WVU: The View from the Dark-Conference Nightmare

It's gotta be every Mountaineer's nightmare. But imagine how much worse it would be if you were the Director of Intercollegiate Athletics at West Virginia University...

There you sit in the waiting room outside the office of the Commissioner of Conference-USA. You sit with all your top aides. You sit awaiting the pitch of your career; it's purpose simple -- to salvage as best you can the department you have spent your life serving.

And what a difficult salvage job it is. Three of your conference mates, including Miami and Syracuse are bound for the ACC. That decision, which at once gutted your conference and forever changed the landscape of Mountaineer sports, had a cascade effect across Division 1-A football. In rapid fashion, the Big Ten, spurned yet again by the school they covet, Notre Dame, settled for raiding the Big 12 and took Missouri. The Big 12 in turn looked west and took BYU. The PAC 10 has also announced they will expand to 12.

Recognizing that there simply wasn't enough leftovers to reconstitute a viable Bowl Championship Series caliber football conference, the Big East Commissioner did all he could to convince C-USA to take three of the best remaining from the now defunct Big East, including Pitt and WVU, as a packaged deal. But they didn't bite. C-USA now held all the cards. Expansion to 12 or 14 football schools made no difference. C-USA would inherit the Big East's automatic slot in the BCS regardless.

And so they decided only 12 it would be.

And so there you are, waiting your turn. Only one would be invited to join. The other two would be left out of a BCS conference to call home. And even if you are fortunate enough to get that invite, you fear that upper deck on the grand stadium may not be needed.

So it has come down to this -- the only thing left to you is salvage what you can.

The Commissioner's door opens and out walks the entourage from the University of Pittsburgh. The head football coach is his usual stoic self but the self-involved President lets a smirk cross his face as you make eye contact.

The Commissioner welcomes you into his office and anxiously, you begin your pitch. You talk about how WVU has historically lead the Big East in football season attendance, without mentioning that had waned in recent years. You talk about how the Mountaineers travel well. You let him know that WVU historically lead the Big East in producing academic all-conference performers. And you remind him that the Mountaineers played for at least a share of the national championship twice over the last 15 years.

The subject of media markets never comes up. Doesn't have to; it's clear from the Commissioner's direct approach that he has already done his homework.

You see an opening when the Commissioner states that Olympic sports are an emphasis in C-USA. You laud the long and storied history of WVU's Olympic programs -- the All-Americans, national championships and Olympic medallists.

One of your Assistant AD's gently elbows you in the side. You look at him with disdain and then return your attention to the Commissioner. You make an impromptu decision and inform him that you are prepared to reinstate the sports WVU previously announced would be eliminated.

Sometime later, the meeting ends. As you make your exit, the head basketball coach of the University of Cincinnati is shown in. The Commissioner welcomes him profusely.

You overhear the Commissioner ask him his opinion regarding the financial viability of WVU athletics.

You've done your best, but you don't have a good feeling about any invitations coming your way.

But then, there's always that "magnanimous" offer from that other West Virginia school to sponsor your membership into their conference.

You wake up screaming. At first, you think it was all just a very bad dream. But slowly you realize it's not.

The nightmare is real.

And you also realize that you will not be getting much sleep -- no, not much at all -- in a very long time.

Jason Todd is a contributing columnist for BlueGoldNews.com.

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