Is Big 12 expansion impacting recruiting? Neal Brown explains

WVU Football

In an exclusive conversation, the head coach shares what he tells prospects when they express concern about the league’s looming changes

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — In less than eight weeks, the early signing period will begin for Division I football, and Neal Brown and his staff will have the opportunity to gain binding commitments from the members of their 2022 recruiting class. 

During the current period in the recruiting cycle, communication between prospects and coaches is restricted, but still, some athletes and other outside forces have expressed concerns about the elephant in the room. 

In an exclusive interview for The Neal Brown Show, the head coach indicated that he is “continuously answering” questions regarding Big 12 expansion and the looming changes that will reshape the landscape of the league. 

“When you get into recruiting — and especially when you get down where you’re recruiting against a couple of other schools, especially if a kid’s committed to you — now you’re the one that’s getting needled,” Brown said. “We’ve got some players that are really talented. Therefore, they’ve got other people that are recruiting them, and the Big 12 conversation is something that does get used against us.”

Big 12 powers Oklahoma and Texas will leave the conference in 2025. The league will replace those schools with four new members — BYU, Cincinnati, UCF and Houston — as early as the summer of 2023. 

Through this restructuring, the Big 12 is set to lose its two biggest brands, as well as a program in Oklahoma that has won the conference football title in each of the last six seasons. But, by acting quickly to add four new members, the league appears to have put itself in position to refortify. In a recent exclusive interview with Gold and Blue Nation, WVU director of athletics Shane Lyons expressed his belief that the Big 12 will “be a very strong conference” when it adds its new members. 

But when questions about those looming changes come up, Brown uses recent history to educate recruits. 

“We [WVU] have been in a multitude of conferences going back for the last 50 years. The one constant is we’ve always had success,” Brown said. “We’ve always been in a good home. We’ve always competed for conference championships, and we don’t anticipate that changing.” 

WVU football is currently tied for 15th all-time among the winningest FBS programs, winning 15 conference titles and 16 bowl games in its history. Since 1950, the Mountaineers have competed in football in the Southern Conference (1950-67), as an independent (1968-90), in the Big East (1991-2011) and in the Big 12 (2012-present). 

As for the status of his 2022 recruiting class, Brown wants to take advantage of the expanded signing limit in college football, which has been raised from 25 to 32 for the current recruiting cycle, providing more leeway for teams to replace athletes who transfer. Brown expects to fill roughly 75 percent of his incoming recruiting class with high school athletes and the remaining 25 percent with transfers. 

Offensively, Brown would still like to add one more high school wide receiver, offensive lineman, running back and tight end to his incoming class. On the other side of the ball, priorities include interior defensive linemen, linebackers, a safety and a cornerback. 

“We’ve got some really good prospects. Some of those guys we were able to see play last week,” Brown said. “We feel good about where we’re at as far as a depth chart and recruiting for the 2022 class.” 

The early signing period for Division I football begins Dec. 15.

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