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Some things to know about the Big 12

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Sure, it's exciting that West Virginia University will soon move to the Big 12 Conference. But any new social situation brings its share of potential faux pas.

Here are some things to keep in mind when rubbing elbows with WVU's new conference mates:

How many schools are in the Big 12?

Despite its name, West Virginia will become the 10th school in the Big 12. Hold on, this gets confusing.

On June 10, 2010, the Big 12 dropped to 11 members when it lost Colorado to the Pacific-10 conference.

The Big 12 did not change its name, though the Pac-10 eventually became the Pac-12 after Utah (from the Mountain West Conference) also joined.

On June 11, 2010, Nebraska also left the Big 12 for the inaccurately named Big Ten Conference. The Big Ten has had 11 members since Penn State joined the conference in 1990.

Nebraska's departure left the Big 12 with only 10 members, while the Big Ten became a 12-school conference. There was no name swap.

In this year's round of conference realignment, Texas A&M left the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference, while Missouri - while not making its intensions public to date - is expected to follow the Aggies to the SEC.

Texas Christian, which was ticketed for the Big East for 2012-13 until it changed its mind and headed for friendly geography in the Big 12, replaced A&M. West Virginia will fill the Mizzou vacancy, bringing the Big 12 back to 10 members.

The Big 12 is very particular about the spelling of its name. It is the "Big 12," not "Big Twelve" or "Big XII."

The conference's logo inexplicably features a large grey Roman numeral "XII," however. A thin red banner runs across the middle of the numerals. The words "BIG 12 CONFERENCE" are written on the banner in tiny white letters.

For those interested, the logo probably would make a nice tattoo.

Big 12 history/geography lesson  

The Big 12 was founded in February 1994 when four Texas schools joined the Big Eight. The newly dubbed Big 12 began athletic competition in mid-1996.

The conference also suffered institutional amnesia at some point. Its official history considers 1994 the conference's year of birth, with no mention of its years as the Big Eight.

The Big 12's website boasts that "members schools of the Big 12 are neighbors" and share a "hard work ethic" and "Midwestern values."

Fans may argue about WVU sports' work ethic, but the Mountaineers' values are certainly not Midwestern. They're mid-Atlantic and sometimes northern and sometimes southern.

Furthermore, people at other Big 12 schools live much too far away to borrow a cup of sugar.

WVU's closest Big 12 rival will be Iowa State, in Ames. That's 871 miles from Morgantown, a 14-hour and 30-minute drive.

The farthest Big 12 school from WVU is Texas Tech, located in Lubbock. That's a 1,465-mile trip from Morgantown and a 24-hour drive.

Assortment of food and beverages

Lucky for the team, there will be plenty of bus fuel, chicken sandwiches, cold beverages, commercial-free radio stations, hotel rooms and auto parts to go around.

The conference has seven corporate sponsors: Chick-fil-a, Dr. Pepper, Gatorade, Motel 6, O'Reilly Auto Parts, SiriusXM Satellite Radio and Phillips 66 gas stations.

Bonus points for any fans who work all seven into their next tailgate party.

Speaking of tailgating ... No Big 12 schools currently allow beer sales at football games. The conference does not have any rules prohibiting the sale of alcohol, however.

WVU started selling beer at games in September. The university's athletic department predicts it will raise over $500,000 in revenue this year.

Only WVU and 20 other schools in the 120-school Football Bowl Subdivision sell beer to the general public at their stadiums, according to online publication SportsBusiness Journal.

But those controlled stadium sales are meant to crack down on binge drinking on game day.

WVU Athletic Director Oliver Luck has said that the university will review the policy at the end of the season.

Human, animal and wagon mascots

WVU's Mountaineer will be the Big 12's third human mascot, joining Pistol Pete, who is Oklahoma State's mascot, and Texas Tech's Masked Rider.

Most other schools use animals: the Texas Longhorns, Baylor Bears, Kansas State Wildcats, etc.

Oklahoma's mascot is a Conestoga wagon called the "Sooner Schooner." It is pulled by two ponies, Sooner and Boomer.

The Mountaineer also is the second Big 12 mascot to carry a firearm.

Pistol Pete has several weapons at his disposal, including a rifle, double-barrel shotgun and his namesake six-shooter pistols.

The Mountaineer carries a black powder musket and a tomahawk. He fires the musket every time the football team scores a touchdown or the basketball team wins a game.

The Masked Rider does not carry a gun but mimics pistols using his thumbs and index fingers.

Contact writer Zack Harold at 304-348-7939 or


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