WVU Athletics: What Happened

The year was 2012. Barack Obama was the President. Somebody I used to know was the #1 song and Hurricane Sandy slams into the East Coast. But during that year, a decision was made that has affected a program to this day. West Virginia leaves the Big East Conference to join the Big 12 conference. West Virginia had initially joined the Big East back in 1991 for just football, then later expanded to all sports in 1995.
The Big East Beginnings
In 1991, the Big East announced that they were able to expand their sports catalog to add in football, which brought in a lot of new names into the conference. The Miami Hurricanes, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, the Virginia Tech Hokies, the Temple Owls and of course, the West Virginia Mountaineers. Things were a little rocky at first when the Mountaineers first joined as in their first two seasons in the conference, as they went 11-9-2 and 5-7-1 in Big East play. Things easily turned around as in 1993, they took home their first conference title and an undefeated regular season. In 1995, WVU announced that the rest of their varsity sports were joining the Big East. Similarly to the Football team it took a year to get used to things. In WVU’s first basketball season in the Big East, WVU went 12-15 and 7-11 in conference play. Once they got their feet wet they seemed to do well as the next two years, the Mountaineers would go 45-19 and 22-14 in Big East play.
The Big Eastern Mediocrity
The final 7 seasons of Don Nehlan ended pretty mediocre for WVU as they went 46-37 and 27-22 in conference play. From 1998-2004 WVU Basketball went 80-94 and 31-67 in Big East Plays. Lone gone were days of WVU playing Notre Dame for a national football championship and winning the Atlantic 10 conference in basketball.
New Faces, New Beginnings
Going into the 2001 football season, WVU fans had to get used to not seeing Nehlen on the sidelines after his retirement at the end of 2000. 2001 was yet another rough year but other than that, WVU football returned to relevance. From 2002 to 2011, WVU went 95-33 and 53-16 in Big East play. During that time frame West Virginia took home 6 Big East conference crowns in 2003-2005, 2007 and 2010-2011. On the basketball side, from 2004-2012, WVU went 193-87 and 82-56 in Big East play. In the 2009-2010 season WVU had its first thirty win campaign and first final four appearance since 1959. We got to see notable faces introduced. In 2001, Rich Rodriguez took over the football team. In 2008, Bill Stewart became head coach. Then in 2011, Dana Holgerson coached WVU’s last Big East season. On the basketball side, Bob Huggins becomes men’s basketball coach.
The early 2000’s was seemingly the beginning of the end for the Big East. In 2004, the Big East watched as Miami and Virginia Tech left for the ACC. Boston College would also leave for the ACC the next year. Then in 2012, WVU received an offer from the Big 12 to join the conference and considering the past success they had, it was a no brainer. This then caused a domino effect in 2013 when every football left throughout the year and formed the new American Conference. That year the Big East rebranded, now without football as all but one of the remaining teams had a football team (Villanova).
The Big 12 Era Begins
To say things in the Big 12 hasn’t gone well for WVU Football is an understatement. In the 11 seasons WVU has played in the Big 12, WVU has only had 3 conference winning seasons and has a record 73-70 and a conference record of 47-51. WVU has yet to even play in a Big 12 championship game. The closest they got was in 2016 when WVU finished tied for second in the conference standings but missed out on the game due to Oklahoma State owning the tiebreaker from their win over WVU. For basketball it has gone slightly better, even though they have yet to win a Big 12 conference title but have played in 3 straight Big 12 title games from 2016-2018. They have even finished with 5 20+ win seasons. They have a record of 206-132 and a conference record of 90-89. Recently WVU basketball has seen a decline with one 10 conference win season since the 2018-2019 season.
Where are we
For the past 11 years, WVU has been looking for that spark that they had during WVU’s prime years in the Big East. WVU has tried to find footing especially after watching Dana Holgerson get up and leave as Neal Brown came in while only having 1 winning season as WVU head coach.. Even during this time frame we even saw 2 athletic directors go during that time frame. Is new faces what WVU needs to succeed or are stuck in a downward spiral that will take years to fix.