Welcoming West Virginia to the Big 12

Feb. 15, 2012

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia University and the Big East Conference have officially reached a settlement which allows the Mountaineers to join the Big 12, effective July 1. WVU has been affiliated with the Big East since 1991 and has been a full member since 1995, but will look to start a new proud tradition with the Big 12 Conference starting in 2012.

Like Kansas, West Virginia has proud tradition of athletic excellence. The university was founded in 1867, and the basketball and football programs boast an existence, dating back more than a century. The football team’s first season of competitive play was back in 1891, while the basketball team did not take the floor until the 1903-04 season.

During the past decade, Mountaineer football has become a national player, winning three BCS Bowls (Sugar 2006, Fiesta, 2008 & Orange 2012), in the last six years. The men’s basketball team has also experienced new-found success, earning the school’s second Final Four berth in 2010, and reaching the NCAA Tournament six times in the last seven seasons, including four in-a-row.

The WVU sports program as a whole includes 16 total sports, with six men’s teams, nine women’s squads and one co-ed team (rifle).

The campus is located in Morgantown, W.Va. (population 29,660), which is just 70 miles south of the city of Pittsburgh. The university itself has an enrollment of 29,617 and has been a member of the Southern Conference (1950-67) as well as independent institution (1891-1949, 1968-1990), before their departure from the Big East and arrival in the Big 12 in 2012.

Below is a short interview with Mountaineer play-by-play voice Tony Caridi, with what Jayhawk nation should expect from West Virginia, its fans and its student athletes in the Big 12, during the coming years.

What makes West Virginia a good fit for the Big 12?
“We are joining a league of like institutions that all have competitive programs and I think the completive nature is a result of several elements, which begins with tradition and a desire to be very good on an annual basis.”

How excited are Mountaineer fans to be joining a new conference later this year?
“We are very excited and I think this announcement culminates what West Virginia’s goal has been for literally decades; and that is to belong to a true all-sports conference. The hybrid nature of the Big East did not allow for that to happen, in that all institutions did not play all of the major sports. So this is something that has been hoped for since the days of West Virginia’s involvement with the Southern Conference, which is back in the 1950s and 60s. In that regard, this is a destination that West Virginia has always wanted to position itself toward.”

What are your thoughts on the release of the 2012 Big 12 football schedule?
“If you take a look at it, you see the quality of teams on a weekly basis that we will be traveling to play or that will be coming to Morgantown, so I think it will be an extremely exciting time for the Mountaineer football program to be involved with these teams.”

How would you best describe Mountaineer fans to all the Jayhawk fans out there?
“West Virginia is a population of 1.8 million people who love the state’s only land grant institution. It is a university that has given generations of families opportunities to be successful and do so many different things and I think Kansas fans will identify with that. I think they will also identify with the passion that WVU fans have because they (the Mountaineers) are West Virginia’s team.”

“We don’t have any professional sports teams, so WVU fills all of those desires from a sports fan’s perspective. They represent the state and there is tradition and emotion that is tied into the university. Even though I have not been to Allen Fieldhouse, from what I understand, there is a similar love and passion for there for their team. So I think that is who Mountaineer fans are and that is what it will be like for opposing teams that come into Morgantown.”

What are you looking forward to most when you come to Allen Fieldhouse for the first time?
“I have watched games there for years (on TV) and I have always heard it talked about in an almost cathedral like status, so I am anxiously looking forward to getting there. Everyone that loves the game of basketball loves lively crowds and passion. When you don’t have those elements it is just so Vanilla, so when you have them it really gives you the full experience of what collegiate athletics can be. The fact that we know Kansas is coming to our place (WVU Coliseum) and we’re going to Kansas during the course of several months is going to be really fun and exciting.”

Tony_Caridi_Headshot.jpgTony Caridi has been the play-by-play voice of the West Virginia Mountaineers for a decade and half and has worked with the Mountaineer Sports Network (MSN) for a total of 26 years. He also hosts the MetroNews Statewide Sportsline, as well as the Bob Huggins and Dana Holgorsen coach’s shows. Look for him at Allen Fieldhouse and Memorial Stadium in 2013.

Big 12 website: http://www.big12sports.com/

Official WVU athletic site: http://www.msnsportsnet.com/