Big 12: WVU joins Big 12

We're back, and the kindly introduction is over. It's time to get to know the real West Virginia.

How will the Mountaineers handle the transition? Big 12 blogger David Ubben and Big East blogger Andrea Adelson debated the issue.

David Ubben: TCU's jump would seem to be a lot bigger, but the Big East has had its well-chronicled struggles the past few years. The Mountaineers left the league with a convincing Orange Bowl win against Clemson, scoring 70 points in the process. Talk about endearing yourself to your new offensive-minded friends, huh? You've seen this team up close lately, though. What, if anything, do you think WVU will have to change to get back to the BCS as a Big-12 member?

[+] EnlargeBrodrick Jenkins
Kim Klement/US PresswireBrodrick Jenkins, an up-and-coming cornerback, will lead the Mountaineers into Big 12 play next season.
Andrea Adelson: Well, one thing that definitely is going to change is the way West Virginia plays defense. Long-time defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel is out, and so is the odd 3-3-5 stack defense. The Mountaineers are going to go with a 3-4 base set under former Oklahoma State assistant Joe DeForest. This should help ease the transition from the stack, as West Virginia does not have the type of players on the roster to go with four down linemen.

In addition to the new scheme, West Virginia is losing its two best pass-rushers in Bruce Irvin and Julian Miller, perhaps its best defensive player in linebacker Najee Goode, and its best cover corner in Keith Tandy. There were times last season when the Mountaineers got beat deep in pass coverage, which will not bode well in Big 12 play.

However, cornerback Brodrick Jenkins has the potential to be truly terrific in 2012. He showed flashes late last season. As for the offense, coach Dana Holgorsen is looking for perfection. That means more consistent play out of an offensive line that was mediocre at times last season, and more explosion out of the run game. Starting running back Dustin Garrison is coming off ACL surgery, so it will be interesting to see whether he will be the same back come August.

Say what you will about the Holgorsen passing offense, but he definitely wants a running back to complement Geno Smith the way Kendall Hunter did with Brandon Weeden at Oklahoma State in 2010. How do you think West Virginia will fit in to its new conference home?

DU: WVU is a good fit on the field. Geographically, not so much, but the Big 12 teams have to like that. There's a lot of uneasiness with TCU entering the league. That could shake up recruiting a lot and cut into the share of teams like Oklahoma State and Texas Tech.

But West Virginia's clearly a strong brand. This is a team that could just as easily have been in the SEC. Instead, it's in the Big 12. The three BCS wins are a big deal, as was the Orange Bowl win. That's endeared the Mountaineers to their new opponents in the Big 12. To win like that on that kind of stage says a lot about where the program is and where it's headed. Having a coach like Holgorsen, who has lots of ties to Texas, will help them grab a few players in Texas, too. The difference between WVU and Mizzou isn't much when you think about recruiting in Texas. I could see WVU being the biggest threat to Missouri recruiting in Texas.

But like TCU, winning games gets people excited. Big 12 fans are psyched about the Mountaineers, who seem like a fun group.

How do you think WVU's transition will compare to TCU's?

AA: Watching a team put up 70 points is always fun! Hearing a guy like Holgorsen talk is always fun because you never know what he is going to say.

But on to your question: I think West Virginia will have a much smoother transition than TCU because it has played in an AQ conference already. Yeah, OK enter your Big Least jokes in here. But West Virginia has been a solid program throughout the course of its history. Note that the Mountaineers are one of just 14 schools to have 700 program victories -- joining Texas and Oklahoma from the Big 12.

West Virginia is one of just three schools to have at least nine wins in seven straight seasons. That doesn't happen by accident. And it's also important to note West Virginia is not exactly in a recruiting hotbed. Talent does not come pouring out of the state the way it does in Texas. The Mountaineers have built pipelines into Florida -- Geno Smith and Stedman Bailey being two notable examples on the squad -- and try to mine talent in Baltimore, Virginia and Washington, D.C. So I do think there will be inroads made into Texas with the Big 12 affiliation.

Already on the roster from the state are starting running back Dustin Garrison and quarterback Ford Childress, an ESPNU 150 player in the class of 2012. I respect the job Gary Patterson has done in building TCU, but I simply think there is going to be much more of a growing curve for a team transitioning to an automatic qualifying conference. What do you think?

DU: I'd agree. The Big East has been weak, but there aren't any teams like New Mexico and UNLV in that league, who are little more than a week off for teams as talented as TCU has been the past few years. Show up and you win.

Last year, even Kansas beat the MAC champions, Northern Illinois, before losing its final 10 games of 2011. Big 12 champion Oklahoma State lost to 6-7 Iowa State, too. This league is so, so deep. You have to show up and play well every week, and even then, you might not win. In 2010, 11 of the league's 12 teams had five wins and at least played a game with a chance to win six and qualify for a bowl game.

This year, nine of the 10 teams did that. It's got elite teams, too. Texas and OU played for titles in 2008 and 2009 and OSU was barely shut out of the title game this year.

The depth of the Big 12 is what TCU will have to get used to. In that sense, WVU will have to adjust much less. Of course, you never know for sure. We'll find out next year. WVU had some head-scratching losses, too. Losing to Syracuse by 26 points? Really? Sheesh.

Both of these teams are built to win in 2012, and I think they'll do it. But winning a Big 12 title requires you to show up every week and play well. In the Big East, which sent an eight-win team to the BCS in 2010, that hasn't necessarily been true.

In the Big 12, Texas or OU has basically run through the year with 0-2 losses every single season. If WVU wants to win this league, they'll have to do that.

When do you think WVU will win its first title? Will it win one?

[+] EnlargeGeno Smith
Kim Klement/US PresswireGeno Smith will enter the Big 12 in his third season as West Virginia's starting quarterback.
AA: It is tough to put a time frame on when West Virginia will win a league title. As crazy as it might sound, I think this team is built to contend in 2012. The Mountaineers dropped FSU from the nonconference schedule, so you could consider Kansas as filling that void. I am sure West Virginia takes that.

Oklahoma is going to be a preseason national favorite, but after that, every single team returning has major question marks. Is Texas going to be Texas? What does Baylor do without RG3? What does Oklahoma State do without Weeden and Justin Blackmon?

You bring up a good point about the head-scratching losses. There have been a bunch of those over the last several seasons -- including TWO in a row to Syracuse. This is a team that has simply been inconsistent. It didn't put together a full game against Clemson. But I think Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey are going to be a handful for teams to stop, so I wouldn't be surprised if the Mountaineers were a surprise contender in 2012. Are you buying or selling?

DU: I'd generally agree. Year 1 seems to be their best chance. It's a wide-open year in the Big 12, and I think Oklahoma's a bit overrated heading into next year, though the potential for a national title run is there. Texas looks like it's on its way back up, but next year won't be the year.

If it doesn't happen next year, though, I don't think WVU will win a Big 12 title in the next decade. It's a solid program that I think could get into the BCS, but win the Big 12?

With the stability, metroplex location and winning tradition, I like TCU's upside a whole lot more, and its ability to win a Big 12 title in the future. I'm buying a Horned Frogs Big 12 title in the next decade. Not so much on WVU.

Time to put you on the spot: What's WVU's record next year and Big 12 finish?

AA: I can see the hate mail trickling into the Big 12 mailbag over that one, Mr. Ubben!
I am going to say West Virginia goes 10-2 and finishes second in the Big 12. What say you?

DU: Maybe so. But hey, that's how we do things on the Big 12 Blog. I call it like I see it. And I see more potential for the Froggies, though I think the Mountaineers will be a solid, solid program. I wouldn't be that surprised if they won the league, but I'm not betting on it.

This is a league built around the state of Texas, and the location's going to make it tough for them to consistently field teams that can win 11-12 games consistently.

Next year, I'll take 9-3 for the Mountaineers, but a tie for third place.
Officials from the Big 12 and West Virginia met with reporters via teleconference late Friday afternoon. Here's a bit of what we learned.

Big East/West Virginia disagree on exit terms

As noted today, the Big East (27 months, or January 2014) and West Virginia (July 2012) have a clear disagreement on when the Mountaineers will become members of the Big 12.

"As of July 1, we will be members of the Big 12. Our team and their team are in discussions about how we can make that happen," West Virginia president James Clements said.

As required in the bylaws, West Virginia wired a $2.5 million payment to the Big East upon notification of withdrawal, and the other $2.5 million exit fee is paid upon exit date.

The school also plans to grant its Tier I and Tier II media rights to the Big 12 as the league's other members, excluding Missouri and Texas A&M, have done. The paperwork to do so is being circulated to the school, and Clements said the school should have it officially OK'd around Tuesday.

TCU and West Virginia on same revenue-sharing plan

There will be no difference in how Big 12 Conference revenue is shared between the Big 12's new members, who both plan on entering the league in 2012.

"It's similar; it's the same," said Big 12 interim commissioner Chuck Neinas.

Official details have not been disclosed, but the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported earlier this month that TCU would earn 50 percent of the expected $17 million payout in the 2012-13 academic year, 67 percent in 2013-14, 84 percent in 2014-15, and 100 percent in 2015-16.

Future schedules in flux

Don't expect TCU to replace Texas A&M in the Big 12 schedule, and don't expect West Virginia to slide in and replace Missouri if the Tigers' exit to the Big 12 is finalized.

Neinas says the conference won't be starting from scratch, but it's likely that changes to the 10-team, round-robin conference schedule will be made.

No official word on Missouri

Neinas offered no real updates on the status of Missouri, which was excluded from the Big 12 release on Friday that stated "Beginning with the 2012-13 season it is expected that the Big 12 Conference will be comprised of 10 Universities – Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU, Texas, Texas Tech and West Virginia."

"Until it withdraws, Missouri is a member of the Big 12," Neinas said.

He deferred any questions about timing or details to Missouri officials.

Quick hits
  • Neinas didn't rule out expansion in the future, but says there's no sentiment across the league to be anything but a 10-team league, citing excitement about the round-robin schedule in basketball and football.
  • West Virginia officials admitted they felt some nervousness when plans to join the league this week were put on hold, but remained confident that it would become official. The Big 12 said the plans were put on hold by the league's members because they wanted to make sure the Big 12 didn't become an 11-team league if Missouri decided to stay. For now, there seems to be a lot of legal wrangling, but from my perspective, it seems like West Virginia's invitation was a tacit resignation that the Tigers are gone.
  • Neinas went out of his way to say the lack of an invitation to Louisville wasn't an indictment on the school. The Cardinals would be a good fit in the league, and in my opinion, if the Big 12 looks to expand again, they'll be near or at the top of the list.
  • Beer in the stadium? The Big 12 has no rules encouraging or prohibiting it at campus stadiums, but West Virginia decided to allow beer sales at its stadium this year. The details of whether or not it will continue haven't been ironed out yet.

Mailbag: Examining West Virginia's entrance

October, 28, 2011
Thanks for all the questions. Here's the link to try and make it in the next mailbag.

Here's my take on the Mountaineers' move into the Big 12.

Brad Waldo in Morgantown, W.V. asked: David,I have been a daily reader of the Big East ESPN blog and now I will start reading yours everyday. What kind of WVU coverage can we expect?

David Ubben: Only the best, Brad. Mostly, I try to offer praise when necessary and criticism when necessary. We've had a lot of both lately in the Big 12. I'm looking forward to getting to know you all, but here's a little bit more about me, back in my first-ever post on the blog.

Scott in Lubbock asked: DUbb Step,With WVU presumably taking Mizzou's schedule, Texas Tech's home schedule looks to have OU, UT, and WVU all coming to the Jones. That has to be one of the most exciting home schedules in the country, no?

DU: Gotta say, that's a new nickname. Not quite a fan. Of the name or the music genre. Anyway, I'd say you're getting ahead of yourself a little bit, Scott. There's no definitive word on scheduling, and there's no telling whether that gets shuffled.

So, on the surface I'd agree with you, but don't get too attached. I'd be surprised if some shuffles aren't on the way.

Kit in Chandler, Ariz. asked: With the decline of the Oklahoma Sooners' defense in the past few years, what are the chances Brent Venables gets the boot and Mike Stoops rejoins the Sooners as their defensive coordinator (he'll likely need a pitstop before getting another head coaching gig)?Also, would Mark Stoops consider moving into that role if it was vacated?Thanks

DU: Oh my. Come on, now. Take a step back, Sooner fans. I heard a similar sentiment this week from quite a few of you, but face the fact on this one: Venables is on the short list of the best coordinators in the country. You're completely nuts if you think the only way he's leaving Oklahoma is if he's getting a head coaching job.

One year, a coordinator does not make. Venables is nothing short of outstanding. I covered Oklahoma during its injury-riddled year back in 2009, and fans wanted to see Kevin Wilson gone, too.

This, a year after he coordinated the highest-scoring offense in the history of college football.


Fans are much too apt to put blame at the feet of coordinators when anything goes wrong. Oklahoma's problems on defense were mostly just in two games and were small-picture problems in the secondary that Venables is the man to solve. They aren't larger, recurring institutional problems that require a new coordinator. That's insanity.

Gary in Lubbock, Texas asked: What did you mean by the comment about Seth Doege continuing his "awesome march" being quiet?

DU: He's put up huge numbers competitive with any quarterback in the country, and almost nobody on the national stage had heard of him before last week. That was mostly because Tech wasn't ranked and had two losses. The Red Raiders are in the Top 25 now, but I don't know how many people are taking this team seriously as a Big 12 title contender.

Whether that happens or not, Doege's going to continue to be great this year and into 2012.

Andy Poling in Fairmont, W.V. wrote: There is no reason to fly to Pittsburgh to get to Morgantown. All WVU teams fly out of Clarksburg, WV for away games. Clarksburg is a 35 minute drive from Morgantown. Having to fly to Pittsburgh is a red herring.

DU: Good to know, Andy. Thanks for the insight. That helps schools a lot, but I still think it doesn't changes much for fans. Flying into Clarksburg is considerably more expensive. It's going to help make sure athletes aren't exhausted from travel, but West Virginia will be tough to get to for some fans. That said, that's nothing new for most fans.

Manhattan, College Station, Waco, Stillwater and Columbia all required drives of an hour or two after for most fans coming to the game after flying into nearby major cities.

Nucks in Afghanistan: David,I'm a Stillwater native and I bleed nothing but orange. However, I am currently serving in Afghanistan and won't be done with this deployment until spring of 2012. As time has gone by, I have found that the main thing that gets me through every week here (aside from Skype dates with my wife-to-be and family/friends back home) is college football. I read your blog as often as I can and so far, have been lucky enough to catch a few OkState games aired on AFN (American Forces Network). Waking up in the middle of the night or not getting to bed until an hour before sunrise is totally worth getting to watch the Cowboys play. Sometimes I get frustrated that I'm not at home while the Cowboys are doing so well... but at the same time, it definitely boosts morale for all of us Pokes fans while we do what we do over here. Anyway, I just wanted to say thanks for all that you do. For the Big 12, for the athletes that play and most of all, for those of us that serve overseas. I know you don't really think about it while you're blogging away or typing up stats... but your words help lift a lot of guys' heads over here, even if just for a day. It's the closest we can get to actually being at the game. So thank you, David. I believe in our nation. I believe in the Big 12. And most importantly... I believe in the Cowboys. Go Pokes.

DU: Always love seeing these e-mails. Don't credit me, though. The guys providing the real entertainment are the players on the field. They're why I love this game, and they're the guys that fuel all the excitement in fall around the country.

Thanks for all you and those abroad do.

Big 12 officially adds West Virginia

October, 28, 2011
The Big 12 has made its next move in expansion official.

West Virginia is joining the Big 12.
The Big 12 Conference Board of Directors have voted unanimously to accept West Virginia University as a full conference member effective July 1, 2012. The Mountaineers will begin competing in the Big 12 beginning with the 2012-13 athletic season.

The entry date for the Mountaineers should be interesting. Big East bylaws require a 27-month notice before members can leave the league, but it's clear that West Virginia and the Big 12 have no intention of adhering to that portion of the bylaws.

Big East commissioner John Marinatto released a statement on Friday acknowledging the Mountaineers' withdrawal from the conference, and made his own intentions clear.
"West Virginia is fully aware that the Big East Conference is committed to enforcing the 27-month notification period for members who choose to leave the conference," the release stated.

Should be an interesting couple of weeks to follow.

"We are excited to add West Virginia to our exceptional lineup of conference members," Big 12 interim commissioner Chuck Neinas said. "They bring an excellent overall athletic program to the Big 12 and allow the league to expand into an area that boasts a passionate group of fans and alumni throughout its region."

Here's the full release from the Big 12, complete with more information about West Virginia.

Sources: WVU's Big 12 invite arrives

October, 28, 2011

West Virginia's on again, off again move to the Big 12 is back on again.
West Virginia, a member of the Big East Conference since 1995, was formally invited on Friday to join the Big 12.

Big East spokesman John Paquette confirmed that the Mountaineers have notified the conference of its intentions.

The Big 12 plans to remain at 10 schools.

On Wednesday, West Virginia was told that the Big 12's expansion plans were put on hold as Missouri's likely exit to the SEC had yet to become official. Additionally, reports indicated that some Big 12 members preferred to add Louisville over the Mountaineers.

On Tuesday, though, West Virginia officials were told it would be accepted into the league pending formal approval.

After getting the brakes applied, it looks as if the Big 12's expansion plans are back to full speed.