The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia


September 29, 2012

Big 12 football is finally here

The Back Porch

The anticipation is over. West Virginia University football officially enters the Big 12 today as it takes on Baylor in its first game in its new conference.

Whether the Mountaineers can hold their own in a tough conference where half to two-thirds of the teams play in bowl games every year will be decided starting now.

WVU fans’ main exposure to the Big 12 has been the occasional meeting with the Oklahoma Sooners. There’s way more to the Big 12 than that school.

In a spirit of sportsmanship and longing for the days when I got to watch Big 12 ball in person, I offer this friendly primer to those who follow the team from Morgantown.

Be careful of Baylor. The Bears used to always be in the Big 12 basement, but RG3 changed that. In the days when I was watching Big 12, I wondered whether the boys from the Baptist school were afraid to hit too hard for fear a lightning strike would come from the sky. I think they’re over any such real or imagined aversion.

Next is Texas. There’s nothing sweeter than the smell of burnt orange. Oklahoma State fans bought the Longhorn window decals and turned them upside down in a show of contempt.

The Red Raiders of Texas Tech were always unpredictable. One never knew which version of the Raiders would come to town. Therefore, taking them for granted was done at any team’s peril.

Ah, Kansas State. It was a gorgeous fall day in Manhattan when the Marshall Thundering Herd knocked off the No. 6 Wildcats on the road. Mountaineer fans need to watch out for Willie the Wildcat. He’s a real hazard when he whips around the parking lot in his mini convertible.

WVU fans may be a bit puzzled when the Wildcat band breaks into “Wabash Cannonball” as an impromptu fight song. Here’s the back story. Apparently, a long time ago the music room caught on fire. The only music saved was “Wabash Cannonball.” While it initially was the only offering from the band, over the years it attained legendary status.

And then there are the cardiac Cowboys, the team that somehow seems to regularly kill its fans with suspense before offering last-minute winning hijinks. It’s worth noting that Oklahoma State’s official mascot is Pistol Pete, who is based on a real, leathery old cowboy who lived an illustrious life in Perkins, a little town south of Stillwater. But don’t tell Pokes fans that Bullet isn’t a mascot, too. Expect him to come running out of the end zone to about the 40-yard line when the Pokes score at home.

That OTHER school in Oklahoma is a point of disgust for a lot of Big 12 fans. Yeah, the Sooners can walk the walk, but the fans don’t have to be so obnoxious about it. Many’s the time I wanted to unhitch the annoying Sooner Schooner and stuff a banana into the band’s wind section to stop the playing of their annoying fight song. Come on, get a real-sized horse and get out of the kiddie wagon.

Iowa State has slipped a little over the years. It doesn’t strike the same level of fear it once did. And while the Kansas Jayhawks are a force on the hard court, they’ve never done much on the turf. Those two should easily go into the W column for WVU.

As for TCU, the Horned Frogs will have to earn their place in the Big 12 before getting much of a mention here. They, like WVU, are the newcomers, and time will tell.

There’s nothing like a Big 12 football Saturday. Now the Mountaineers will know what that feels like.

— Young is a Register-Herald columnist. E-mail:

© 2012 by Nerissa Young


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