The billboards, the talk radio. The new logos on field, courts, T-shirts galore. The palpable energy. The Mountaineers are in the Big 12, and the commissioner knows the excitement and importance.
“I know this move is exhilarating for everybody involved,” he said. “You are joining a very rich heritage. And you bring your own rich heritage with it.”
Effective midnight, July 1st, the state’s Flagship university, and the Big East’s as well, moved allegiances to one of the famed Power Four conferences. There were countdowns, followed by cookouts and chowdowns – the latter of which was held at Mylan Puskar Stadium’s Touchdown Terrence tonight, Bowlsby in attendance.
So was Director of Athletics Oliver Luck and WVU President Jim Clements, the two major pillars that allowed WVU to withstand yet another round of Big East defection and, again, inaction. The memories of that dreary autumn afternoon at Maryland, the announced moves of Pitt and Syracuse to the ACC, seem an afterthought now, a distant past not worth considering. Not with the shiny new XII logos on Mountaineer Field.
“I am thrilled,” Clements said. “We are ranked in among the top college football cities, the best university cities, among the top 50 smartest places to live, ranked as one of the best sports cities in America and ranked as one of the best cities in the country for jobs.”
And then he opened up, the months of striving and working for an end-goal realized pouring forth in front of coaches, staff, student-athletes, administration, support staff and others.
“There is really something special about wearing a jersey that carries West Virginia with it,” Clements said. “Our athletic director, our basketball coach, they chose to come back here and be a part of it. They understand what it means. I feel for this University we are in the right place, we are exactly where we should be. But it’s more than athletics, sports, which are very tough.
“We now partner with other great institutions in research and education, with other great universities. As we enter a new era, taking us into the Big 12, we look forward to playing great teams with great fan bases and great traditions. We want to excel on the field and in education. As Tony Caridi would say, ‘It’s a great day to be a Mountaineer.’”
Luck advanced the sentiments.
“We’re the Flagship,” Luck said. “When we go out to play a football game, a basketball game, any game, we have West Virginia on our chests, and that’s very important. We are so excited about the opportunity to advance a great university and a great state. …“What finally brought us to the Big 12 was the legacy and traditions of West Virginia University football and athletics. We’re not an upstart. We have been around. I think, by and large, across the country there is a lot of respect for us.
Bowlsby, given a Flying WV cap as former Big 12 commish Chuck Neinas was when he visited to make the initial announcement and welcome, offered some heartfelt comments as well, one’s that might have been the most touching of the evening.
“This is a very special place,” he said. “I measure that by one thing, that the greatest people who came through here want to come back. Luck and Huggins and others decided this was where they wanted to spend their career when they had many options.”
But he made no consolidations when it came to league depth and breadth.
“You will find the competition on every sport, every day, from top to bottom, to be first rate,” he said. “That’s what a great conference is. If there are off days, it isn’t a great conference. If everyday, you better have your ankles taped and ready to go, or you’re gonna get clipped, that’s competition. This is going to be a lot of fun, especially the first two years when you make your first road trip out there and they come here. Those other teams are going to try and defend their turf.”