By BOB REDD
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
PRINCETON — In 30 days West Virginia University officially becomes a member of the Big 12 Conference. Since the 1993 football season the Mountaineers had been a part of the Big East Conference for football, they became full members of the Big East in 1996.
It is a new adventure, a new opportunity for WVU athletics and most of the focus is on the football program and head coach Dana Holgorsen.
From the outside one could look at the WVU football program and surmise that a move to the Big 12 may have been in the cards prior to Pitt and Syracuse leaving for the Atlantic Coast Conference and throwing the Big East into chaos. Oliver Luck, was named athletic director and the former Mountaineer quarterback came from Big 12 country. The coach-in-waiting he hired in 2010, Holgorsen, was from the Big 12, and Holgorsen’s staff is loaded with former Big 12 coaches. The Mountaineer coach said his staff is geared to coach the WVU in its new conference.
“It’s basically who we hire and their philosophies and what they are used to,” Holgorsen said. “We’ve hired a bunch of guys that are from the Southwest and have been in the Big 12. Joe DeForest, our defensive coordinator, was 10 years at Oklahoma State and Keith Patterson, our co-defensive coordinator was in Oklahoma for about seven years, so all these guys are very familiar with what the culture is down there.”
While Holgorsen spent many years in the Big 12, he said that preparing for conference games will take place as the games occur, not months in advance.
“Anybody that’s followed how I prepare for a game, we take it one week at a time,” Holgorsen said. “The first (conference) game will be Baylor, which is our fourth game and we’re not going to prepare for Baylor for four months. We’re going to prepare for them for a week. The game before that is Maryland, which is a pretty important game to us. We’ll prepare for Maryland and try to win that game and when that game is over, we’ll move on to Baylor.
“Where it (Big 12 knowledge) will help us is being able to tell our guys what to expect. Eric Slaughter worked for Art Briles when he was at Houston, so he knows that offense. Keith Patterson coached against that offense. Joe DeForest coached against that offense, so when it gets game week, that is when we’ll be able to focus and then tell them what to expect.”
One thing that West Virginia hoped to accomplish in the move was garnering recruits from the Big 12 footprint.
“When I first got the job we were going to recruit down there and that first year I was here we got Dustin Garrison and Paul Millard,” Holgorsen said. “Dustin was a starter for us and Paul has been our backup quarterback and will be again this year.
“We wanted to do that (recruit Texas) anyway, and then this past year we got four more. We’re going to try and go in there and get some guys that have good senior years. But our recruiting ground is still going to be the same. With Ohio we’re getting great, great football (players). Pennsylvania has been good to us this year, Steve Dunlap is doing a great job up there. We’re getting in Jersey more. Virginia is good. Maryland is good and then we’ll still get guys out of Florida like we have forever.”
The move to the Big 12 also improves the level of competition WVU will face week-in and week-out and Holgorsen believes his team must grow with the level of competition they face.
“Our strength and conditioning needs to get better. Our academic center needs to get better. The support needs to get better. Season tickets need to get better, which at this point right now, they are better and they need to continue to get to the point to where we have 62,000 people in our stadium every time we line up because that’s what wins football games,” Holgorsen commented.
“I know when we get to those other nine places in the Big 12, there’s going to be anywhere from 60,000 to 110,000 (fans) and it’s going to be fun. That’s a challenge, but everybody has got to step their game up.”
The Mountaineers open the season September 1 against Marshall. The first Big 12 game is at home, September 29 when Baylor visits Mountaineer Field.
— Contact Bob Redd at firstname.lastname@example.org