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July 1, 2012

Big '12' things are here

Today marks the first day that West Virginia can officially call itself a member of the Big 12 Conference, a move that will be met with much rejoicing throughout the Mountain State as the Mountaineers end their 21-year relationship with the Big East Conference.

It's a move that while made out of necessity, is only the next step in becoming an even more competitive force in college athletics and helping to cement the brand that West Virginia has established. It's a move that will join the Mountaineers to an all-sports conference, something that wasn't possible in the Big East, with schools that share many of the same academic and athletic goals.

Allowing for more TV revenue, roughly around $10 million more than what the Mountaineers were generating in the Big East, the move although initially delayed by some legal entangling will provide West Virginia the opportunity to only improve the program.

West Virginia will bring a program that has had major athletic success; most notably winning or sharing five Big East titles in the last eight years, appearing in and winning all three BCS bowl appearances on the football side to go along with the 2010 Big East Tournament Championship and subsequent Final Four in Indianapolis in men's hoops.

It's a program that successes were a major cog in keeping the Big East afloat during the crucial time period after the ACC took long-time members Miami (Fla.), Virginia Tech and Boston College and left the league scrambling for a face and someone to produce results.

First West Virginia won the 2006 Sugar Bowl over heavily favored Georgia and then again beating Oklahoma in the 2008 Fiesta Bowl. And the Mountaineers made it three for three in BCS bowl appearances after this past year's record-setting 70-33 victory over Clemson in the Orange Bowl.

Bob Huggins has taken the foundation that was put in place during John Beilein's tenure developed the basketball program into annually participating in the NCAA Tournament and challenging for conference titles in arguably the best conference in college basketball at the time.

Now surrounded by flagship, land-grant institutions, West Virginia is very much like its new conference brothers and on the field and court it will provide the exciting matchups that Mountaineers fans have been craving.

On the field, the Mountaineers will enter a league that has been very competitive with seven teams in the top 25 last season and traditional powerhouses such as Oklahoma and Texas and rising programs such as Oklahoma State, TCU, Kansas State and Baylor. The home schedule will greatly improve over the time spent in the Big East and with the current 10-team format; the championship will be decided on the field in a true round-robin schedule.

Head coach Dana Holgorsen is entering his second season atop the program, but has experience in the Big 12 after spending time at both Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. So the Mountaineers style of offense, and new attacking defense, should fit in well with the current up-tempo, spread style of play in the Big 12 especially after adding staff members such as Joe DeForest who will know what to expect when conference play begins this fall.


On the hardwood, the Mountaineers will leave one of the premier conferences in the country in the Big East to take on the challenges of the Big 12. Much like the football side, the conference will play a home and home schedule between all of the teams and will provide for a true regular season champion. As for the programs, traditional power Kansas tops the list as one of the most successful programs of all time, and then teams such as Baylor, Kansas State and Texas make the conference tough to navigate.

And after spending a year at Kansas State, Huggins also has a level of familiarity with the league and what to expect as the Mountaineers make the transition.

But the time for talking is through; West Virginia is now officially a member of the Big 12.


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