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WVU Will Look At Its Options

Rumors rampant about joining the powerful SEC

September 19, 2011
By JIM ELLIOTT - Staff Writer , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

News that the Atlantic Coast Conference Council of Presidents has unanimously voted to accept Pittsburgh and Syracuse as new members prompted West Virginia Athletics Director Oliver Luck to release a statement Sunday.

"There is no question that the landscape of college athletics is once again changing,'' Luck said. ''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."

Of course, that statement leaves a little for interpretation.

If WVU, is indeed, planning to remain a ''national player,'' there's almost no way that can happen in a sinking Big East Conference that is taking on water by the minute.

That has led to speculation that West Virginia, too, is on its way out, perhaps to the Southeastern Conference where it would add another high-level football program and give more credibility to a basketball league that doesn't have a lot of marquee programs.

And it would be a terrific financial boon for football home games, any athletic department's lifeblood.

At this point, it's just speculation. Luck said in an interview within the last month that WVU had not contacted - or been contacted by - SEC officials when rumors began to swirl. It was reported Sunday that school officials were blindsided by Syracuse and Pitt's announcement, which suggests Pitt and Syracuse did not bolt because they thought West Virginia was leaving first.

In a report out of Pittsburgh Sunday, Pitt Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg said school officials sent a letter to the Big East with concerns about the football side of things and made a point to affirm it was not Pitt that led a charge for the league to turn down the television contract offered by ESPN earlier this year, said to be worth more than $1 billion. It appeared he was mostly defending himself because some characterized the Pitt camp did lead that charge, but it's still significant, if only because the value has surely diminished in a conference without the Pittsburgh and upstate New York TV markets, even with TCU bringing Texas into play next year.

It's hard to say what the bottom line on the next proposal will be. And it's unlikely WVU officials will like what they see.

It had been reported - baseless or otherwise - the SEC was looking into expansion with eyes on West Virginia, Missouri, and Virginia Tech. Since, Texas A&M has been approved as an SEC member, under the condition that the remaining Big 12 schools offer no roadblocks to the Aggies departure. Baylor is threatening that at the moment.

Meanwhile, as part of a new agreement, the ACC upped its exit fee to $20 million, said to be a show of ''solidarity and stability.'' It also probably kept Virginia Tech right where it is. The Big East, meanwhile, will get $5 million from Syracuse and Pitt upon their departure, which would happen in time for the 2014-15 season, unless the Big East relents on its 27-month waiting period.

There are a lot of unknowns. But what is known suggests West Virginia might need to make some kind of move, given the athletic landscape changes happening all around it.

 
 

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