Similar Paths to Big 12 for WVU, TCU

Similar Paths to Big 12 for WVU, TCU

MORGANTOWN, W. Va. — They are, in many ways, soul brothers, West Virginia and TCU, who meet in a Big 12 College GameDay showdown this weekend in Fort Worth, Texas.

It wasn’t so long ago that they both were on the outside looking in at college football’s elite. The game was changing, the gap widening between the haves and have-nots, and both felt like they were being left behind.

The Big East, where the Mountaineers had resided, was falling apart with Miami, Virginia Tech, and Boston College leaving as college football moved toward its current structure of five power conferences and a true national championship game.

It was each man for himself. WVU had tried to get into the ACC, which everyone knows both geographically and culturally they belonged, but were tossed aside by the snobbish element of that conference.

Wonder how they feel now in regards to their decision to take the scandal-ridden Louisville program over WVU?

TCU, meanwhile, was looking for its own home. Once a brother of those teams such as Texas, Texas A&M and Baylor in the now-dissolved Southwest Conference, they had become football gypsies, looking to find their place in the sun.

In what bordered upon a desperation move, they joined the Big East.

They were there with WVU. Dana Holgorsen, the Mountaineer football coach, remembers well how fate brought them together there and carried them to their current spot in the Big 12.

“That’s been something we have talked about for six or seven years now,” Holgorsen said. “Honestly, you look where we were and we were both very successful programs.”

Indeed they were, but this had became a game not of football, but of televised football, and the rich were playing it to get richer.

A few months went by with TCU in the Big East before the Big 12 offered them membership, a move they could not wait to jump at. A short time later, WVU had its own offer, and while there were many more considerations than TCU had, WVU was faced with little choice other than to ride off into that sunset.

Things really would never be the same on either campus.

Football changed, of course. While both schools were able to play at a top level before the Big 12, there was a football adjustment period. WVU brought in Holgorsen while Patterson stayed on at TCU, where he has been since being named head coach in 2000.

While Don Nehlen had built WVU into national prominence from 1980 to 2000, he left for Rich Rodriguez, who had his own rebuilding process before taking the back road out of town and leaving the team to Bill Stewart, who may have saved big-time football at WVU.

But there was work to be done for Holgorsen, building up depth and changing the game that WVU played.

The switch into the Big 12 did far more than that, though, in both places.

Listen to Patterson.

“As a university and as a city, coming into the Big 12 totally changed the whole outlook of everything that happens here in Fort Worth and TCU, both in athletics and all the rest of it. It did wonders for the visibility of this university, just like this weekend having [ESPN’s] GameDay come in.

“We’ve been part of GameDay five times, but we haven’t been part of it here in Fort Worth since 2009, so we’re proud to be in the position to where we could do that again. Where TCU would be right now if we weren’t in Big 12, I don’t think there’s even a comparison.

“The day it was announced that we were allowed into the Big 12, the TCU foundation was set. It was so much better, but my job and probably the basketball coach’s job got harder, just because of the level of competition and what you had to do and how you had to do it.

“But that was OK with me.”

Certainly it changed the culture in Morgantown, too. Just look around you when you drive through the city, see the building and the growth, understand the power of athletics on this city.

Morgantown is driven by the university and its hospital, really, its economy far above that of the rest of West Virginia because of what those institutions bring to town.

Think of the money spent on a football weekend in Morgantown … the hotels, restaurants, bars, entertainment centers. True, there may have been more visitors on home games from opposing cities when they were traveling to Morgantown from Pittsburgh or Blackburg or Syracuse … but still has been behind seeing this area grow past 100,000 people.

And if you look at the University and its new buildings and the construction within the athletic department itself, all creating jobs and money and necessitated because the Mountaineers were playing in the big time and to compete you had to be big-time.