EDITOR'S NOTE: Tony Caridi, the voice of West Virginia University sports, spoke to the Parkersburg Rotary Club at noon on Monday, prior to the death of former Mountaineer football coach Bill Stewart.
PARKERSBURG -Tony Caridi told members of the Parkersburg Rotary Club West Virginia University was in a much stronger position than this time last year.
Caridi made his annual stop at the Rotary Club Monday. Speaking at the Blennerhassett Hotel, in front of a packed house, the West Virginia University Mountaineers play-by-play man hit a range of topics, most of which dealt with the university's move to the Big 12 conference.
Photo by Jody Murphy
West Virginia University play-by-play announcer Tony Caridi speaks to the Parkersburg Rotary Club Monday at the Blennerhassett Hotel.
"A lot has changed since last year," he said. For the better, he added.
"We are now in a position of being good to go," he said. "There is no fear.
"WVU is in a position of strength, so far ahead of where we were a year ago."
Caridi credited Don Nehlen, Rich Rodriguez and Bill Stewart for the move to the Big 12. The conference selected WVU because of its football brand, which he said Nehlen built and Rodriguez and Stewart elevated.
Caridi said conference officials preferred WVU over Louisville because of the interest of the average fan. The average fan would be more interested in a WVU-Texas or WVU-Oklahoma game than Texas-Louisville or Oklahoma-Louisville, he said.
"Geographically, it makes no sense," he said. "But the football brand, the value..."
Caridi also knocked the college football bowl system, noting the school's financial loss from the 2012 Orange Bowl. School officials lost almost $218,000 on this year's trip.
It's the third time in five years the Mountaineers have lost money on a bowl trip. He accused the bowl system of "extorting money from colleges."
"It's a bad system that needs to be blown up."
He praised the new agreements between the Big 12 and the SEC, that will pit the conference's champions in a game.
"They are learning to do it yourself."
Caridi also talked about the men's basketball team.
He called the Mountaineers' 2011-12 team coach Bob Huggins' weakest, a team plagued by inconsistency and youth. He noted WVU still cracked the NCAA Tournament. Caridi also said this season may be Huggins' most difficult schedule. The Mountaineers open the season at Gonzaga, in Spokane, Wash., on a Monday night.
On the women's basketball team, Caridi said coach Mike Carey had his best recruiting class, including an LSU transfer (Krystal Forthan), who will sit out this season.
Rotarian Frank Deem asked Caridi about adding men's golf to the athletics department. The school needs to add a men's sport to the program. Caridi said officials were looking at golf, tennis, cross country and track and field.
He offered a small prediction into the Mountaineers' upcoming football season. Given the 'Eers returning offensive talent, he said the team should be north of 40 points a game.
"It's an offensive league. 45-42, 47-45 is not totally foreign."
Rotarian Dave McKain asked Caridi for a win-loss prediction for the 2012 football season.
"We win EVERY game," Caridi said.