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Big 12 vs. Big Mistake

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For a long time, West Virginia University athletics existed as a Very Big Fish in a small Big East pond.

The always-entertaining “Backyard Brawl” between WVU and Pitt brought fan and media attention on an annual basis, arguably becoming one of the best rivalries in the eastern region. Their basketball squad, led by coach Bob Huggins, was a consistent a top-five team in one of the toughest conferences in the country, reaching the Final Four in 2010.

Clearly, Big East was as sinking ship and longtime members Pitt, Syracuse and Louisville bailed for the ACC, while Rutgers escaped to the Big Ten. WVU was also running for cover, but their decision to move to the Big 12 Conference happened so suddenly that before anyone realized, the pond the Mountaineers were swimming in was bigger and deeper than anticipated.

Since the move two years ago, WVU football and basketball have struggled, to say the least. The only spots the football and basketball teams are contending for nowadays are somewhere in the middle of the pack with unimpressive records.

WVU basketball won 214 games over their final decade in the Big East, reaching the Final Four in 2010.

They are 30-35 overall and 15-23 in the conference since joining the Big 12.

Basketball coach Bob Huggins sat down with PSR last year to discuss some of the issues the team was having in the Big 12.

“I think it was really the style of play,” Huggins said. “I think the style of play was a lot different than what we expected. Style of play was so much different than the Big East. The officiating was much different than in the Big East. And then yes, obviously the travel was so much different.”

Twice in their first season in the Big 12, the Moountaineers basketball team left Morgantown on Friday to play a Saturday game. They flew home on Sunday, practiced Monday and flew out again on Tuesday for a Wednesday game.

The travel has clearly impacted the team's performance. In the past two seasons, their away record stands at 6-18, much different than their 16-12 home performances.

The issues are just as clear on the gridiron.

The football team had an unpredented decade-long in the Big East, winning 95 games over their final 10 years in the league, including a 70-20 record over their final seven seasons.

The Mountaineers are 11-14 since joining the Big 12, posting an abysmil 6-12 record in conference play.
WVU Bob Huggins
While it's far too early to make any final judgments on the marriage of West Virgina to the Big 12, the experiment is already being viewed sceptically by many,

"It’s a case study for the potential buyer’s remorse that may set in for several leagues and several schools in the future," wrote blogger John Pennington last year.

Leaving the Big East was not neccesarily the Mountaineers' error. Forcing a quick exit and not scouting a safe landing spot, however, may have been. It's been costly so far, and unless rapid improvement is shown, the Big 12 may turn out to be West Virginia's big mistake.

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