The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

October 28, 2011

HERTZEL COLUMN: Former players sound off on potential move

MORGANTOWN — It seemed like a good idea at the time. Sources were saying West Virginia University had applied to the Big 12 and been accepted. A press conference within 24 hours was in the works to announce the deal.

It’s now on hold, but what better time to check what former Mountaineer athletes thought about going to the Big 12?

And so we used Facebook to send out a message to a number of former Mountaineers near and far to see their thoughts on going to the Big 12. Here they are, although it may not mean a thing in a week.

Dan Mozes, former Rimington Award-winning center:

“It will be good for the Mountaineers!!! Competition gets better and the faithful Mountaineer fans will travel no matter what. The Mountaineer nation will now get to travel to some places we never imagined we would go to. I am excited to see the Mountaineers dominate another conference!!

Quincy Wilson, whose run after a pass reception against Miami remains one of the greatest plays in WVU history:

“Conference-wise I like it. Geographically I don’t think it’s a fit, but it will be good to see some new teams come to Motown.”

Liz Repella, former women’s basketball star now playing in Spain:

“Obviously, with conference realignments WVU had to make a move, and the Big 12 was the only right move. Unfortunately, at a basketball standpoint, it’s disappointing. The Big East was the best conference in America for basketball.

“Not only was competing in the best league attractive to recruits, but traveling was easy for both the student-athletes and fans. As a member of the Big 12, the fan support at away games could decrease, and the travel could be more strenuous on the student-athlete.”

Jay Henry, former middle linebacker and one of the top student-athletes ever in the school:

“I like it, but I am selfish being from Oklahoma.”

Brent Solheim, former basketball player under Gale Catlett who made Morgantown his home after coming from Minnesota:

“Big 12 football will be better than the Big East, but the basketball will be worse. Looks like there will be some long road trips in my future. Definitely hitting New York this March for the last or next-to-last Big East tournament with WVU in it.”

John Thornton, former Mountaineer defensive tackle who had a long, successful NFL career and now lives in Cincinnati:

“This may be a bit premature until that contract is signed. I won’t believe it ’til it happens. WVU to SEC failed. Now Big 12 talks stalled. We’ll see.”

Rasheed Marshall, former quarterback who got Rich Rodriguez’s offense moving in the right direction:

“I’m riding with John Thornton on this one. Until it happens, it means nothing. But ... if and when it does, I think it’ll bring a lot of new excitement to Morgantown by facing a schedule full of new teams. Obviously, better competition, the recruiting dynamics change

and, lastly, the Mountaineer fan base really gets to show what they’re made of now on these road games, five or six trips to the Midwest each year. An easy drive to Rutgers now turns into a trip to Kansas and Texas. It gets interesting!

Rahsaan Vanterpool, one of the top receivers under Don Nehlen in the 1990s:

“I agree with Quincy; conference-wise I love it. No more of this WVU doesn’t play anybody. But be aware we might take some beatings the first two years in the league.”

Kay Jay Harris, the running back who still holds the WVU single-game rushing record of 323 yards against East Carolina:

“We definitely are going to have to change that 3-3-5 defense because it’s not going to work in that conference.”

A.J. Nastasi, former wide receiver who is now coaching:

“I think it is a great move for West Virginia. The Big 12 will provide new and exciting competition. The teams of the Big 12 have rich traditions in football. It is an automatic BCS qualifier, which is very important for our program.”

Scott Gyorko, former University High linebacker who made the grade as an undersized linebacker who could start at WVU:

“I think it would be a great fit. If you want to stay on top of the football world, you have to get in one of the power conferences. Big East is fading and I see no way of rebuilding, even if ND, Boise, etc. happen to join. Geographically it makes no difference anymore. It doesn’t really matter if you’re on a plane for 1 hour or 2.5 to me, still better than being on a bus for a three-hour trip to Maryland. Maybe even Holgorsen will stay now?”

John Pennington, wide receiver whose catch against Pitt lives on in WVU lore:

“Don’t like it, but it may be the lesser of two evils. As long as we have BCS bid in Big East, there is no reason to leave. BCS isn’t going to drop any conference; they will only add more BCS games to make more money because it’s all about money.

“PS – Gyorko, you’re right about plane trips only being an hour longer, but recruiting will be difficult because parents won’t be able to afford to go see their kids play.”

Tanner Russell, one of the finest offensive tackles ever to come out of the state of West Virginia:

“I hope the politicians stay out of this! If/when it happens it will be great for WVU, great to compete in one of the nation’s best conferences.”

Mark Plants, one of the toughest fullbacks to play at WVU, now a district attorney in the Charleston area:

“Great move — we can’t be the last team left in the Big East boat after everyone jumps ship. It will be exciting to have new teams in Motown and new cities to visit. Most importantly, this will allow me to travel West toward the nearest In & Out Burger.

“PS – Tanner, I suppose I’m a politician so feel free to ignore my comment.”

Email Bob Hertzel at Follow on Twitter @bhertzel.

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