MORGANTOWN - West Virginia University president Jim Clements was in the middle of Sunday's Big 12 celebration. The institution had officially jumped from the Big East to its new league and there were smiles all around the room.
Clements spoke of the jump to a "power conference." Then he added, "Not just athletically, but academically."
The cynic in me awoke.
"Yeah right," said the cynic, perched on my shoulder. "Academically. Always have to throw that in, right? Like the term student-athlete. Is there a whole chapter on inserting the word 'academics' in the Sports Guide to College Administrators Political Correctness?"
I shooed the cynic away. It was, after all, a nice celebration. But I did pleasantly call Clements on it.
How specifically, I asked, will the new conference benefit WVU academically?
"Research partnerships," he said. "Energy conferences. There are some great universities in this league. We're in good company."
Not convinced, I asked him to expand on that. Clements didn't blink.
"Well, we already have our chief academic officers meeting," Clements said. "We have our vice presidents for research meeting. We have our federal relations people meeting. We have our vice presidents for student affairs meeting. We have deans meeting. And that's what a conference should be - not only about athletics, but it should also be about academics."
It was a pleasant surprise. A TKO of the cynic.
"The commissioner [Bob Bowlsby] understands that, as do all of the presidents in the league," Clements said.
Intrigued now, I asked what the association could bring WVU.
"Only good things," Clements said. "Research partnerships. An application to the National Science Foundation. We could go in together with the Department of Energy. There are a lot of good things. Joint degree programs. You never know where it can go, but it will all be positive."