Wow! We all knew that weeks three and four of the 2011 West Virginia University football season could provide some important and exciting moments for the football program. That’s because a win over Maryland on the road in game three would set up a highly anticipated matchup with LSU the next week in Morgantown. There has long been speculation by WVU fans that the LSU game could provide the university with its first ever visit from the popular ESPN pre-game show, College Gameday.
Fans will get their wish. Following a 37-31 victory over Maryland, ESPN announced on Sunday that the Gameday crew would indeed be making a trip to Morgantown this Saturday for their telecast. ESPN lists Gameday in its guide as being on from 10 a.m. to noon. Usually a good portion of Sports Center is devoted to the Gameday site beginning around 9 a.m. The game is set to be telecast on ABC at 8 p.m. in front of what promises to be a frenzied crowd.
Just playing second ranked LSU at home will get the juices flowing, but there is more going on with WVU athletics this week than a football game. As West Virginia was preparing to tee it up in College Park last Saturday, news broke that Big East Conference mates Pitt and Syracuse had applied for and been granted membership into the Atlantic Coast Conference. That was shocking news to just about everyone. Not that those two schools are going to the ACC, but that the news came out of nowhere.
There have been expansion and realignment rumors circulating for months. Those include persistent rumors that WVU could be headed to the Southeastern Conference. It seemed that the move that would lead to the massive movement would be Texas A&M finally getting clearance to join the SEC. Then Oklahoma and Oklahoma State were headed to the new Pacific 12, perhaps along with Texas. To some extent the decisions of those schools is still the trigger to start the dominoes falling.
That doesn’t diminish the ACC’s proactive move to get Pitt and Syracuse in the fold, there has been plenty of noise lately about the ACC taking four Big East schools to go to 16 teams. On the outside looking in, many thought WVU would be included among the four along with UCONN. Many WVU people weren’t as optimistic about the ACC. Apparently WVU is not wanted there and as of Monday night Rutgers is getting more play with regard to the ACC.
I could probably do 2000 words and not describe all that has been swirling from Saturday night to Monday night. Things appear to change frequently and the big problem is that athletic director Oliver Luck and other principals are not speaking publicly. My opinions are formed from searching internet sites where I have found “sources” to be reliable, and these guys are nervous about WVU’s future.
Luck made the following statement on Sunday to address the conference realignment situation. "There is no question that the landscape of college athletics is once again changing. West Virginia University has great tradition as the state’s flagship land-grant institution, and we will continue working to do what’s best for our University and its athletic teams. No matter how the college athletic landscape changes, there is no doubt WVU is and will remain a national player."
Shortly after that statement was released, a tweet from former Pittsburgh Post Gazette sportswriter Colin Dunlap said that WVU had submitted paperwork to the SEC. Based on what we’ve been led to believe, a school only submits such paperwork if they know the outcome is favorable. That little nugget took on a life of its own as Mountaineer fans took the tweet to indicate some sort of acceptance to the SEC. As time has passed WVU fans have gone from giddy back to concerned and nervous.
The exodus of Pitt and Syracuse and the impending departure of UCONN and Rutgers certainly is the death of the Big East football conference. A hybrid conference with Big East and Big 12 leftovers has been reported to be in discussions, but if you are a West Virginia fan, you have to be concerned about being a national player in that environment.