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WVU’s conference options coming into focus

THIS SHOULD be one of the best weeks in West Virginia University football history.

The No. 16 Mountaineers are hosting the No. 2 LSU Tigers this Saturday. ESPN's College GameDay will be in Morgantown.

It's cause for excitement.

Except, that is, for conference realignment talk and, in WVU's case, fears dashing the excitement like a mother-in-law dashes a romantic moment.

The situation is as fluid and raging as the New River - with perhaps a few more twists and turns.

On Monday, University of Oklahoma regents gave university president David Boren authority to take action he deems necessary in regard to conference alignment. Then word leaked the Big East and Big 12 could merge after the raiding subsides.

Yet what is the situation in regard to WVU?

After hours of conversations, texts, etc., with those in the know, it's clear the Mountaineer athletic department is staring at two scenarios.

It has indeed turned to the Southeastern Conference. It's up to the SEC to welcome West Virginia - or turn its back. As of Monday evening, the conference had not said no to the school.

The SEC, of course, has conditionally accepted Texas A&M from the Big 12. Another, 14th, member is expected to be added and the choice might be between WVU and Missouri.

It would make sense to add WVU to balance east and west divisions, but logic and common sense aren't always ingredients in this seismic shift. The league could also move to 16 teams and accept WVU then.

The other realistic scenario is the Mountaineers get passed over by the SEC and remain in the reconfigured Big East.

What would that look like? It depends. The most reliable sources believe the Atlantic Coast Conference will continue its raid of the Big East and take in Connecticut and Rutgers.

If Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas (possibly Texas Tech as well) bolt for the Pac-12 and the SEC sops up Missouri instead of WVU, the lineup could look like this: Cincinnati, Louisville, South Florida, WVU, Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, TCU and, perhaps, Texas Tech.

One suggestion was the Big East-12 could also take in Boise State, which would be a coup.

But there are other scenarios, albeit longshots, that could unfold for West Virginia.

First, contrary to popular belief, the ACC, like the SEC, has not turned down WVU. The league has simply not acted and the Mountaineers are not high on their list.

Which leads us to a question that must be asked here: What's up with the Big Ten? If the SEC, ACC and Pac-12 are moving toward 16 schools, isn't it time Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany make noise as well?

If Delany does, Missouri could be a target. Ditto Rutgers. And both would likely rather join the Big Ten than SEC. Either Big Ten acquisition could open a spot for the Mountaineers elsewhere.

It's nuts. Villanova reportedly told the ACC it would like a membership. Big East basketball schools like St. John's, Seton Hall, Georgetown and Villanova have met to discuss contingency plans. They'd like to continue gunning for national titles.

Within the ACC, Florida State officials said they are forming a committee to explore options.

It's a free-for-all. Notre Dame, without a viable Big East for its non-football sports, could finally feel forced to join a conference, most likely the Big Ten. There's been reports the Big Ten has reached out to Maryland.

Oh, and that four-school package to the Pac-12? One very good source said eight of the Pac-12 presidents don't want all four. The California schools feel academically superior to Oklahoma State and Texas Tech. (Know that snootiness has a significant place in this story.)

But back to WVU. There are scenarios in which twists could take the Mountaineers unexpected places. It's important to understand that.

However, it's also important to understand West Virginia isn't the gleam in any conference's eye. Otherwise, the Mountaineers would already be in one of the power leagues.

WVU is likely not headed to the Big Ten or ACC. It certainly isn't going to the Pac-12.

That leaves the SEC or a reconfigured Big East. And the SEC - not WVU's officials - are making the choice here.

Anyway, it should be a good week for WVU football. Can be a great week. Unfortunately, it all won't be determined on the field.

Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, mitchvingle@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.

 

 


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