Charleston, W.Va- 2012, the year WVU officially jumped off the sinking ship called the SS Big East. The Big East conference was on the verge of change and losing power five affiliation. The football revenue and exposure simply wasn’t there in a world of college football that is constantly changing and progressing. The Big East fell behind and WVU was not going to go down with them. Once the invite came to join the Big 12, WVU sprinted to the opportunity and it has paid off in many ways. Big 12’s revenue numbers continue to climb with a record 252 million dollars was generated in 2015. While the money is great, I want to touch up on something historic happening right now at WVU.
Outside of all the revenue potential for a member of the Big 12, WVU has seen 14 players selected in the NFL draft since joining the conference -the most picks in a four year period since the NFL reduced the draft to seven rounds in 1994. This year, WVU saw five players drafted. Karl Joseph to the Raiders in the first round meant WVU had a first round pick for two consecutive years, making it the second time in program history, with Bruce Irvin in 2012, and Tavon Austin in 2013. WVU is the only program in the nation with a top 15 selection in four of the last five drafts. The Mountaineers are also one of only eight teams nationally to have a player selected in the first round in four of the last five years. To put this in perspective, during the eleven years playing in the Big East, WVU only produced three first round talents. Since joining the Big 12, WVU has already produced three first round talents. So just why is that?
Here are my Five Reasons:
- Exposure– The Big 12 has a massive TV deal with Fox and ESPN, which pays the conference somewhere around 2.6 billion and gives each team a payout around 20 million. Again, money is good, but exposure is even better. WVU is on National TV every week which means more exposure to the country. This could be a fan, an NFL scout or coach, or possibly a potential future recruit. More exposure is always good. Did I also mention the revenue? Oh, ok got it.
- Conference Brand– When joining a conference like the Big 12, there is no longer a need to sneak in the country club to swim in the pools, play tennis, and knock around a few balls on the golf course. You are a member now, which means you rub elbows with national brands in college football. That’s right, let’s just start with Texas. Four national titles, thirty two conference titles, two Heisman trophy winners, and fifty six consensus All Americans. That’s a good start, right? Once you throw in Oklahoma, TCU, and Baylor, it becomes apparent the players at WVU are competing against some of the best competition in the country and how they perform against these teams improves their draft stock.
- Coaching– Say what you want about Dana Holgorsen. Whether you are a fan or not, he does produce offensive talent that is every bit as good as anyone else in the country. Think about it. Geno Smith, Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey, Kevin White, and most recently Wendell Smallwood, all have been drafted to the NFL.
- Big 12 loves to pass: Speaking of pass happy offense, the Big 12 loves to fire the ball around, which means more opportunities for corners and safeties to be noticed. WVU saw four defensive players get drafted in this year’s draft, Karl Joseph, KJ Dillion, Daryl Worley, and Nick Kwitakowski. More opportunities on the field mean more film for scouts at the next level.
- Region-Recruiting– Finally, the big one that Holgorsen likes to brag about at times, a regional advantage to bringing top notch talent to WVU. What do I mean by regional advantage? West Virginia is the closest school to offer the Big 12 brand in the North and Midwest. WVU is stuck right in the middle of Big Ten and ACC country, so having that Big 12 brand is unique, because it offers a new possibility to start early and play against historically some of the best programs in the country. High school or JUCO talent is developed against some of the best competition in the country, and once you throw in 1 through 4 above, the percentage of a player being drafted increases significantly.The move to the Big 12, even if some fans may not admit it, was the right move. WVU has produced NFL talent, provided themselves with more exposure for recruitment, and increased revenue to update facilities. The future for WVU is bright and will only continue to get brighter. Good luck to all the Mountaineers who were drafted this year and never forget once a Mountaineer, always a Mountaineer.