Days away from the start of the 2012 football season, the Big 12 conference will take on a new look. Gone from the original member roster are Nebraska, Colorado, Missouri, and Texas A&M. These programs, respectively, felt it best to move to new ground in the Big 10, Pac 12, and SEC conferences.
It looked dire for the Big 12 during the realignment saga of 2011 with the conference looking squarely at a crisis management nightmare. Down to eight members, leaders said good bye to Dan Beebe and ushered in interim conference commissioner Chuck Neinas in whose experience conference leadership desperately needed. With his quick guidance, the members agreed to a grant of rights providing equal distribution of Tier I & II revenues. This was a critical change in philosophy of the conference leaders which paved the way for recruitment of prospective members.
It didn’t take Neinas long to secure replacements for the departing institutions solidifying membership invitations to pedigreed programs TCU and WVU.
It goes without saying that Texas Christian University has been on a tear. You name the sport and they have more than earned the reputation. Their football program has vaulted to the top of college football in recent years. Under the tutelage of Coach Gary Patterson, who took over from Dennis Franchione in 2000, the Horned Frogs have posted an impressive 109-30 record including 7 bowl wins in his 12 seasons. And who can forget their signature win against highly ranked Wisconsin in the 2010 Rose Bowl. I’m not sure there’s a UT fan among us who were rooting against the Horn Frogs on that day.
Renewing long standing rivalries, TCU brings with it a tremendous tradition of athletic excellence. They joined the Southwest Conference 1923 and began play against the Longhorns all the way back in 1897. So maybe tradition is an understatement. If not for the Waco political machine, it is often thought that TCU should have received an inaugural Big 12 invite instead of those Baylor Bears. But earn their way back they did, and then some.
Unlike TCU, West Virginia University does not have the experience nor resume in Great Plains collegiate endeavors. However, they nonetheless bring their own excellence to the new look Big 12 as the only member to be classified as a "one school state" (offered without offense to Marshall).
When the school announced their plans to join the Big 12, University president James Clements echoed the enthusiasm of WVU fans stating, "We have a saying here after a big win - 'It's a great day to be a Mountaineer.' Believe me when I say it's truly a great day to be a Mountaineer and a member of the Big 12 Conference. The Big 12 is very strong. It's a real privilege to be invited and joining the Big 12 is a long-term investment for WVU. ... You've got a lot of happy people around Mountaineer Nation if measured by the number of phone calls, e-mails and texts from around the country. People are really, really excited."
The resurgence in both their football and basketball programs has vaulted them to household name recognition status. Add their most recent shellacking of Clemson University (who themselves have sent out feelers for a Big 12 invite) and you’ve got a sweet cocktail for success. Guided by ex-Oklahoma State assistant coach Dana Holgorsen, the Mountaineers field a dynamic brand of offensive play that is well suited for the quarterback dominated league. And their fiery men’s basketball coach Bob "Huggy Bear" Huggins has a history with the league as former head coach at Kansas State. His nationally recognized program will only enhance what is already considered one of the top three basketball conferences.
Let's all give a firm handshake and pop-a-top by welcoming our newest conference partners at Frogs O' War and The Smoking Musket as they embark on a new chapter and congratulate them on becoming members of a very impressive, new look, Big 12 Conference.