W.Va. Gov. Justice concerned about Marshall University

Published: Apr. 14, 2017 at 6:17 PM EDT
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HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Gov. Jim Justice says he's concerned about the path his alma mater, Marshall University is on.

Justice told WSAZ that he wants to see the same kind of "explosion" and excitement he believes is happening at West Virginia University in Morgantown.

"I am really concerned that Marshall is not progressing anything like WVU," Justice said. "I don't like that, I'm a Marshall grad."

From athletics to enrollment, Justice says he's worried about the university.

"If we look at our attendance or our enrollment at Marshall in the last ten years, we've regressed," Justice told WSAZ. "WVU has exploded into the upside."

We checked the records and in 2006, the total enrollment was 13,940 students. Ten years later in 2016, the total enrollment was 13,654 students.

In 2010, there were 14,196 students.

According to the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission, undergraduate enrollment has decreased by 0.2 percent at both Marshall University and West Virginia State University from 2011 to 2015.

Justice also addressed athletics and what he describes as the "glory days" when Bobby Pruett was coach.

The university had a great record from 1996 to 1999 and a national championship.

The 2016 season was tough for the Herd, ending with a 3-9 record.

"We used to have really good football teams and basketball programs, and now it's kind of like we're falling behind and we can't even fill the whole football stadium in a normal football season unless we play a really big school and their team fills the stadium," student Lindsay Todd said.

"I hate like crazy to think of the Western Kentucky game, nationally-televised game ... you've got three people in the stands and we look bad."

But in 2013 the Thundering Herd finished with a 10-4 record and won the Military Bowl. Just the next year, the team had a 13-1 record, won the Boca Raton Bowl and finished in the AP Top 25 bowl.

The Marshall Student-Athlete Advisory Committee President released a statement Friday.

"In just my four years here, I've seen a football program win a conference championship and become one of the top schools in the Group of Five," Ally Kiekover said. "This past year, the volleyball team finished with 22 wins. The basketball programs have accomplished goals not seen in decades."

Keikover also noted the swimmer who qualified for the NCAA Championships for the first time in 12 years in addition to the softball player who has been named to Team USA.

"I mean, there's no question we gotta be doing a lot of great things," Justice said. "You know at one time we had a great business school, a great teachers college and everything and I don't know that we have that today."

The U.S. News and World Report ranks Marshall University's business program 248th in the country.

A university spokeswoman says the school is a confident, vibrant and growing institution.

"Our applications are up for the fall, we have a new, award-winning marketing campaign, our research enterprise is growing and we are a $400 million/year economic development engine for our state," Ginny Painter, a university spokeswoman, said in a statement.

Some students say Justice's comments are uncalled for but do carry some weight, while others say there should be no comparisons.

"I just really hate this binary that we put between WVU and Marshall because it doesn't always have to be a competition ... like I went to both schools, I love both schools but Marshall is never going to be WVU and that's not a bad thing," Jessica Hutchinson, a Marshall graduate student told WSAZ. "I think it's good to have two very different schools that are both great in their own ways in West Virginia."