BLUEFIELD — In less than 24 hours a new era in West Virginia University sports will begin.
Since the 1991 season, WVU has played football in the Big East Conference. The league started round-robin play in 1993, the year West Virginia completed an 11-0 regular season and gained a berth in the Sugar Bowl.
At the stroke of midnight that affiliation will end and the Mountaineers’ new home will be the Big 12 Conference.
From the mid-1960s until 1991 WVU was a football independent. The Mountaineers left the Southern Conference, where at one time they were conference mates with North Carolina, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Duke, Richmond, The Citadel, Davidson and others.
North Carolina, Virginia and Duke all left the Southern Conference in 1953 to form the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Formed in 1921, the SoCon is one of the oldest and at one time was one of the largest conferences in the country, West Virginia’s membership in the league dated from the 1940s.
WVU’s independent status allowed them to join other Eastern football teams such as Pitt, Penn State, Syracuse, Temple, Rutgers, Boston College and later Virginia Tech in a loose alliance where many of the teams that made up the original Big East football conference, routinely played each other on the gridiron.
In fact, when the Big East football conference began play in 1991, the only team WVU had to add to its schedule that it did not normally play that was in the new football federation was Miami.
Now the WVU football schedule will feature the likes of Oklahoma, Texas, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Baylor, Texas Tech, Iowa State, TCU and Kansas.
Long-time Mountaineers fan Jim Bryant of Green Valley likes the change.
“I feel great about the move. We’re actually relevant now. If we lose we’re losing to good teams, if we win we’re beating good teams and we’re going to play I think five teams who are in the preseason top 25,” Bryant said.