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Big East collapse, WVU notes and Austin

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- WEST VIRGINIA UNIVERSITY athletic director Oliver Luck didn't seem surprised the Big East "basketball only" schools were reportedly very near a split from the league's "football" members.

"I'd argue that if it wasn't completely inevitable, it was headed in that direction," Luck said.

Of course, WVU already split the league and joined the Big 12. All that's left for Luck and his school is to watch the fallout if the seven Catholic basketball-playing schools do indeed break away.

"The [Big East] basketball schools, I'm sure, didn't see the value of adding schools like SMU and Tulane," Luck said. "What's the point?

"I can tell you when we were in the league, the basketball schools weren't supportive of football schools like SMU, Central Florida and Tulane coming in. Tulane might have been the last straw. Providence, I'm sure, had no interest in going to New Orleans to play Tulane."

The Catholic schools, he explained, were all about making the NCAA tournament, which paid more than the Big East television package. Watering down the collective hoops schedules and Rating Percentage Index numbers does not help schools make The Dance.

Also, without football money, basketball schools must be more aware of costs like travel. Flying across the country when opponents are plentiful in the northeast makes little sense.

In a way, though, the timing is a bit unfortunate for WVU. See, there's an outside shot the Big East will cease to exist. If the Catholic schools bolt and the football schools scatter to other conferences, there might not be a Big East.

WVU, you might remember, paid $20 million to exit. Had it stretched out the payments, a case could be made to stop sending checks. But, after looking at different payment models at the time, West Virginia officials decided to submit the exit fee and cut ties immediately. The deal is already done.

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  • Luck said a hot topic of late within the Big 12 has been future football non-conference scheduling, with NCAA playoffs on the horizon.

    "There's some discussion about how the playoff system should impact us," Luck said. "What's the right balance? It's worth discussing. Should we as a conference have any guidelines, similar schedules?

    "My take is we should schedule [non-conference games] regionally if we can. I think we should play Maryland, Pitt, Virginia Tech and Penn State, if they're interested and available. With the schedule we play in the Big 12, I don't know if we need to do as we did in the past and play teams like LSU to help with our season ticket package."

    That said, Luck has concerns with the line of thought. The Pitt series is over and Panther officials might not be interested when the school hits the ACC. Tech is already there. Penn State is in the Big Ten.

    "And I like the Maryland series," he said. "But Maryland is moving to the Big Ten. [Terrapin officials] might say, 'Whoa.' My priority, though, is to stay as regional as we can."

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  • While Luck was on the horn, I asked about a few other issues. He said the Monongalia County Commission voted to approve plans and tax increment financing for a project that would include a new baseball stadium, available to WVU.

    "The last remaining piece is for the [state] legislature to approve a sales tax TIF," Luck said.

    He said a compromise was worked out with the city of Morgantown in regard to basketball parking along Monongalia Blvd. ("That was just a little tempest in a teapot," Luck said.)

    The AD also said those in charge of the New Era Pinstripe Bowl ticket sales were happy. ("I spoke to Mark Holtzman of the bowl," Luck said. "He told me overall sales are healthy and the sales from the schools are very solid.")

    Lastly, some WVU fans grumbled after the Mountaineers' basketball loss to Duquesne. The complaint was West Virginia shouldn't be playing at DU. Why continue?

    "To play in Pittsburgh," Luck said. "That's the short answer. But it's a fair question. We played at the Consol Energy Center, but it's not as if the arena was filled."

    Indeed, the arena wasn't close to being filled.

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  • And finally ...

    Tavon Austin fans should be on the lookout for today's release of the Football Writers of America Association All-America team.

    WVU football SID Mike Montoro studied the NCAA rulebook and found that Austin, while not in the running as a unanimous All-America player, could become a consensus honoree.

    See, the NCAA recognizes five All-America teams: the Associated Press, American Football Coaches Association, FWAA, Sporting News and Walter Camp units.

    Austin made the first team of the Associated Press and AFCA units. He was a second-team pick among Walter Camp honorees. (The Camp group doesn't include an all-purpose player.) Austin didn't make the Sporting News list, which has but one team.

    Anyway, Austin's fate apparently hinges on the FWAA's choice between Kent State standout Dri Archer and Austin. Archer made the Sporting News and Camp teams as a kick returner. If one of the two make the FWAA team, he will be a consensus pick.  

    Research shows the FWAA has gone with a kick return position instead of an all-purpose slot. That seems to favor Archer, which has better return statistics.

    We shall see.

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


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