The Excitement of Joining the Big 12 Surrounds WVU Athletics - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

The Excitement of Joining the Big 12 Surrounds WVU Athletics

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MORGANTOWN -

It has been a long time coming for many involved in the conference realignment shuffle going on in college sports at West Virginia.  On Tuesday afternoon, West Virginia University officially became a member of the Big 12 Conference.  After weeks of scanning message boards, following social media and refreshing websites, it is finally over for Mountaineer fans everywhere.

Interim Big 12 Commissioner Chuck Neinas was in Morgantown Tuesday afternoon to help welcome WVU to the conference.  Not only was it a press conference, it also felt like a party with the Mountaineer pep band and cheerleaders being in attendance.  Neinas thinks that West Virginia just seemed to be the perfect match for the Big 12.

"We did have considerable interest and the expansion committee went through and took a look at all those who had shown interest and West Virginia just stood out," Neinas said.  "Their academics fit well as a land-grant college with a number of our members and everything just seemed to fit."

Many rumors spread last week that the Morgantown Municipal Airport did not have a long enough runway to suit many schools when they had to come to WVU to play.  Also, many complained that geograpically the move to the Big 12 did not make any sense.  In the end, neither of those mattered in the final decision.

"It really was not an issue," Neinas said.  "It was just something to talk about.  For example, the longest trip in college athletics today is Tuscon, AZ [University of Arizona] to Seattle, WA [University of Washington].  That's been in the [Pac-12] for years and nobody talks about it.  It's near 1,700 miles.  You go to Boulder, CO, to play and you land at Denver International Airport which is 45 miles from Boulder so like I said, it's just something to talk about."

One of the most important people to help make this move happen is Athletic Director Oliver Luck.  He did an amazing job throughout the entire process of keeping things quiet and under the rug, but now that it is over, there are issues that need to be worked out.  If WVU does join the Big 12 like it is proclaiming in 2012, they currently have 13 games scheduled which would be too many.  With nine conference and four out-of-conference games, a few details need to be worked out between the conference and the school.

"We have a lot of work to do to sit down with the Big 12 and to discuss all of the issues," Luck said.  "At this point I can't really talk about scheduling or travel but we realize we have a lot of stuff to work on and those are all issues that will be focused on over the next three weeks.  We'll get issues resolved as we always do.  We'll do what's prudent for the student-athletes, the university and do what's in the best interest of our program."

Head Football Coach Dana Holgorsen is no stranger to the Big 12.  He spent several seasons at Texas Tech as an assistant under Mike Leach.  He was also the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State before heading to West Virginia where he would eventually become the head coach. 

Holgorsen also made it clear when he arrived at WVU that he will recruit the state of Texas and areas of the midwest.  With the move to the Big 12, he feels it will improve recruiting.

"It solidifies your future," Holgorsen said.  "The Big 12 is here to stay and it's a very powerful conference.  They've won national championships and I know they set the standard from a national exposure standpoint with TV and facilities.  Kids across the country understand what kind of football that is.

"At least we have something that we can tell the recruits and there's no uncertainty that people can use against us.  We'll keep recruiting the areas that we've been recruiting but we'll branch out to parts of the southwest as well."

If WVU has its way, this season will be the last time the Mountaineers fight for the Big East title.  With four games remaining, Holgorsen hopes they can bring home the title in their final attempt.

"You would think you would want to win the title anyway," Holgorsen said.  "That was the goal we set forth at the beginning of the year and we've put ourselves into position where that is obtainable, but we still have to go out there and play to the best of our ability each and every week.  If nothing else it probably made the bullseye on our back even bigger so we have to be prepared every week."

Holgorsen is not the only head coach at West Virginia that is familiar with the Big 12.  Head Basketball Coach Bob Huggins was at Kansas State for a season before making the jump to WVU in 2007.  Although football seems to be the driving force with conference realignment, this move means a lot to basketball.  The Big East was considered one of if the not the best basketball conference in America, but the Big 12 is no joke on the court.

"I think I know a little bit more about the conference than anyone else since I coached in the league for a year," Huggins said.  "I think the thing our people will find out is the venues there are incredible.  When you go to Stillwater and they're playing Prairie View, they're going to fill it.  There's a great passion for basketball at Oklahoma State, Kansas and Kansas State."

With the ongoing lawsuit against the Big East, it is uncertain yet whether or not West Virginia will be playing in the Big 12 next season or 27 months from now, but there is no doubt that there is a newly found excitement in the air around the WVU Athletic Department.

 

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