August 29, 2012 will go down as a historical date for West Virginia University Intercollegiate Athletics as it marks the first official Big 12 event to take place in Morgantown since the university joined the 10-member conference on July 1, 2012.
This Wednesday, the Mountaineer volleyball team will take on No. 2 Texas at 6:30 p.m. at the WVU Coliseum. The day is a special one because it launches a fresh start in a new conference with new beginnings. It doesn’t only allow attention to the university and the department, but it also marks a special day for the volleyball program.
“Wednesday night is an opportunity for the university, the Morgantown community and the state of West Virginia as a whole to start off on the right foot and embrace all of their sports entering into a new league. For the sport of volleyball in particular, in the Big 12, it is solid,” volleyball coach Jill Kramer explained. “It means we get to be a part of history and that is a special thing. We will always be the first event to kick off Big 12 Conference play here at West Virginia University. It is a new beginning for us.
“We're excited about it.”
A new beginning is the theme, not only for WVU and the other Big 12 addition this year TCU, but as for a conference that has undergone changes and is welcoming a new commissioner this year in Bob Bowlsby.
Bowlsby, who has been with the league for nearly three months, believes the Big 12 Conference is stable, competitive, strong, and most of all, the teams involved are dedicated to the common good of the league.
And West Virginia University is no exception to Bowlsby’s thoughts. The sports competing in the Big 12 have been excited for the day to finally arrive - the day the Mountaineers officially play their first conference event. Part of that dedication has shown through, not only within athletics, but throughout the entire community as well.
“It has been really special that the community has embraced this event, has put their best foot forward, wants to hear about it and get out there and watch and see what we're about,” Kramer said. “It has been great for people to give us a voice and let us tell our story a bit, what we're about and what all we're trying to accomplish. The players see it and it's really cool for them to know and understand they are sincerely a part of the community here and they have all these people behind them. It helps any athlete and is a big part of it.
“All of them [volleyball student-athletes] came here because it was really important for them to build something. They came here because they wanted the opportunity to be part of the foundation of something that is going to be great. This just adds icing to the cake to be able to start it up in this fashion,” Kramer continued. “It is something the players are very proud of, have a lot of respect for and don't take lightly. Same for me, that's why I came here - to be able to build something, have pride in it and be a part of something great.”
The support Kramer points out is special to each individual. However, within athletics, the WVU marketing and promotions staff has done their best to behind the scenes to make sure the university puts its best foot forward for the school’s inaugural Big 12 event.
“Our focus has been mainly on the advertising and promotional plan to make people aware of the event and try to build a crowd,” said Assistant Athletic Director for Marketing and Sales Matt Wells. “Over the last three weeks or so, we began our advertising in terms of television, radio, newspaper and communicating through our email blast lists to about 50,000-plus fans, and also using social media with Facebook and Twitter to promote the event. We are promoting the fact that it is the first Big 12 event and it is a historic night. It is the first Big 12 competition.”
Since Wednesday’s event isn’t just a regular-season match for the department, but instead an all-around important event marking the start of something great, WVU has planned some enhancements to the overall experience.
“In addition, we've worked on things for the atmosphere at the event,” said Wells. “There will be some special things that we don't always have at every volleyball event. We've worked with the Pride of West Virginia Marching Band to have the entire marching band in the stands to play during timeouts and intermission. The WVU Drumline will be performing between sets. The cheerleaders will also be there. We're working on those event-driven things to make it is a special night and a special atmosphere.”
Of course, adding to the event is the caliber of competition Texas brings as the No. 2 team in the nation. However, there is much more to the night then the competition between two new conference members.
“Texas being ranked No. 2 adds to the buzz, but the most important part of this event is the fact that it is the very first Big 12 event in WVU history,” Wells noted. “It is really a chance to kick off a new era in WVU Athletics, but certainly having the No. 2 team adds another element to it.
“It gives us another opportunity to make a real splash and make a real statement as we move into the Big 12.”
So join us in celebrating a new era in Mountaineer athletics this Wednesday night at the WVU Coliseum when Mountaineer volleyball team takes on Texas in the inaugural Big 12 event at West Virginia University.