Disclaimer: What you are about to read has very little basis in fact. What is contained herein are some thoughts and conjecture of how West Virginia University’s future will be affected by conference realignment.
I probably spend too much time on the internet.
Just how much is too much?
That would be hard to say, but in the last month my time logged onto the net has probably tripled. That is because on the morning of September 17, while attending a pregame function at the WVU-Maryland football game I learned that Pitt and Syracuse had applied for and been accepted for admission to the Atlantic Coast Conference. That announcement rocked the world of the Big East Conference and, according to reports, caught everyone in the Big East conference office, including commissioner John Marinatto, completely by surprise. Marinatto was actually in College Park to watch WV play that Saturday.
That news we can put down as fact, but in the weeks prior to the Pitt/Syracuse announcement rumors were circulating internet message boards and chat rooms that West Virginia was talking to Southeastern Conference about possible inclusion to their prestigious league.
At that point all we knew was that Texas A&M had applied for membership to the SEC. One of the things I picked up on while following this process is that a school doesn’t typically apply for membership to a conference unless it’s understood they will be accepted. The addition of Texas A&M would give the SEC 13 teams and most seemed to agree that the SEC would want to add a 14th team quickly to help with scheduling concerns. That is where WVU came up in conversation, as the possible 14th team.
That is also where factual information stops. No official in the SEC or at WVU ever said there were conversations between the parties, but that didn’t stop a few people with “connections” from getting into chat room and on message boards and flaming the fires. If you have never been around these internet venues there is no way you could accurately decipher who was spewing garbage and who may actually be trying to give some honest information. There are usually plenty of both kinds of information available there.
Not being a rookie to these kinds of things I was buying into the rumors early on when I knew I should be more cautious. People (you should know that the overwhelming majority of these guys/gals operate with anonymous handles or screen names) with accurate info in the past were often cryptic so as to preserve their anonymity. I mean if athletic director Oliver Luck or president James Clements did not want any information released, it wouldn’t be wise to be found out that you had betrayed a confidence.
Anyway, at one point, according to internet sources, WVU was in a strong position to be the 14th SEC team once potential legal issues with Texas A&M were cleared up. Finally, A&M was officially admitted to the SEC, but then Missouri started to be mentioned as the 14th SEC team. If you listen to the national media, then all you heard was Missouri, nary a mention of West Virginia unless you troll the West Virginia internet outlets.
A month ago a number of these internet guys were suggesting things would move quickly to a conclusion favorable for WVU. During the weeks since several of the people have seemingly been silenced, and some still persist that WVU may not be headed to the SEC, but could wind up in the Big 12.
Now, that would be some interesting travel plans for all sports.
Geographically the ACC makes the most sense, but there is no support on Tobacco Road for WVU. I almost hate to say it though, but the internet has indicated that WVU and the ACC are now in communication, so is that meaningful? The most popular theories have Rutgers and UCONN going to the ACC, but the rumors suggest that maybe some of the football first schools down south would like any future members to bring something to the conference on the gridiron.
Back in the Big East, the conference is trying to prevent further defections by raising exit fees. The Big East is also trying to add more football members, a process that could be problematic if they allow their invitations to become public knowledge and thereby also seeing their rejection in public as well.
Where West Virginia sits today is in the Big East. There have been votes to raise fees and invite schools in recent days and no definitive word on WVU’s actions in these discussions. All meaningful conversation suggests the Mountaineers want to be out of the Big East, but if they don’t have a better offer, then what?
Well, extended time in a reconfigured Big East likely means more of the same. It will be a football conference trying to keep a BCS berth that is coveted by a few other leagues and a more fractured basketball conference. WVU is poised to make a commitment for big time football, but BCS bid, or not, the product in a prolonged Big East relationship will be damaged in the long run.