MORGANTOWN - West Virginia University president Jim Clements was in the middle of Sunday's Big 12 celebration. The institution had officially jumped from the Big East to its new league and there were smiles all around the room.Clements spoke of the jump to a "power conference." Then he added, "Not just athletically, but academically."The cynic in me awoke."Yeah right," said the cynic, perched on my shoulder. "Academically. Always have to throw that in, right? Like the term student-athlete. Is there a whole chapter on inserting the word 'academics' in the Sports Guide to College Administrators Political Correctness?"I shooed the cynic away. It was, after all, a nice celebration. But I did pleasantly call Clements on it.How specifically, I asked, will the new conference benefit WVU academically?"Research partnerships," he said. "Energy conferences. There are some great universities in this league. We're in good company."Not convinced, I asked him to expand on that. Clements didn't blink.
"Well, we already have our chief academic officers meeting," Clements said. "We have our vice presidents for research meeting. We have our federal relations people meeting. We have our vice presidents for student affairs meeting. We have deans meeting. And that's what a conference should be - not only about athletics, but it should also be about academics."It was a pleasant surprise. A TKO of the cynic."The commissioner [Bob Bowlsby] understands that, as do all of the presidents in the league," Clements said.Intrigued now, I asked what the association could bring WVU.
"Only good things," Clements said. "Research partnerships. An application to the National Science Foundation. We could go in together with the Department of Energy. There are a lot of good things. Joint degree programs. You never know where it can go, but it will all be positive."Nice to hear.nn
WVU athletic director Oliver Luck was beaming this past weekend during the celebration. Now, though, it's almost time for his Mountaineer programs to begin competing. It's back to work."Our big tasks now include the [proposed new] baseball stadium and the work that needs to get done with that," Luck said. "We're getting ready for the football season. We're probably going to sell every last ticket, be it a season ticket or a mini plan. I want to make sure that goes well."Then there's the RFP for media rights. The next deadline [was Monday]. So there's a good bit of stuff. And, really, I want to make sure all of our coaches really understand the Big 12."We want to try and minimize any coaching worries about logistics. We're talking about travel, etc. Because everything is new. Dana [Holgorsen] has been through this before. Huggs [basketball coach Bob Huggins] has been through this before. But a lot of coaches haven't. So we're trying to minimize the shock."We want the kids to go to Ames, Iowa, with the same level of confidence they would at, say, Rutgers or Syracuse, places they've been before."The RFP, by the way, or request for proposal on bids to WVU's third-tier media rights apparently is going swimmingly for the school.
"There's not much I can say," Luck said. "The one [teleconference] call we had - not a mandatory call - was joined by representatives of nine different companies. So I think we're going to be in pretty good shape."We have a long way to go. We're just at the beginning of the process. But the interest is there."Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, firstname.lastname@example.org
or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.