Huggins, Holgorsen Well Versed
By John Antonik for WVUsports.com
November 03, 2011 10:25 AM
While the rest of us are still getting our arms around West Virginia’s move to the Big 12 Conference, learning new teams and new places, coaches Dana Holgorsen and Bob Huggins are well versed in the Big 12, Holgorsen having coached at Texas Tech and Oklahoma State and Huggins once working at Kansas State.
They can tell you where the rowdiest fans are, where the coldest places to play are and just about anything else you’d ever want to know about the league.
Holgorsen believes the move to the Big 12 will be extremely beneficial to Mountaineer football.
“I’m excited, I can assure you that,” he said. “I understand the Big 12 and what they’re about from a national perspective, from a facilities perspective and from an academic perspective. The amount of changes and challenges that are going to take place here at West Virginia is something that will take a long time to get done.
“It’s a huge task – it’s not an overnight fix,” he added. “It’s great to be able to solidify our future and what we need to do to put ourselves in a position to be successful.”
“I think the biggest difference between the Big 12 and where we are right now is everyone in the Big 12 has their own arenas,” added Huggins. “From a scheduling standpoint it makes it so much easier. We don’t have anybody in the Big 12 who is a third tenant in a building.”
Each time West Virginia has moved to a different league, from the days of going from the Southern Conference to being a major college independent, and then from being an independent to playing in a strong Big East football conference when Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College were members, there was an adjustment period for the Mountaineers.
The same goes for basketball. There was an adjustment period when West Virginia left the Southern Conference, and then when it left the Eastern 8 and then the Atlantic 10 when it went into the Big East.
There will likely be another adjustment period when West Virginia joins the Big 12 in 2012.
“The Big East is the most competitive conference I’ve been in – within the conference,” Holgorsen said of Big East football. “The Big 12, as far as setting the standard - from a facilities standpoint, from a recruiting standpoint, from a TV exposure standpoint, to an academic standpoint - is something they set the bar very, very high. I know West Virginia is capable of doing that. From a fan base perspective, from how many people go to the games, it’s something we’re going to have to evaluate and try to make it as good as we can to be able to compete.”
When dealing with recruits, Holgorsen admits it’s now nice not to have to continually answer questions about what league the Mountaineers are going to be playing in next year.
“That was one of the challenges of knowing what to say,” Holgorsen noted. “From raising money, to facilities, to recruiting and all the things that affect the future, it makes things easier. You know where you’re headed, you know where you’re going and you know what you’ve got to do.”
As for basketball, Huggins admits having Madison Square Garden as the home for your conference tournament is a big selling point for his program, but equally important to him is the selling of West Virginia University.
“We have recruited kids to West Virginia University and have sold West Virginia University and the people here,” said Huggins. “We have the best people in the world here – people that really and truly take a sincere interest in you as a person, more so than as a basketball player or whatever.
“Everybody who comes here, be it an athlete or a non-athlete, you feel such an attachment here because of the way you are treated and because of the way people care about you.”
Holgorsen says perhaps the most challenging aspect with the move to the Big 12 is the distance Mountaineer fans will be required to travel to get to games.
“If you’re a fan that will drive five hours, but not 10 hours, then it may be a problem,” he said. “They may need to start looking and booking flight tickets a year in advance to get cheap flights. But all the places that we’ll be playing will be places that we can get to.
“There are some fun venues, I can assure you of that,” Holgorsen said. “There are good places and there will be a lot of fun times ahead.”
Same goes for basketball, says Huggins.
“The fan base is a lot like it is here,” he said. “In some places, honestly, it’s better. They are going to put 19,000 at Kansas no matter who they play.”
Before he went to Kansas State, Huggins said he had no idea how rabid the fans in that state are about basketball.
“Kansas is an incredible basketball state,” he said. “They love basketball. They can’t get enough basketball. There are three schools there and all of them have very passionate fan bases. KU is pretty much until you get out to Manhattan and then Manhattan is everything west. And then Wichita has the city of Wichita – and they have a great following.”
As for the coldest place, that’s an easy one for Holgorsen to answer.
“Iowa State,” he said. “That’s one of the colder games I’ve ever been in. I believe it was 2005. I’ve been there three times, two of which were really cold.”
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