Friday, April 20, 2012
Why WVU is like Nebraska ... basically
By David Ubben
MORGANTOWN, W. Va. -- Texas A&M has left the Big 12, but it hasn't left Texas.
Aggies will still work alongside Longhorns from Monday to Friday year round, even though their fall Saturday opponents will be completely different.
Leaving behind the Big 12 completely won't be easy. The Aggies will still be paying attention, if only tangentially.
Nebraska, though? The move to the Big Ten was a little bit simpler for the Huskers, and for West Virginia, the same could be true of the move to the Big 12 from the Big East.
"I’ve always used Nebraska as a good comparison or analogy for us," West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck told ESPN.com. "Nebraska and West Virginia are in what I would call a special category. I don’t think there’s a state where the flagship means as much to the state as it does in both Nebraska and West Virginia."
Luck is right about that one. Texas, of course, has plenty of schools, including Texas. Obviously, Texas doesn't have the same relationship to its state as West Virginia.
"Texas is just a different state," Luck said. "We’re probably much more akin to Nebraska."
The comparison is pretty simple. One state. One team. One fan base ready for a new beginning for its favorite program.
Luck isn't exactly shying away from offending the state's Marshall fans, but Marshall isn't exactly racking up BCS wins like West Virginia has this decade.
"There’s no pro teams in the state, there’s no major metropolitan markets. Omaha’s probably bigger than Charleston, but not by much," Luck said. "Our experience, and I think our fans’ experience in terms of adapting to a new league and a new conference is a lot more like Nebraska than it is like A&M."
There's no replacing Nebraska's five national titles and three Heisman winners, of course, but the sentiment remains.
Excitement is at an all-time high for West Virginia. Ticket sales are through the roof and a report in the Charleston Daily Mail this week stated donations were up to $4.9 million compared with $3.5 million this time last year.
"I spent a good bit of time the past couple months in Charleston, the state capital, so you have the legislature in session, and people were generally excited. There’s a sense that this is a very good opportunity for us," Luck said. "A very challenging opportunity (laughs), because of the pedigree of the Big 12, but it was a nice opportunity for us to play, quite honestly, at a little bit of a different level. That includes almost all the sports, if you think about it."