Big 12 Grid Coaches Familiar With WVU
Last fall West Virginia University announced it was joining the Big 12 Conference for the 2012-13 academic year. Then, just a couple of months ago, all of the obstacles to do so were removed.
Now, some of the Big 12 coaches are weighing in on what the Mountaineers will bring to a conference that had seven schools ranked among the top 20 in last year’s Sagarin ratings and was generally considered to be the second-most competitive football league in the country behind the SEC.
Essentially, the Big 12 is replacing two outstanding programs in Missouri and Texas A&M with two more outstanding programs in TCU and West Virginia.
“We’re really excited about the addition of those two schools,” said Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy earlier today on the Big 12 Conference coaches’ teleconference. “I think everybody was aware that I was disappointed that we lost A&M and Missouri, but if you have to lose teams, you look for geographic value and television markets so TCU has had great success over the last few years and they are located in a great spot.
“West Virginia has had a lot of football success over the last 20 years - or longer. Geographically it’s a reach – it’s out there a little bit – but I think it was a good addition,” Gundy said. “It should strengthen our football conference and hopefully we can keep everybody together in the future.”
Texas coach Mack Brown played against West Virginia in the 1996 Gator Bowl when he coached at North Carolina and is very familiar with the Mountaineer program.
“You can go back to when West Virginia played for the national championship (in 1989) and had a great football team under Don Nehlen,” Brown said. “Coach Nehlen was a great coach, Rich (Rodriguez) did a great job when he was there, and now Dana (Holgorsen) is doing a great job, just look at their bowl win against Clemson.”
Brown said West Virginia has always had a reputation for fielding tough football teams, and now in recent years the Mountaineers have added speed to the equation.
“They can run, they play an exciting brand of offense because of their speed, and they’ve always been very physical because they’re tough on defense,” Brown noted. “They get a lot of those kids from Pittsburgh, West Virginia and down into the North Carolina area and they’ve really done a great job recruiting in Florida. Just watching them the past few years in the BCS, I think they come in as a team to be reckoned with immediately.”
Kansas State coach Bill Snyder doesn’t have a history with the Mountaineers, but that doesn’t mean he’s not familiar with their history.
“I have never played them and really haven’t paid a great deal of attention to anyone outside of what our conference has been, but I think they add a great deal to the conference,” he said. “They are a quality football program I don’t think there is any doubt about that.”
Ditto Baylor coach Art Briles, although he does know Holgorsen pretty well having worked with him when the two were on Mike Leach’s staff at Texas Tech.
“I know Dana from way back,” said Briles. “He was a really good coach then and has done an outstanding job in his last two or three stops at Houston, Oklahoma State and now West Virginia. He is very familiar with this part of the country, the Big 12, and I think it’s an exciting addition to the Big 12 bringing West Virginia in with their storied tradition and just the way they have been able to be on the national scene over the last decade or so.”
Kansas coach Charlie Weis has never coached against West Virginia, but he has been to Morgantown before and is aware of the program’s outstanding tradition.
“My first visit to West Virginia was many, many moons ago when I was working out guys at the facility (while he was an NFL assistant coach),” Weis said. “And then when Rich (Rodriguez) was the coach we spent some time together in Morgantown. I really appreciate how rabid the fans are. The stadium is an awesome venue, they have rabid fans, and it will be a difficult place to play because they have good players and they are a very well-coached team.”
One Big 12 coach who has faced West Virginia in Morgantown is Iowa State’s Paul Rhoads, who coached at Pitt when the Panthers upset the Mountaineers 13-9 in 2007. It was Rhoads’ defensive plan that knocked West Virginia out of the national title picture.
“It’s a great football atmosphere,” said Rhoads. “The Mountaineer fans love to come out with great support. It’s a stadium that is very similar to ours, minus the bowled-in end – two-tiered stadium built with the same type of design, and then everybody knows what type of reputation that program has and the great success they have enjoyed over the years. It’s a great environment that will add to the Big 12 Conference.”
Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville has also been to Morgantown and is pleased that the Big 12 was able to secure two teams the caliber of West Virginia and TCU.
“I think they bring a lot to our conference,” said Tuberville. “I would like to see us add a couple more here in the future to get us back to 12 and have a conference championship game. But who’s out there? Everybody is trying to scramble around trying to fill it up, but I think West Virginia and TCU are huge additions to our league. It’s a stronger, more approachable league in terms of television, and we’re excited.”
TCU coach Gary Patterson will be experiencing the Big 12 for the first time after his Horned Frogs have been members of six different leagues during his tenure there. A notorious consumer of video tape, Patterson said he has already taken a peek at the Mountaineers along with the eight other Big 12 teams TCU will be playing this year.
“They are a very fast football team,” Patterson said. “I watched the spring game on TV. Obviously they can go and run, especially on offense, and all of us have our work cut out for us, especially when you play them (in Morgantown).”
Actually, for TCU that will happen on Nov. 3.
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