MORGANTOWN - West Virginia University athletics director Oliver Luck called Sunday an historic day, not just for the university but the entire state.
July 1 marked the official entry of the Mountaineers into the Big 12 Conference, and the student-athletes and coaches celebrated the day with an old-fashioned cook-out on the Touchdown Terrace at Mountaineer Field.
''We are embarking on a big adventure, and we are going to have fun doing it,'' Luck said. ''I feel comfortable that we will be able to compete and compete very well. When we go out and play a game, we carry 'West Virginia' across our chests, and that is a very important responsibility. We are excited collectively about the opportunity to represent a great university and a great state.''
Newly minted conference commissioner Bob Bowlsby was welcomed to the campus during the celebration, and he was given a cap with the Flying WV logo. Bowlsby joked it will be the last time he will be able to show any partiality.
''We are very excited to have (Texas Christian University) and West Virginia joining the league,'' he said. ''You are joining a very rich heritage, and you are bringing your own rich heritage. You are going to find that from top to bottom, the competition is first-rate. That's what a great conference is all about. If there is a day off, then it's not a great conference.''
WVU president Jim Clements said the Big 12 is not just an athletic conference for the Mountaineers, but also a partnership with several similar universities.
''We are partners in academics and in research in our states,'' he said.
Clements said it was the hard work and dedication of athletes long gone from the Morgantown campus that paved the way for the current group of players to join the Big 12 Conference.
''The Big 12 invitation reflects our long history of winning, a strong tradition of fan support and a state that stands behind our teams and our university,'' he said. ''This reputation was built by many people over many decades. We look forward to playing other great teams with great fans and great traditions.''
Bowlsby said that while the member schools will roll out the red carpet as they welcome the Mountaineers to these new venues, it doesn't mean they will roll over for them on the field of competition.
''They are going to welcome you,'' he said. ''But when you walk across that stripe, they are going to get after you. You have a good football team, but they are going to defend their turf.''