College View: Campus Thoughts of WVU's Big 12 Move
By Lacey Palmer on July 03, 2012 from College View
EDITOR'S NOTE: This article initially appeared in The Daily Antheneum, West Virginia University's student newspaper. For online updates of WVU news and events, visit their site at: http://www.thedaonline.com/
Now that West Virginia University is officially in the Big 12 athletic conference, students and athletes around the school are excited to play against new universities. However, many fans and student organizations have expressed concerns about the conference change.
The universities of the Big 12 conference are farther away than those in the Big East, and many fans and supporters of the team such as cheerleaders and the band are worried about the distance affecting attendance at away games.
Aside from an out-of-conference game against James Madison University in Maryland, the closest in- conference away game this upcoming season is against Iowa State, which is 871 miles away.
The average distance to away games for the Mountaineers will be about 1,152 miles each way, which is approximately a 38-hour round trip.
Many WVU athletes have varying opinions on the move to the conference, but all seem very excited for the possibilities ahead.
Defensive end Will Clarke is sure Mountaineer fans will pull through for the team.
"I feel as though the fan attendance will be better than ever because of all the excitement, hopefully and possibly matching the fan attendance when we played LSU last season," said Clarke. "Even at the away games, I think attendance will be high because Mountaineer fans have no limits."
Although some athletes are concerned that fan attendance could be lower at away games because of the distance required to travel, they look at the positive aspects instead of the negative.
"Outside of South Florida, every away game that we had was in relative driving distance for the mass majority of our fans," said Shawne Alston, running back for the WVU football team. "Some may have difficulty traveling to our games with the distance and all; however, moving to the Big 12 and playing in distant places will allow us to possibly extend our fan base to other parts of the country, which will help with recruiting, as well."
Five of the 10 teams in the Big 12 were ranked in the top 25 at the end of last season with a couple others receiving votes, so there’s no doubt the competition will be greater.
"I think the Big 12 is a great move for the program because we will be in a bigger, more competitive spotlight," said Tyler Bitancurt, WVU’s starting kicker. "The University and fans are now a part of a great conference, where a football program like ours belongs."
Aside from fans, the Mountaineers have a support system of cheerleaders and the Pride of West Virginia, the WVU marching band, behind them as well. It’s become a concern of many that this support is going to be difficult to bring to all of the away games.
Junior cheerleader Chelsea Eades of Bridgeport is incredibly excited about the move to the Big 12 and is looking forward to the upcoming season because she thinks the atmosphere and traveling will be a lot of fun for the team.
"Even last year in the Big East, only so many members of the squad could travel to any particular away game, so I’m guessing it will be the same this year, so not everyone gets to go to every game," said Eades. "We haven’t talked much about it yet, so I don’t know much about traveling, like how they are getting us there or how many can go, but I am pretty sure we will be flying because that was mentioned previously. We were also asked for our travel preferences concerning which games we would want to go to."
Eades said it is obvious traveling will be much more costly for the cheerleading team.
"It will definitely be more costly to travel us this year considering we will be flying instead of busing like in the past," said Eades. "We don’t really fundraise, but the University and the alumni’s help with our traveling costs is great, and we really appreciate that."
Mountaineer Maniac Director Chris Northrup knows that taking trips to the Big 12 venues will be difficult but says the Maniacs are excited for the upcoming season.
"I don’t think that this hype around the football season has been here in the past few years, and that’s exciting," he said. "Obviously the move is going to create some difficulty with traveling, and it’s unfortunate we won’t play some of the rivalries we’ve created in the past years, such as Pitt, but hopefully, we’ll be able to jump right into the Big 12 and be extremely competitive, which alone will create rivalries."
Northrup says the Maniacs will put much more effort into the watch parties in the upcoming season, seeing as many fans may not be able to attend farther away games.
"We’re going to have to shop around for good deals to travel to Big 12 away games," he said. "This year, membership was a little more expensive, which will create a larger budget to allow us to do more things. If we don’t do many trips to Big 12 games, all the money will go to watch parties and making them special and fun to go to, and we’ll work with the student organizations and alumni on those as well."
According to Northrup, it will be more difficult for fans to travel to Oklahoma or Texas as opposed to Rutgers or Pittsburgh, where WVU could have up to 15 or 20 thousand fans. Northrup says it will probably be more difficult to get tickets to the away Big 12 games because teams such as Texas and Oklahoma usually sell all their season tickets, where as Pittsburgh had many available tickets. Therefore, WVU may only get a small allotment of three or four thousand to some of the large away games.
Northrup said they will be going to James Madison at Fed Ex Field, which is only about a two and half or three-hour trip. The Maniacs are planning to have an open meeting in the fall to try and gauge interest.
Many fans are also looking forward to the change of conference, as well, even though they are aware traveling to games will be more difficult.
Marcus Derosa, a recent WVU alumnus and Bridgeport High graduate, has been going to football games for as long as he can remember.
"My grandma and grandpa had season tickets for many years, then they were no longer able to go anymore, so now they just buy my brother and I the season tickets now," he said. "So, I’ve been going to games for the last 20 years and I’m 24 now."
According to Derosa, he would always go to at least one away game a year with some of his friends. He plans to go to Texas this year and to the game at James Madison University.
"I still want to support the team and help them out as much as possible from the stands," he said. "I am also a big football fan, so I like to see how other schools compare to WVU in tailgating and it’s atmosphere."
Kyle Hardesty, junior WVU student, hasn’t missed a home game in the past two seasons, but never got the opportunity to go to many away games. He plans on making a trip to at least one this year, though.
"Now that we’re in the Big 12, the level of competition is a lot harder," said Hardesty, "When we were in the Big East, we were basically expected to win the conference championship every year, but now we’ll be playing teams that have won national championships in recent years like Texas and Oklahoma, so it’s more important for fans to attend and support the team even at away games. Since a lot of people were unsure about the move because of the distance to travel to away games, I think more people will travel than expected because a majority of the fans are really excited about the move."
Regardless of the differing opinions on attendance at the games, one thing is certain – West Virginia University players and fans alike are excited about the Big 12 and are counting down the days until football season begins.