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West Virginia University: A School Without a Conference?

An aerial shot of WVU's stadium. (allbluffs.com)

This should be a joyous week in Morgantown.

The Mountaineers are 3-0, ranked 16th in the country and are playing host to No. 2 LSU, on Saturday. If that wasn’t enough they are hosting College Gameday for the first time in school history.

So everything is perfect in Morgantown right? Wrong! Despite all that good news, WVU is facing the very real possibility of being a school without a conference. The Big East is crumbling around them so where do they turn? The SEC? The ACC? Join a hybrid Big 12-Big East?

WVU’s first choice was to join the SEC. Understandable, I mean who wouldn’t want to be in the SEC? It’s the best conference in the country. However, there was one problem here: the SEC did not want them.

Why you ask? Well for multiple reasons.

West Virginia is the 37th largest state in America and has small TV markets. Any conference that picked up WVU would need them to come with the Pittsburgh market, a credit that can not be guaranteed. Another big reason is West Virginia holds little to no recruiting value to other schools. According to Rivals.com, there are no top 100 football recruits or top 150 basketball recruits in the state of West Virginia.

Also another big reason they were turned away is that WVU is not exactly considered an excellent academic institution. Now, I am not saying they just hand out diplomas — after all I did graduate from WVU — but no one will confuse them with Duke.

Currently WVU ranks No. 164 in U.S. News and World Reports rankings. If WVU were to join the SEC they would become the lowest ranked school academically. Currently that honor goes to Mississippi State at No. 151. The league average for the SEC is No. 98.

From a cultural aspect WVU certainly does fit the SEC. They have rabid fans, they pack the stadium, and they compete well. But those factors do not drive expansion. What drives expansion is budget, facilities, population base, recruiting ground, T.V. markets and academic reputation. When WVU was polled out of 18 potential schools to join the SEC based on those categories they finished 18th.

Now as far as budget and facilities go I can say from a first hand account that WVU is not lacking. Their facilities are state of the art. What is killing them is a population of 1.8 million, with a small TV market.

Personally I think WVU to the SEC is a bad idea. The SEC is the big boy league and WVU can not compete with them. Playing USF, Rutgers and UConn is a lot easier than playing LSU, Alabama and Florida. In the Big East, WVU has the potential to compete for a BCS berth every year.

If they had moved to the SEC they would have been an 8-4 team at best. But, luckily for WVU the SEC did not want them. So now what?

Well there is still a possibility of the Big East staying together. They would remain a 15 school basketball conference and then add the service academies (Army, Navy, Air Force) to football. Here is the problem with that. People have already been saying for years that the Big East should not be an AQ conference.

So do you really think by adding Army, Navy and Air Force that is going to help?

The Big East would without question lose their AQ status and be a glorified mid-major conference. There’s no point wasting my time about the potential of WVU staying in the new Big East, well, because it’s a terrible idea, TERRIBLE!

Currently the Big East’s TV deal is worth $2oo million, the only conference who does not have a $1 billion T.V. deal. Adding the service academies and ECU is not going to help them secure a more lucrative deal.

So where does WVU land?

How about a conference that does not even exist? Let’s call this new conference the Big Southeast. The Big Southeast would be made up of 12 teams, just enough to have a championship game and this conference would most certainly be a AQ conference.

The 12 teams would be as follows: WVU, USF, Cincinnati, Louisville, TCU, Kansas, Kansas State, Baylor, Iowa State, Houston, SMU and Boise State.

Now doesn’t that sound like a pretty good conference?

You get big media markets with Houston and Dallas. You get quality teams in TCU, Boise State and WVU. You keep rivalries in tack with Kansas and Kansas State while at the same time creating new ones. The Big Southeast would have no problem whatsoever getting a billion dollar T.V. deal with Houston and Dallas as its two main anchors.

The only question I have in my dream conference is could we get Boise State to come? I believe yes.

The new conference would give them a quality schedule and allow them to actually play on T.V. If they stay in the Mountain West they are going to play the likes of Colorado State on Versus and seeing as how most people don’t watch Versus they would probably jump at the idea to play WVU on ESPN.

At the end of the day the Big Southeast will never come to fruition because it’s so simple and makes too much sense. So what do I really think will happen to WVU? Well I think they are going to stay in the Big East. A move that makes no sense especially if the Big East’s big check mate is to add Navy, Army and Air Force.

It’s so hard to believe that a school that was 60 minutes away from playing in the national championship five years ago could now be without a conference.

I personally plan to do what most Mountaineers fans will try to do and that is find a way to pin all this on Bill Stewart.

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Discussion

2 comments for “West Virginia University: A School Without a Conference?”

  1. good article. However, how about this? If my memory serves me correct because (i am not a big east follower), wasnt it WVU and L-Ville who held the Big East Together after the last raid in the early 2000. WVU under a new coach during that time, spark three 11 win season, winning four bowl games, including two against national brands such as OU and Georgia. L-Ville also went on a run as well winning a BCS game. I even recall, the WVU and the big east match up made thursday night football popular on ESPN. These actions bolded the Big East from the depts of mid america and allowed them to keep there BCS standing. I do consider WVU a brand that most known. I do think the Big East can ride the ship, and still remain apart of the big conference. USF, Cinny, L-Ville and WVU are the answer, with smart adds such as ECU, Central Fla, and Navy. WVU again is in this position, with a new exciting coach, and saturday with the world watching. Can lighting strike again… I sure hope so. That would be a story.

    Posted by rob | September 21, 2011, 10:05 pm
  2. I wish Jared would reconsider WVU… I think we deserve a spot in the SEC. In Morgantown we have a SEC environment, I hope it happens…

    Posted by ross | October 1, 2011, 5:47 am

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