I am not going to try to pretend that the departure of Miami and Virginia Tech does not hurt, but I will argue that this situation could have been much worse.
Think back to the first rumors and the initial talk about this expansion. Miami, Syracuse, and Boston College were looking toward futures in the ACC. This deal would have been much more destructive to the Big East than the expansion that will occur when this is all said and done.
I have often heard this point argued as fans claim that losing our top two football programs is worse than losing the other three. I understand the basis of that opinion, but disagree that these are the two best programs in the conference. Nobody with a sane mind can argue with the success that Miami has experienced during their tenure in the Big East, but is Virginia Tech number two?
Many different qualities intertwine to make up a top notch football program. One such aspect that plays a major role is a school's history. Programs such as Notre Dame, Alabama, and USC have all experienced down years in recent history, but if you were to talk to almost any colligate coach during those down times, they would surely look at coaching positions at those schools as dream jobs that any coach would love to have. Why? It is clearly because of the history at those schools.
Programs that have been successful in the past are much more likely to be successful again. Lesser name schools make a run at the top from time to time, but it is the schools with a rich football tradition that always seem to return to glory.
Now, turn your thoughts back to the Big East. The history and traditions at schools such as Pittsburgh, Boston College, Syracuse, and West Virginia is significantly richer than the history at Virginia Tech. These schools have played for, and won national championships. They have produced college football legends such as Dan Marino, Mike Ditka, Tony Dorsett, Doug Flute, Sam Huff, Major Harris, Jim Brown, Larry Csonka, and more. No, Virginia Tech is not void of its own history, but it does not match that of the programs left behind.
I can hear you yelling at the screen now. "What has happened recently is what matters," you say. But before you close this screen out and give up on this article, let's take a look at the last two seasons. It does not get any more recent than that.
During that span, Virginia Tech's record against Big East foes was a mere 7-7. Pittsburgh (9-5), Syracuse (8-6), and Boston College (8-6) have all posted better conference records over that stretch. The Mountaineers have a 7-7 record equal to that of the Hokies, even after the 1-6 mark posted during Rodriquez's inaugural campaign. Pitt and West Virginia are two programs that are clearly rising toward the upper echelon of college football, while the men wearing orange and maroon may be slipping.
Finally, keeping Boston College and Syracuse allows the Big East to keep control of the lucrative Boston and New York television markets that were one of the ACC's top targets from the start of this mess. Like it or not, television plays a major part in college football and the Bowl Championship Series. When renegotiating the BCS structure, television companies surely will want to make these markets, as well as the Pittsburgh market, part of the deal.
Geographically, this new conference may make more sense as well. The remaining schools are all located in the same region of the United States. The ACC already had teams from Virginia and Florida, so this move certainly makes sense from a regional standpoint. A conference that contains similar schools from the same area is much more stable than a group of teams simply thrown together to make a conference.
I will admit I am an eternal optimist when it comes to Mountaineer athletics. I do, however, realize that the Big East still has a great deal of work to do in order to survive and provide the remaining schools with a conference that they can be proud of. We, as fans and Blue and Gold supporters, have little say in what will happen. What we can do is continue to show our support for our beloved Mountaineers.
With the way this story has unfolded, who knows what will happen next? Anything from joining an entirely new conference to attempting to strengthen the Big East could be a possibility. Whether it is a conference looking to expand or the individuals in charge of deciding future BCS structure, a rabid group of fans wearing gold will not be ignored.
Yes, things have changed, but it is still Mountaineer football. The Pride of West Virginia will still take the field, the Mountaineer will still fire the musket, and the sounds of "Take Me Home, Country Roads" will still echo through Mountaineer Field no matter who we are playing. The excitement that surrounded this program after two road upsets in Blacksburg and Pittsburgh should continue and enthusiasm should fill the stadium for the August 30th opener. Miami and Tech are gone so it is time for us to step up and carry the load. LET'S BRING ON THE MOUNTAINEERS!