Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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College Sports

July 24, 2012

Holgs returns to Big 12

DALLAS — Welcome back to the Big 12 Conference, Dana Holgorsen.

After a year as head coach at West Virginia in the Big East Conference, Holgorsen — Oklahoma State’s offensive coordinator two years ago — is back in the Big 12 with WVU joining the league, along with fellow newcomer Texas Christian University.

“I can assure you everybody in West Virginia is excited about the opportunity that’s in front of us. Nine of my last 12 years have been in the Big 12 and (we) had a lot of big games, played in a lot of different venues, and we understand it’s going to be challenging. But I’m excited about the opportunity, that’s for certain,” Holgorsen said Tuesday during the Big 12 Football Media Days in Dallas.

Holgorsen — who also spent seven years working with offense at Texas Tech during the Mike Leach era — likened the fan base and tradition of West Virginia and Morgantown to those universities around the Big 12.

“I’ve been going around the state for the last couple of months telling the people of West Virginia what we’re getting into is the same thing we got at home. And that didn’t necessarily exist in the conference that we were in last year,” Holgorsen said.

“It means a lot. The culture is there. The support is there. The fan base is there. We’re going to fill up our stadium. Our team is used to winning, and that exists at the other nine universities in the Big 12 as well.”

It was just geography that Holgorsen said is the biggest difference for West Virginia, which has been a hot topic with all the conference expansion — the long road trips for teams and their fans.

“Basically the road games are going to be an airplane ride. So you’re going to jump on a plane and fly a couple of hours no matter where you go,” Holgorsen said. “From there it’s just all about routine. So from a travel standpoint, for us, anyway, I don’t view it as being a big deal.”

“... Then the topic comes up about your fan base being able to travel. Well, I say how many fans come into Morgantown, W. Va., from the opposing team? It’s usually about 4,000 people because that’s all the tickets that are available. ... So my suggestion to the people of West Virginia is to make sure you come to every home game and then pick a road game and go travel once a year.”

One thing West Virginia’s fans can be sure of, however, is that the Mountaineers will get plenty of national exposure in the more vaunted Big 12 Conference as opposed to the Big East.

“What’s awesome about the Big 12 as opposed to where we were last year is just the national exposure, and it’s going to be West Coast to East Coast,” Holgorsen said. “And they’re going to be putting us in some venues to be able to shine if they can handle that.”

The Mountaineers will get plenty of opportunities for national exposure with Holgorsen and his squad bringing high expectations into the conference. The Mountaineers were picked by members of the media to finish second in the conference preseason poll and had two explosive players named to the media's preseason all-conference team — quarterback Geno Smith, who was named the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year, and kick return specialist Tavon Austin.

“Well, it sounds like everybody in the room thinks that we’re pretty good, or that Geno is pretty good. It’s a compliment to Geno,” Holgorsen said. “... Tavon is potentially one of the more dynamic guys I’ve been around. So he’s got a chance to be good.”

Joining Holgorsen in his return to the Big 12 is former Oklahoma State assistant coach Joe DeForest, who is now a member of the Mountaineer coaching staff as a defensive coordinator and special teams coach.

“He’s had great success at our place on special teams and has a lot of knowledge,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said of DeForest. “He’s been doing it for a long time, so he should be an asset to any organization where he is involved in special teams.”

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