WHEELING - Among the special guests at Wednesday night's 2012 Mountaineer Athletic Club Coaches Caravan at Oglebay's Pine Room was legendary Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer, who was asked as a favor by former WVU coach Don Nehlen to introduce Mountaineers fans to the Big 12.
Switzer jumped at the chance, but he didn't think he could get it done by himself.
''When I got the call, I thought it's not just enough for me to welcome the West Virginia Mountaineers to the Big 12 Conference, I've even come with one of the greatest players to ever play in the Big 8 conference, which is the core.''
IN WHEELING — Former Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer and Sooners running back Billy Sims were at Oglebay Park Wednesday for the Mountaineer Athletic Club Coaches Caravan.
-- Jim Elliott
That's when he introduced 1978 Heisman Trophy winner - and Sooner to the core - Billy Sims to a standing ovation.
That wasn't even close to the biggest surprise of the evening.
''I'm here not only to welcome you to the Big 12 Conference, but I'm here to also proclaim you the preseason favorite of the Big 12 Conference,'' Switzer said, his voice raising throughout the sentence.
He said Oklahoma has a quarterback returning (Landry Jones) but is probably too young at other spots. Texas, he said, ''has more talent than any of us,'' but head coach Mack Brown ''hasn't gotten the job done.''
He said this only minutes after he reminded those in attendance he did some TV work at the 2008 Fiesta Bowl, in which WVU beat his beloved Sooners, 48-28, and admitted, ''I probably said the wrong things.''
Still, he's not the only one who has changed his tune about head coach Dana Holgorsen and today's Mountaineers.
''You guys are ready to rock and roll,'' Sims said. ''I've been keeping up with you the last couple of years. I think you guys should be the preseason favorites in the Big 12. That's saying something. But once you get there, it's going to be a game, so strap it on.''
Later, Holgorsen was talking about the Big 12 coach's meetings in Phoenix, which he attended earlier this week and looked around the room at guys like Oklahama's Bob Stoops, Brown, Kansas State's Billy Snyder, Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy, TCU coach Gary Patterson, and Baylor's Art Briles and started thinking about the startling number of national championships, BCS victories, Big 12 titles, and Heisman Trophy winners they've coached.
''I can guarantee you one thing, as much respect as I have for (the Big 12),'' Holgorsen said.
''I've won a helluva lot more games in the Big 12 than they have in Morgantown.''
Still, the night wasn't only about football.
Women's basketball coach Mike Carey's already thinking about having to play Baylor and star player Brittney Griner twice next season.
''I asked Coach (Bob) Huggins if I could put a wig on Kevin Jones,'' Carey joked.
Later, Huggins spoke about the task others suppose will be daunting for his still relatively young club. Eventually, he got tired of answering, and threw away the stock answer.
''Those (people) better worry about us,'' he said. ''Last time I checked, we weren't bad. We've held our own.''
Huggins also attended those meetings and noticed half the coaches in the conference have been to a Final Four. It's time to raise the bar, he said.
''I've been to the Final Four twice,'' Huggins said. ''Haven't played on a Monday. I want to play on a Monday. And win the last game.''
Also on the caravan stop were WVU volleyball coach Jill Kramer, women's soccer coach Nikki Izzo-Brown, and Athletics Director Oliver Luck, who again reminded Mountaineers fans to extend a hand and show some class to visiting fans at Mountaineer Field this fall.