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Elliott: Time for West Virginia to Make a Move

October 8, 2011
The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

Wouldn't it have been fun to have been a fly on the wall at last Sunday's meeting of Big East Conference leadership and its member presidents?

It would have had to have been entertaining to watch those distinguished ladies and gentlemen keep one eye on the topic and the other on the door.

It was there that league commissioner John Marinatto was told by school officials - including those from Texas Christian University - to aggressively pursue expansion. TCU president Victor J. Boschini Jr. went so far as to assure the commish his school was committed to the league (for at least four more days). They also discussed increasing the Big East's exit fee, currently at $5 million, to give existing members, and potential newcomers, a sense of stability.

That's laughable.

TCU officials thought it was so funny, they decided to leave the Big East for the Big 12 on Thursday, further pushing the tattered remains of the league's football conference into dire straits, while continuing to hammer home the fact that the word commitment means absolutely nothing in major college athletics.

When Pitt and Syracuse announced they were bolting for the ACC a three weeks ago, TCU officials were plenty upset. ''What did we get ourselves into?'' was the thought. Don't worry, it wasn't anything a big check couldn't get them out of, chump change for the Horned Frogs now that they've aligned themselves with a revenue-sharing Big 12 that is a lot closer to Fort Worth, Texas, than it is to Storrs, Conn.

At the moment, the Big East is looking at a six-team football conference next season. You have to have seven to even be considered for automatic BCS qualification. There's talk of East Carolina, Air Force, Navy, Temple, and Central Florida as possible replacements, and Villanova moving up the the FBS level in football.

If any or all of that happens, it would still be an upset if the league were able to maintain its automatic BCS bid. This is the second time in less than a decade the Big East has been raided by other conferences. It's getting to the point of unsustainable.

Despite a billion rumors that have West Virginia going to the SEC as early as two months ago, school officials have said nothing. You'd think that by participating in those Big East meetings, where again, the idea was supposed to be unity, WVU officials were leaning toward rebuilding the league's football mess and staying in a men's basketball conference that, despite the loss of a pair of Top-15 programs, remains among the best in the land.

They can't possibly still be considering that.

Remember West Virginia athletics director Oliver Luck's promise - ''No matter how the college athletic landscape changes, there is no doubt WVU is and will remain a national player?''

That can't possibly happen in this Big East.

It seems only a matter of time before the Mountaineers start begging someone else to take them, if they haven't already. It's time to look out for No. 1 - or get left behind.

Mountaineer Madness

next Friday

The WVU men's and women's basketball programs will tip off the 2011-12 season with Mountaineer Madness on Friday at the Coliseum.

The doors will open at 6:30 p.m. with the on-court portion of the program to start at 7:30 p.m. Admission is free and open to the public.

Women's coach Mike Carey and men's coach Bob Huggins will each address the crowd, the players will be introduced along with the raising of NCAA Tournament banners. The men's team will compete in a slam dunk contest and scrimmage. The event will conclude with a one-hour autograph session, with all players and coaches available on the court.

The women's team officially opened practice Sunday, while the men's team will begin practice Saturday, Oct. 15.

Jim Elliott can be reached via e-mail at: elliott@theintelligencer.net