WVU could have been in bad situation

This past week’s announcement by the ‘Catholic 7’ that they have reached an agreement with the Big East to leave the struggling conference in July to form their own-basketball first-conference and that they were taking the name ‘Big East’ with them made me pause to wonder where West Virginia University would be if Director of Athletics Oliver Luck had not used his many contacts to help get the Mountaineers into the Big 12.

First, my thoughts went towards Connecticut, South Florida and Cincinnati-the teams left behind to pick up the pieces of what will be a mere shadow of a conference that was dominant in basketball and, at times, part of the national landscape in football.

WVU could have found itself in the same scenario facing that trio.

Yes, first-year commissioner Mike Aresco reminds anybody who will listen that the conference will remain strong with the addition of several programs over the next 12 months. The captain of the Titanic probably gave likewise ‘words of comfort’ to the thousands of passengers on board his ship before it became evident that it would not survive the night.

One only can imagine how the athletes at UConn, USF and Cincy feel about going from a conference that possessed an automatic berth in the BCS and was known for placing as many as 11 of its members into March Madness to one that will be considered more as a mid-major than major challenger for a national title.

Then, my thoughts drifted toward the fans of the old gold and blue.

A less-than-forecasted football season combined with a dismal showing by the men’s and women’s basketball teams in their first season in the Big 12 has many wondering if Luck and the Mountaineers jumped ship too soon.

Yes, the competition is more stiff than expected and, yes, the ability to travel to away games has become a more expensive proposition. Throw in the later-than-normal game times as well the absence of any ‘real’ rivalries and it is easy to understand why Mountaineer fans are a little more than upset over the present situation.

Despite all of that, however, WVU has a home-at least for the next 13 years-and that is something the above mentioned trio of programs cannot point to with any kind of certainty.

There are problemsWVU must work out (travel, for example). But, in the long term, none are going to be more difficult to handle than if WVU had become one of those left behind programs looking for a stable home, but not finding one and facing life as a possible independent when every other major program was banding together in what will become the ‘super conferences’ of the future.

Money, coaching and attracting top-notch athletes to Morgantown become the keys to fixing WVU’s woes.

The TV contract with the Big 12, which reportedly has the Mountaineers raking in a cool $20 million, should alleviate any worries with the first. The other two? Those are topics for future columns.

Contact Jim Butta at jbutta@newsandsentinel.com