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Immediate success from WVU, TCU to help Big 12

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- West Virginia University President Jim Clements has gotten to know his counterparts in the Big 12 through a series of conversations that, at some point, grow to include what the Mountaineers should know about its new conference and vice versa.

Those chats tend to end somewhat similarly.

"They all say we're a great fit and they can't wait to play us and a couple of them said, 'We took note of the Orange Bowl and we're a little scared,' " Clements said. "Now, they're joking, but they're not."

WVU's football team, fresh off its seventh conference championship and third Bowl Championship Series win in its 21st and final season in the Big East, will be ranked in the preseason and most commonly in the top 15.

Among new Big 12 rivals, perhaps only Oklahoma will be consistently higher in the polls and the Sooners figure to be the only team that will keep the Mountaineers from earning the designation of the 2012 favorite in the conference preseason polls.

Of less immediate, though no less important, concern are the men's and women's basketball teams. The men's team returns a number of guards and post players from an NCAA Tournament team and welcomes a transfer guard and center. Those Mountaineers might have the same preseason potential as the football team.

The women's team, which won 24 games and made the NCAA Tournament, has every contributor coming back and adds perhaps Coach Mike Carey's best recruiting class. They, too, will be expected to compete right away.

Up and down the list, including women's soccer, gymnastics, swimming and diving, and cross country and track and field, WVU figures to be competitive either as a team or with individuals - or both.

None of that factors in Texas Christian University, which also joined the Big 12 on Sunday. TCU also has a competitive football team and smaller sports that may very well compete for and win titles in their debut Big 12 season.

It all conspired to ask a question of conference commissioner Bob Bowlsby: Is it good for the league or bad for the league if the Mountaineers and Horned Frogs make a lot of noise and collect some trophies in the 2012-13 season?

"In the best of all circumstances, you bring in members who are highly competitive and I think TCU and West Virginia will both be highly competitive in football," Bowlsby said as diplomatically as his position demands. "Right out of the chute, both the new institutions can clearly go on the football field and compete with teams in the Big 12.

"That's what makes a conference great - great competition every week. It isn't a good thing when there's a big separation between the top of the league and the bottom of the league and when the same teams dominate all the time."

The smaller sports must move aside for football since these conference shifts are driven by money and football. Both TCU and WVU fit from the start.

Since 1998, the dawn of the BCS era, eight schools have won the Big 12 championship (either the championship game or the regular season title in the absence of a championship game). Only Oklahoma (seven) and Texas (two) have won multiple titles. Texas A&M, Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas State and Oklahoma State have each won one.

Across the same time, TCU (seven, three shared) and WVU (six, five shared) have combined for 13 championships, five BCS appearances and four BCS wins.

"Is it going to be tougher in the Big 12 than it was in the Big East or the Mountain West?" Bowlsby asked of the prior homes of WVU and TCU, which also was in the Western Athletic Conference and Conference USA since 1998. "I certainly expect that it will be and my guess is the remaining institutions will work to make sure it is that way."

The transitions aren't easy. The ACC, Big East, Big Ten and Pac-12 all have made major realignment moves since 2004, but only one new member has won the league championship in its first year. Virginia Tech claimed the ACC in 2004. Louisville was the picked as the preseason favorite in the Big East coaches' poll in 2005, but WVU won the league.

The Hokies have won the ACC three other times, while Miami, which left the Big East after the 2003 season, and Boston College, which left a year later, have not. Louisville has won one outright Big East title (2006) and Cincinnati has won two (2008-09). Nebraska (Big Ten) and Colorado and Utah (Pac-12) watched their conference championship games last year, their first in their new leagues.

WVU and TCU will take their shots in the Big 12 this season and former Big 12 schools Missouri and Texas A&M will try in the Southeastern Conference.

"I'm guessing that the remaining Big 12 teams will try to defend their turf, but our turf is West Virginia's turf and TCU's turf now and they're going to jump in and compete right away at the highest level possible," Bowlsby said.

In one very big way, though, immediate success and titles for WVU and TCU helps the Big 12 and that turf. Good stories from the Horned Frogs and the Mountaineers means a good decision by the Big 12 to add another Texas school, after losing the Aggies, and add the first school from the Eastern Time Zone. Success leads to popularity and popularity leads to validation.

"Largely in this day and age it isn't as much about the geographical footprint as it is the electronic footprint," Bowlsby said. "Clearly the two are related in some significant ways, but having an eastern school allows us to get some more media coverage and get clearances in some markets where we probably wouldn't have gotten clearances in the past.

"It isn't as much about trying to find members in contiguous states as it used to be. Travel is easier and the electronic footprint is more important."

*  *  *

NINE COMPANIES submitted pre-qualification statements Monday, the deadline set by WVU as it begins to narrow down the list of possible bidders for its Tier 3 rights.

IMG College, Learfield Sports, CBS Collegiate Sports Properties, Legends Sales and Marketing, Nelligan Sports Marketing, XOS Digital, Front Row Marketing Services, Fox Sports Net and West Virginia Radio Corp. all submitted the statements. WVU will let those nine know by July 17 if it feels the company is a qualified to continue.

Comcast/NBC, The Hub Companies and West Virginia Media Holdings were part of a preliminary conference call June 22, but have dropped out of the process by not submitting the a pre-qualification statement. They're not prohibited from being involved as part of a bidder's plan later in the process.

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymail.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.


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