Huggins, West Virginia Brace for Move to the Big 12 Conference

October 31, 2011 – 10:00 am by Eric Schmoldt

Bob Huggins is headed back to the Big 12 Conference. Huggins coached Kansas State during the 2006-07 season before leaving for West Virginia, which last week announced that it will leave the Big East for the Big 12.

For Huggins and the Mountaineers basketball program, that doesn’t seem like such a great leap as they’ll be leaving the top basketball conference in the nation. That said, the league was certainly already taking a hit with the loss of Syracuse and Pitt. And Huggins says some people don’t understand just how tough the Big 12 is in basketball. He, of course, knows firsthand.

Bob Huggins joined KCSP in Kansas City with Nick Wright to discuss the move to the Big 12, the travel issues it creates, if there’s a bittersweet feeling in leaving the Big East, how the move will affect recruiting, if he’s seen an influx of talent since making the Final Four and if the hostile environments of the Big East just got a little more raucous.

What’s it been like the last week when realizing that West Virginia is going to the Big 12?:

“I know, I guess, better than anybody else does, what a great league it is and how good the coaching is in the league and how good the players are that are attracted to go play in the league. From a basketball standpoint, I’m telling my guys, ‘Get ready; we’re going from one great league to another.’ It’s great for our football and great for our entire athletic program. It gives us great stability and certainly a class league.”

Is there concern, maybe not so much in basketball but other sports, about the travel from Morgantown to these Big 12 cities?:

“I mean, I can’t imagine they’d get in a bus or a van and go. It’s kind of what it’s always been. This chartering thing just started, really, in the last five or six years. Before, you went to the airport, you sat and you flew out and you played the game and you left the first flight in the morning and flew back. I’m sure that’s what’s going to happen.”

Is there anything bittersweet about leaving an elite basketball conference?:

“It was and is a great league, but then again you’re losing Syracuse, you’re losing Pitt. I think in the last six years there’s only been two teams in the league to finish every year over .500 in the league and that’s us and Pitt, and I think we all know what Syracuse has done. So the Big East has lost three very, very good basketball programs. They’re certainly going to replace it and life will go on. But I’ve been in the Big 12. A lot of people haven’t been in the Big 12 and don’t understand what it’s like to go to Stillwater and play or what it’s like to go to Lawrence and play. It’s hard, just like it’s hard in the Big East.”

How does this affect your recruiting?:

“I don’t know. I really don’t know. Hopefully we can still continue to recruit New York. New York’s been very good for us.  … We’re going to continue to try to recruit the best guys that we can and you have to make an intelligent decision on what your chances are and not waste any time.”

Have you seen an uptick in the caliber players that you are recruiting coming off a Final Four two years ago?:

“I hope so because I’ve got seven freshmen right now. If not we’re in trouble. We’re more athletic, we run better, but we’ve got a lot to learn.”

Do you expect more hostile road environments this year with opponents’ fans knowing you’re on the way out?:

“Couldn’t imagine that it wouldn’t be. I think with three teams leaving, and who knows, this whole deal may not be done with, there still could be some movement or maybe their won’t be. But I get that anyways for some reason. So I don’t worry about it. I used to worry about it a little more than I do now.”

Listen to Bob Huggins on KCSP in Kansas City here

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