"This will take some gettin' used to."

Change doesn't come easy. For someone who's been rooting on the Mountaineers for as many years as I have, looking at the future of WVU athletics as we move into the Big 12 is unsettling.

According to the latest rumors and speculation, it sounds like WVU's football schedule this fall will be something like this:

Home games: Marshall, Maryland, Oklahoma, TCU, Kansas State, Baylor.

Neutral site payday game in D.C. (well, just outside D.C.): James Madison.

Away games: Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, Kansas, Iowa State.

Man, that's disorienting! It's going to be extremely strange not playing Pitt. It makes me a little ill to not see our traditional games on that schedule. In a way, honestly, I kind of hate it. I'm going to miss our games with Syracuse and Rutgers, in addition to Pitt. But those of us who think thoughts like that need to remember this: Syracuse and Pitt left us. When they bolted for the ACC, they changed the ground we stand on. Once they made that decision, our old rivals Pitt and Syracuse weren't going to be on our future schedules anyway (unless we can revive the Pitt scheduling on at least a semiannual basis, which seems somewhat in doubt).

Those WVU fans like me who occasionally find our future football schedules to be unsettling need to keep their thoughts grounded in reality. Our Big 12 schedule is certainly far, far better than playing a watered-down Big East (C-USA II) schedule. In those moments when the thought of a Big 12 schedule seems like some kind of weird science fiction, I keep reminding myself that economically, as well as competitively, WVU had no choice but to move to the Big 12. And moving to the Big 12 is not "settling" for a lesser outcome in any way, shape, or form. It's a giant step up for WVU.

Athletic Director Oliver Luck and President Jim Clements saved us. They not only saved but greatly enhanced the future of WVU athletics. Joining the Big 12 is by far the best move that was possible for WVU.

As far as rivalries are concerned, it seems possible that we might have Louisville back on our schedule in another year or so. With our move to the Big 12, and given the widespread speculation that soon Louisville also will move into the Big 12, Louisville could become our next big rival. They'll never replace Pitt, and we probably never will be a bigger rival for them than Kentucky, but at least they could become a good regional rival. And there could be other new rivalries develop for us in the Big 12, too.

Looking back, I think my favorite schedules so far were in the early 1990s, when we were in our first seasons in the Big East, but still playing Penn State. Then our schedules included Pitt, Syracuse, Penn State, Miami, Virginia Tech, Maryland, Boston College, and Rutgers. We had home-and-home series with South Carolina and Missouri, played Nebraska in the Kickoff Classic. And we've had other terrific games on our schedules over the past twenty years -- with teams like Ohio State, Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Purdue, and more recently Auburn, LSU, and Colorado.

But those days of having Penn State, Miami, and VPI on our schedules every year are long gone, likely never to come again. There's nothing that WVU could or should do to bring those days back. Those who wish for it are living in the past. Even Pitt may not reappear on a regular basis.

The bright side is that it's just pretty easy to get excited about the prospect of seeing Texas, Oklahoma, and the other Big 12 schools regularly coming to play at Mountaineer Field. (Not to mention seeing Kansas in the Coliseum.)

So those of us who long for old schedules and old rivals need to get over it. It's time to embrace the change that's before us.

It's a new world we're living in. We face a new conference and new challenges. Despite any nostalgia I might have for days gone by, I'm excited about seeing WVU compete in the Big 12. It's time to look forward with anticipation. There will be new games and new rivals. There are bright days ahead of us, and we're still and always the Mountaineers. Bring on the Big 12!

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