WVU Looking To the Future

MORGANTOWN – While a lawsuit against the Big East concerning an exit time lingers, West Virginia University administrators moved forward Tuesday with an afternoon welcome reception for Big 12 officials at Touchdown Terrace inside Mylan Puskar Stadium.

Their message was clear. They’re looking ahead, not behind.

“Now it’s all about the Big 12,” WVU President James P. Clements said. “We are thrilled to be a member of the Big 12. It’s a great conference. It’s strong. It’s stable. From an academic standpoint, from an athletic standpoint, from a leadership standpoint, we couldn’t feel better.”

The Big 12 feels the same way about welcoming the Mountaineers.

When asked why West Virginia was selected as the final piece to the Big 12 puzzle in a time in which plenty of schools are looking for a seat at a table in a BCS conference, Interim Commissioner Chuck Neinas didn’t hesitate.

“It’s the best program,” he said. “It’s that simple. Our TV and bowl partners spoke very positively about West Virginia.”

While typically mum on many of the topics broached, WVU Athletics Director Oliver Luck did explain some of the specifics of the revenue-sharing structure the Mountaineers are headed into. He said it’s the same setup as Texas Christian University was awarded upon its acceptance into the Big 12 last month.

WVU will earn 50 percent of the normal $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, its senior year.

The real bombshell there was the 50 percent for that first year is more than the Big East had to offer.

“Clearly the television payout is much bigger than it is in the Big East,” Luck said. “But we also would have additional travel expenses.”

He went on to say they have yet to get into the particulars on travel costs.

For those wondering how West Virginia’s football program will stack up in a Big 12 conference that is currently decorated with three Top 25 teams (and three more receiving votes) and is known for spending a lot of money on the sport, Neinas had an answer for that, too.

“You know in the Big 12 conference the football fields are 100 yards long (and 52 yards wide), too,” he said.

A 2010 report said the Texas Longhorns are the most valuable commodity in college athletics, as they’re worth up to $20 million more than the next program – Ohio State. And that’s just football.

Not long after Clements answered a similar question by saying Mountaineers always step up, Luck said it’s clear an upgrade is in order.

“I think we’ve got great infrastructure, great facilities, and a great football legacy,” he said. “You could argue that going into the Big 12 and facing some of the nation’s best programs, and all of the schools in the Big 12 for that matter, we’ve got to raise our level. And we’ve got to raise it across the board – recruiting, facilities, all of the things we do as a program.

“Certainly (head football) Coach (Dana) Holgorsen, as well as all of our coaches, really have to look at raising the bar across the board to make sure we remain competitive.

“I think at the end of the day, we will be very competitive in the Big 12. It’s a great conference. Great athletic programs, great academic programs, some real juggernauts when you look at the different sports, but I have all the faith in the world that our coaches and our student-athletes will rise to the challenge and be competitive.”

As for the lawsuit, where again, mum was the word, there is something of a precedent. When Miami and Virginia Tech left the Big East and Boston College followed a year later, some money exchanged hands and the Big East and ACC worked out a deal where member teams from the opposing conferences scheduled home-and-home games against each other.

West Virginia joins Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas, Kansas State, Baylor, TCU and Iowa State in the Big 12. Missouri, which was left off the Big 12’s list of members for 2012-13, is expected to finalize a move to the Southeastern Conference soon.