DALLAS - Count Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops among those pleased with the additions of West Virginia and TCU to the Big 12 Conference. The highly successful Sooner coach believes the two programs will help keep the league among college football’s elite.
“I think it’s fair to say our league, when you add West Virginia and TCU, two teams coming off bowl wins, two ranked teams, you put them with the rest of what we’ve been doing here in the 12, that our league is every bit as strong as it’s ever been – or stronger,” Stoops said Monday morning.
West Virginia was predicted to finish second behind Oklahoma in the Big 12 preseason media poll announced last week. Also, Mountaineer quarterback Geno Smith edged out Oklahoma’s Landry Jones for preseason offensive player of the year honors. It is obvious that everyone in the Big 12 was paying attention to West Virginia’s performance against Clemson in the 2012 Orange Bowl.
“The team finished the year in a great way with a huge win,” Stoops said. “Geno Smith, an excellent quarterback, not only throws he can run it. They have a high-powered offense and an excellent football team.”
Overall, Stoops believes West Virginia and TCU will make the league much more difficult to navigate through on a yearly basis.
“It’s made the league really difficult, but at the same time, it’s exciting,” he said. “And I know geographically it’s a little bit different [traveling to Morgantown] but I think that’s OK, too. Why not expand your boundaries a little bit? In today’s world, the way you cover media, you could probably cover anybody. The same thing traveling anymore, it’s pretty reasonable no matter where you go, so I think it’s a positive.”
Two Big 12 coaches here in Dallas today – Texas Tech’s Tommy Tuberville and Iowa State’s Paul Rhoads – have first-hand experience coaching against West Virginia in Morgantown. Tuberville was Miami’s defensive coordinator when the Hurricanes lost to the Mountaineers 17-14 in Morgantown in 1993, and Rhoads spent a number of years coaching against West Virginia while he was Pitt’s defensive coordinator.
Tuberville said West Virginia’s fans can be rowdy at times, while Rhoads has great respect for what the Mountaineer program has been able to accomplish through the years under coaches Don Nehlen, Rich Rodriguez, Bill Stewart and now Dana Holgorsen.
“They’ll come in and compete immediately,” Rhoads predicted. “I would expect them to come in and compete for a conference championship – they’re that level of program and always have been.
“They have a high quality of player; they’ve got great coaching and they’ve got an offense that will compete in the league,” he said. “And they’ve got a defensive coordinator who thoroughly knows this league, and I would expect big things out of West Virginia in 2012 and beyond.”
- The Big 12’s top football coach will now be named the Chuck Neinas Big 12 Conference Coach of the Year Award in recognition of Neinas’ tremendous contributions to the league during its time of great peril.
Neinas was noticeably surprised when the announcement was made Monday morning by Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby.
“You know, I always thought I was the best coach, so I probably deserve this,” Neinas said to laughter. “But I'll tell you what, this is an honor which I will cherish. It's a complete surprise. I've had great support throughout my tenure with the Big 12, the staff has been superb, and we couldn't have done it without a lot of hard work by good people.”
Neinas also believes the Big 12 is in great hands with Bowlsby as the conference’s commissioner.
“My wife reminded me that last fall when she said who do you think could be the commissioner of the Big 12 conference? I gave her two names. One was Bob Bowlsby.” Neinas said. “People are cooperating now and they're moving forward. And as I've often said, if the Big 12 is a stock, you would get a buy order from me.”