WVU Wants to Secede

MORE FUN ON EXPANSION .  .  .  This author posits that WVU wants to encourage the FB teams to secede from the BE.  

Thursday January 27, 2011

Big East football secession not so farfetched

Column: Jack Bogaczyk

by Jack Bogaczyk

Daily Mail Sports Editor

Charleston Daily Mail

The Big East, with wise forward thinking, is looking toward a football upgrade in 2012-13 when TCU joins the league.

The soon-to-be 17-team conference also has designs on a financial enhancement in its television contract, which runs out with the 2012-13 basketball and 2013 football seasons.

Yes, 2013 - the Year of the Snake in Chinese - should be a pivotal one for the Big East, but for reasons other than the aforementioned.

Before the conference goes through the give-and-take of telecast negotiations for a hybrid, 17- or 18-team conference (with another possible addition for a 10th football school), the pigskin players should consider something similar to a proposal before the West Virginia Legislature.

There, rookie Del. Larry Kump (R-Berkeley) has introduced House Bill 2698 to allow Eastern Panhandle voters to consider whether they want to change the state geography by returning to their roots - Virginia.

Yes, that's secession ... and it has a much better chance of happening in the Big East than in our Eastern Panhandle.

When he spoke to the Rotary Club of Charleston in mid-December, first-year WVU Athletic Director Oliver Luck talked about the Big East and its "obvious divide" between the football and non-football schools, saying it was "challenging to deal with all of the diverging viewpoints."

In football expansion, with one more team expected soon to join TCU and the incumbent eight, Luck said the football schools "are concerned not only about the quantity of teams, but also the quality."

So it should be, and if the football group would break away from the Big East, those schools' revenue would increase significantly because they'd not only be sharing with fewer partners, but they'd also have plenty of hoops legs to stand on even without some of the longtime dribblers.

Cincinnati, Connecticut, Louisville, Pitt, Syracuse and WVU (all with RPIs of 37 or better on Wednesday) have the makings of a pretty powerful basketball bunch. That leaves Rutgers, USF and TCU and whomever the footballers bring in as a 10th member. Villanova adds significant value in basketball, but not football.

However, as long as the deep Providence roots are running the Big East as they have for more than three decades, the conference isn't going to fracture on its own - nor is football ever going to get out from under basketball's golf umbrella.

I understand that the NCAA Tournament shares - or "units" as they are called - can be a major sticking point if left behind or split in some sort of exit negotiations, but it's time that the football schools go their own way.

And why do a new TV deal with whatever network if some of the power brokers at schools in the conference figure on breaking away a year or two after the new contracts kick in?

Yes, the Big East's reputation is founded on hoops, and the football was pretty dreadful this past season, but football still drives the dollars in major college athletics.

The Big East football schools, as their own entity, still would be stronger in hoops than in football - although the Horned Frogs will help the reputation considerably.

It also will help that Big East football should be improved thanks to coaching moves in the last two years, not to mention the rise in an Eastern program with some tradition, Syracuse.

If you include WVU's Stewart-to-Holgorsen handoff as a coaching change made this postseason, the Big East coach ranking second in seniority is Doug Marrone at Syracuse ... and he was hired less than 26 months ago.

What's going to need to happen if the Big East football schools want to go off on their own?

Some of the strong, aggressive administrators in the group - and Luck seemingly has joined names that include Pitt Chancellor Mark Nordenberg and Athletic Directors Tom Jurich at Louisville and Tim Pernetti at Rutgers - need to lead the way in secession.

(And I can see a Luck, with his pro sports CEO background, or a Pernetti, with his network TV experience, as a commissioner of a new Big East football league, too.)

The football group should ask Notre Dame if it's in or not for all sports, then make a call as to whether the Fighting Irish stays or goes. If the footballers want to take a couple of basketball players with them for a 12-team hoops league - Villanova? Notre Dame? Georgetown? - then do some coaxing.

But the football creation is going to be stronger, even with just hoops considered, than what's left of the Big East. Those teams would find plenty of programs willing to join them - like much of the Atlantic 10.

Short of secession, looking from West Virginia's perspective, if there are too many interior relationships and forces to fracture the current Big East, the Mountaineers need to find out if it's possible to be part of an expanded, 16-team ACC.

Luck has called that potential scenario "some amalgamation of the ACC and Big East on the Eastern Seaboard." Could that be an ACC North Division of Boston College, Maryland, Virginia Tech, Virginia, UConn, WVU, Pitt and Syracuse?

Those programs with an "invested" interest in Big East football need to proactively push for their own conference sooner than later. Yes, TCU and TV deals are good answers. However, they're not the big one.

It's one thing to have to maneuver through the minefield that recurring (and recent) league fissures have caused, much less constantly hurdle an obvious fault line in your own conference. 

Contact Sports Editor Jack Bogaczyk at or 304-348-7949.

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