WVU to Big 12: One year later

When West Virginia University joined the Big 12 Conference a little more than a year ago, Athletic Director Oliver Luck was aware that the school was in for one of the most exciting and difficult seasons in quite some time.

The adjustment from making the switch from the Big East Conference to the Big 12 was one that he believed needed to be done at the time in order to keep WVU among the best in the nation – even if that first season came with plenty of ups and downs throughout WVU's varsity sports.

"Every sport has its own story and sometimes it's difficult to generalize the success that all of them had," Luck said. "But at the end of the day, I think it went well. The Big 12 is a great conference and I think the important thing to remember is that WVU was able to land in a position among one of the power conferences.

"It really gives us an opportunity for decades to come to get to play among the elite in just about every sport."

A season that started with lofty expectations for sports like football and men's basketball failed to meet those high standards, while the likes of women's soccer and baseball flourished in their first time through the Big 12 season.

Head coach Nikki Izzo-Brown and the Mountaineer women's soccer team captured the Big 12 regular season crown, while the baseball team finished third in the conference in Randy Mazey's first season after being unanimously picked to finish last by the league's coaches at the beginning of the year.

"Certainly it was a learning year for us as our coaches got to know the conference a little bit," Luck said. "But they'll have that out of their systems after that first time through. You could tell a lot of people were excited heading into this year, and I think they're still excited about what's to come in the future."

But it wasn't just on the field where WVU and Luck made headlines during this first year in the Big 12.

It was reported in February that the West Virginia Athletic Department faced a record $12.9 million deficit for the past fiscal year, with a significant chunk of that going toward the school's $20 million exit fee to leave the Big East early.

Luck said that the losses that the University has suffered in the short term could be made up for significantly by the long-term gains that will come from being in the Big 12 Conference – especially when the school begins receiving a full share of the conference's revenue sharing program.

For the first year, WVU made just 50 percent of the Big 12 revenue sharing program this year, as part of its agreement with the league when it joined. Next year, WVU will get 67 percent and will earn 84 percent the following year before earning a full share in 2015-16.

Once the school starts getting paid as a full financial member of the league, WVU could be looking at making $20 million from the conference – as opposed to the $7 to 8 million it would make per year in the Big East.

"Some people need to understand the whole picture when it comes to last year's loss," Luck said. "I'm sure if we had stayed in what is now the American Athletic Conference, those people would be saying, 'How could they do that? They're missing out on a chance to get so much money.'

"Ultimately, our financial situation is strong and will be very strong in the future."


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