AUSTIN, TX —
Just think back to where the Mountaineer football program was this time last year.
WVU's first October game in 2011 came on Oct. 1 at home against Bowling Green. WVU was 3-1 under second-year head coach Dana Holgorsen, but it was coming off a thumping at the hands of LSU.
It was a gloomy day in Morgantown, and it had to do with more than just the weather. Virginia Tech and Pitt had announced their intentions to leave the Big East for the ACC, and whether it was on ESPN or in Sports Illustrated, all of the experts were predicting radical changes in conference alignment, most of which left the Mountaineers out in the cold.
The ACC had made it clear that it wanted Big East squads but wanted nothing to do with the league's most dominant team. The SEC was showing a little interest, but Missouri was clearly the team it really wanted and the Big 12 was talking about the advantages of standing pat.
It seemed that despite all of WVU's on-field success, the lack of television sets — and perhaps political pull — in the Mountain State would leave the Mountaineers on the outside looking in.
The crowd that rainy fall Saturday was minimal, and many wondered if they were witnessing the beginning of the downfall of Mountaineer football.
Now take your old VCR remote and fast-forward a year later.
Tonight, WVU will take the field in front of more than 100,000 fans and a giant steer in Austin, Tex. The game will be broadcast nationally on FOX.
More importantly, it's a conference game.
We may never know all the back room deals, political favors and arm pulling it took to get WVU into the Big 12, but it's there, and already it's a major competitor.