the Erickson Alumni Center now know, the answer is: A lot.

“Both our physics and basketball programs have achieved national recognition for themselves and this University,” WVU President James P. Clements said at the event.

In the past seven years, the number of undergraduates in the physics program has doubled and graduate enrollment is up 30 percent. Professors have garnered the top awards in their field, made discoveries that are likely to result in scientific innovation and been published in preeminent journals, including Science, Astrophysical Journal and the Journal of Applied Physics.

The basketball program has made similar strides in its march toward excellence. Both the men’s and women’s teams currently rank in the top 10 nationally. The women have won 20 games and are on their way to setting a single season record. Both teams expect to make the NCAA tournament in March and, as in past seasons, bring in a slew of BIG EAST scholar-athlete awards.

The new facilities will help the programs to keep that growth and momentum.

“Even with all that our physics and basketball programs have accomplished, we can and will accomplish more,” Women’s Head Coach Mike Carey said.

Department of Physics Chair Earl Scime, Men’s Head Coach Bob Huggins and Carey believe world-class buildings are not only a way to attract the nation’s top athletes and faculty members to WVU, they are a sign that the University is willing to provide its programs with the financial and physical support they need to grow, both in numbers and in prominence.

“These state-of-the-art facilities tell our future players, our professors and students that WVU is willing to invest in them, and to provide them with the resources they need to build a successful career and future,” Scime said.

“This University will benefit from these facilities for years to come,” Huggins added.

The renovation of White Hall, which is expected to cost about $33 million and be complete in the Fall of 2011, includes a rooftop planetarium, sophisticated research space and teaching labs, two 175-seat high-tech classrooms and a generous amount of administrative office space.

Clements thanked Gov. Joe Manchin, the state Legislature and the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission, led by Brian Noland, for their support in making $23 million of this project possible.

The cost of the nearly $19 million Basketball Practice Facility is being made possible, Clements said, through the generosity of more than 40 private donors. The facility will feature two separate gym areas for the men’s and women’s teams, a weight training center, theater-style meeting spaces for each program, an athletic training room and a Basketball Hall of Traditions. It is expected to be complete in May 2011.

Though the programs play different roles in the University, Clements said they share an ability to propel WVU to even greater prestige. “We are proud to make these investments in their future,” he said.

Physics students and professors, along with student-athletes from the men’s and women’s programs were all on hand.

To the delight of the audience, a video featuring MARVIN, a robot that high school students involved in a physics department program built, helped break ground and cut a ribbon on the two facilities.

An animated video featuring basketball stars Liz Repella and Da’Sean Butler shooting a basket and dunking, respectively, was also shown to illustrate the physics of basketball – how matter moves through time and space and how a basketball moves through the air and toward its target.

The event was also Web cast live and watched by students around the state.

The full webcast is available by clicking here.



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