WVU active in conference talks
Officials have been ‘working the phones,’ happy with Big East tie
Published: Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, June 15, 2010 22:06
After a whirlwind of changes to college athletics conferences over the last week, West Virginia University has been forced to be proactive to assure a viable future.
WVU officials are happy with its Big East Conference affiliation, but new Athletic Director Oliver Luck said he, outgoing Athletic Director Ed Pastilong and University President James P. Clements have been "working the phones."
"Our University has a tremendous time of opportunity," Luck said. "We'd love to see the status quo stay, but like every other university, we need to be smart, strategic and try to figure out if X, Y and Z happen, what are our alternatives.
"We have an opportunity … and I will guarantee you that the University administration and now with me on board that we are talking with a lot of folks to make sure we have a potential opportunity should certain contingencies take place."
West Virginia's name has been rumored alongside the ACC and SEC after Colorado bolted from the Big 12 Conference to the Pac-10 Conference and Nebraska made the move from the Big 12 to the Big Ten last week.
It is expected, because the Big 12 will continue with 10 teams, that conference expansion, for now, is expected to stop.
Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delaney said a second round of expansion for his conference could come within 12 to 18 months. It has been speculated the Big Ten would go after Big East school Rutgers at that time.
Luck said his phone conversations have been mostly to catch up and find more information about conference expansion and realignment. Clements would not say whether the University has reached out to other conferences.
"I've been trying to get the word out. People don't know that we have the most watched Thursday and Friday night football games on ESPN, so I'm trying to sell that," Clements said. He also has tried to sell WVU's academics, traditions, alumni and fanbases.
"I just have to make sure I'm touching base with the people I need to touch base with," the University's first-year president said.
Luck believes expansion and realignment will affect the Big East Conference at some point.
He said the Big East is holding a conference call with athletic directors and presidents of affiliated schools later this week. Pastilong said it will include conference expansion and realignment, but Clements called it "not a big deal" and said it was "just a call."
"The agenda has not been issued to us yet," Pastilong said. "But any conference calls that take place at this time will talk about realignment."
In the future, if WVU would decide to go to a different conference, it wouldn't necessarily have to be brought in front of the Board of Governors, Clements said. Schools like the University of Nebraska must bring a decision like that to a vote from its Board of Regents.
"I wouldn't make a major decision without talking to the Chair of the Board," Clements said, adding that BOG Chair Carolyn Long would have to decide based on the conversation whether it needed to go to the BOG for discussion. "You don't make that type of a decision without good conversation."
Long said if Clements, Luck and Pastilong came to the BOG with all the information "I would imagine we would refer to the experts."
The BOG has discussed conference expansion and realignment in the past, Long said, but not in any specific manner.
"We're kind of like everyone else," Long said. "We discussed the rumors of what is going on. Everything kind of moves quickly … Certainly this is very serious stuff and very serious to WVU, but I think between Oliver, Eddie Pastilong and President Clements we'll be fine."
Clements also addressed the issue at Monday's Faculty Senate meeting.
Pastilong said he would like to see the Big East add an additional school for football to have an odd number of teams.
"If we can get to nine, it would help us," Pastilong said. "We could do it."
Clements and Pastilong said it could be a possibility for the Big East to add a team, but Clements wouldn't speculate further.
Pastilong said expansion has been a discussion in earlier years.