Bob Bowlsby struck just the right notes in his introductory message at WVU's welcome to the league party at the football stadium's Touchdown Terrace on Sunday.
He congratulated athletic director Oliver Luck and president Jim Clements on a job well done, and predicted that they will lead WVU to even greater heights in the future, He praised West Virginia's "rich athletic history" noting that it dovetailed quite well with that of the other Big 12 schools. In all, the majority of his remarks were just what one would expect from a commissioner welcoming a new school into the fold.
Buried in the midst of his comments, however, was this caution -- if not an outright warning. While noting that the eight existing Big 12 schools would be very welcoming to WVU, he observed that courtesy and hospitality would cease when the games begin.
"On Saturdays, everyone will be trying to bloody everyone else's noses," he noted in a matter of fact tone. "You had better tape your ankles up and be ready, because the other schools will be out to defend their turf."
Bowlsby wasn't siding with the holdover schools in any fashion, or predicting dire straits for the Mountaineer athletic teams. He was simply noting a fact that many are overlooking as the Big 12 celebration commences -- West Virginia is, in most of its programs, taking a moderate to huge step up in competition.
While not pointing any fingers or saying anything derogatory about West Virginia's past conference affiliations and schedules, Bowlsby got his message across -- at least for those paying attention.
"If you aren't ready to play in this league, you are going to get clipped," he observed.
The numbers bear Bowlsby out, no matter what sport is under discussion. As I noted in a column for the print edition of the Blue & Gold News, the Big 12 had a team ranked number one in the nation in eight of the sports it competed in last year. In 22 of its 23 sanctioned sports, in had at least one team ranked in the top five. From 1996 through 2011, the Big 12 won 42 team and 477 individual NCAA Championships.
It's not just at the top where the Big 12 is strong, either. In most sports, there's quality depth that extends well down the conference standings. There aren't going to be many gimmees in league play, no matter what the sport.
Did that message get through? We'll find out on the fields and courts in just a few months.