Produced by: Eva Buchman, Brooke Cassidy, and Matthew Krauza
With the slow break up of the Big East Athletic Conference over the last year, WestVirginia University was on the hunt for a new conference. After months of uncertainty, WVU found a new home with the Big 12 Conference- all except for one team.
The Big 12 does not currently sponsor men’s soccer, proving to be a problem for WVU and Head men’s soccer coach Marlon LeBlanc. Having been the Head Coach at West Virginia since 2006, LeBlanc has guided the Mountaineers to the NCAA Tournament three times, each time making it to at least the second round.
The Mountaineers soccer team has recently signed a new contract with the Mid-American Conference, where it will begin play for the 2012-2013 season. In a joint effort between Coach LeBlanc and WVU Athletic Director Oliver Luck, the Mountaineers now have a four-year commitment with the MAC, and they are looking forward to facing new challenges.
“When we looked for a conference, we were really looking for a conference that was just going to give us the best fit altogether. Geography really didn’t matter, we were looking for competitiveness, and I think at the end of the day, we’ve found that,” said LeBlanc.
WVU will face new opponents, including Ball State, Bowling Green, Buffalo, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Kent State, Miami, Ohio, Toledo, and Western Michigan. Also in the conference are Akron, which won the National Championship in 2010, and Northern Illinois, which consistently places in the top of the conference.
This, however, is exactly what Luck and LeBlanc wanted. They were looking for a level of competition that would be similar to what WVU was used to in the Big East, as well as a conference that would push West Virginia towards the ultimate goal: a national championship.
“We’re really confident in ourselves,” said senior goalkeeper Pat Eavenson. “We’re looking for a championship at the end of the fall. I definitely want a ring, I know Marlon and the rest of the players do, so, we’re trying to win.”
People throughout Morgantown are looking forward to the change and seeing what the Mountaineers can bring to the field.
“I think we’ll do fine in the new conference…I think we’ll be one of the favorites, along with Akron and Illinois,” said WVU Athletic Director Oliver Luck.
With the new conference alignment, WVU will be able to play two games a year with each team in the MAC, one at home and one away. The schedule for next season has not yet been released, but the Mountaineers will continue their spring schedule on April 22, with a game against Slippery Rock University.