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Welcome to the Big 12

MORGANTOWN - West Virginia scored by moving from the Big East to the Big 12. And on Sunday, perhaps appropriately, the school celebrated that move at Touchdown Terrace at Puskar Stadium.

On the first official day as a Big 12 member, WVU's athletic program hosted a private party that included Mountaineer athletes, coaches, administrators, the Mountaineer mascot and new Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby. The latter had attended a similar celebration Saturday night at TCU, also a new conference member.

"I went to the [school president Jim Clements'] house and got a little tour of that," Bowlsby said. "I got a gorgeous view of Morgantown from his home. Then Coach [Bob] Huggins and Oliver Luck came over and we spent a little time speaking of all things West Virginia and all things Big 12.

"It's been a whirlwind tour. At 1 a.m. [Sunday] I was at Billy Bob's in Texas. We were shooting off fireworks with the folks at TCU. So it was a little bit of a short night."

WVU athletic director Luck, Clements and Bowlsby all spoke at a ceremony and Bowlsby was presented with a WVU hat and shirt.

"I have to take advantage of this," Bowlsby said while tugging on the hat. "After this I have to be impartial."

The day, however, was all about celebration.

"It's a historic day for the institution," Clements said. "This is big-time. I think as time goes on, people will see how big this is. We're in a true power conference now."

"I just think the two institutions getting into the league are off-the-charts positive for us," Bowlsby said. "WVU is a terrific addition to the league. I know the folks around here are excited about it, but we're really excited to have this institution involved, competitively, academically, in every way. The same thing with TCU. I think it's enormously positive to have a high-quality institution right in the city where the headquarters are, in the state where the largest number of conference members are.

"This is a great weekend for us. There's a lot of excitement and enthusiasm on campus, but there's also a lot of excitement and enthusiasm in the conference office, as well."

Bowlsby spoke of the league's turnaround from a year ago, in which many believed it on the verge of extinction.

"I said to our presidents in the interview process that it looked to me some of the issues with the league were self-inflicted," Bowlsby said. "As near as I can tell, we're over those things. We really are looking progressively to the future and are in very good position to capitalize on some of the coming opportunities.

"With the progress we've made with the BCS, the things we're doing with the television negotiations, the addition of the new members, I feel very good about the stability of the league."

Luck smiled before the program began.

"It's nice to see a lot of our athletes, virtually every coach on our staff and a lot of the administrators excited about this," Luck said. "It's a new beginning. And we can focus now on what we're supposed to do: build great athletic programs, bring the best student-athletes and coaches here and give them the resources to win without having to worry about all the extraneous stuff."

Luck remembered the time when WVU was unsure it would find a new conference home.

"That was an anxious time for a lot of people, me included," Luck said. "So it's nice to just focus on business."

He deflected credit for the move.

"While I worked hard on this, along with Jim Clements and a lot of other people, what ultimately brought us to the Big 12 was the legacy of West Virginia University athletics," Luck said. "Going back to the Bobby Bowden years and Gale Catlett years and Sam Huff. It has a long and proud tradition with a passionate fan base. That's what helped us get in. We're not an upstart [program]. We've been around. By and large, people across the country have a lot of respect for us. It's really come out during this Big 12 stuff."

Luck, by the way, also commented on some damage from Friday's storm.

 "We had some minor damage over at the track," he said. "The pole vault pit flew out and landed against the fence and damaged that. There may have been some minor damage to the baseball park. I think a couple pieces of the fence there may have come down. But nothing much. We escaped without any real, serious damage."

Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, mitchvingle@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.


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