NEWARK, N.J. - The traveling party for West Virginia's men's basketball team has grown by one. He's a pretty conspicuous one, too.
A week after coach Bob Huggins was taunted by a heckler in Las Vegas and had to be restrained from going into the stands after the man, WVU officials have begun giving him an escort when the Mountaineers are on the road.
C.J. Culliton, the rather sizable man who is in charge of Contemporary Services Corporation's WVU operations, now accompanies the team on the road and shadows Huggins before, during and after games.
West Virginia officials stopped short of calling Culliton a bodyguard.
"I wouldn't say it's a bodyguard. He's the head of our security,'' said Bryan Messerly, the school's sports information director, who travels with the team. "I think it's just to have someone here and if he sees something that could get out of control he can talk to the appropriate security people [at the venue].''
The move was prompted by an incident in Las Vegas last Friday night. During and immediately after WVU's 83-81 overtime loss to No. 6 Baylor, an apparently inebriated man in the crowd at the Orleans Center went overboard in heckling Huggins. At game's end the man didn't stop and Huggins had to be restrained from going after the man.
Huggins, of course, is often heckled at road arenas, but this was considered over the top.
"We just thought it was the smart thing to do,'' Messerly said of adding road security.
CSC is a national firm that provides security and other services to schools, teams and arenas all over the country. Culliton runs the CSC operations at WVU sporting events and is usually on hand for home games. Now he will travel with the team, as well.
Messerly said it will probably last the remainder of the season.
"We're not the only school in the Big East that travels with someone,'' Messerly said. "Georgetown has for years and I think Louisville does and several other schools.''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com.