Hardesty: Big East Will Survive

WVU president David Hardesty believes that West Virginia, and the Big East conference, can survive despite the defections of three schools.

"We remian committed to rebuilding this league," Hardesty said Wednesday in response to the defection of Boston College earlier this week. "We've taken some body blows, but we will survive."

Hardesty avoided any confrontation with Boston College's decision, but did say it was "a gamble" for the northern college to play a steady diet of southern schools.

Hardesty pointed out that while there is a lot of gloom and doom surrounding the current situation, that's not the attitude he, and by extension, WVU, is taking.

"We just had 50,000 here for WVU and Rutgers," the president said. "It seems to me that there is a path to follow to create a new Big East. We're not going to let football or athletics fail just because we have some setbacks."

Despite the expected loss of television revenue due to the defections of some attractive members, Hardesty is not disposed toward providing the athletic department with tuition waivers at the moment.

"We don't think the end of self-sufficiency is near. If it comes to that, we will address it, but right now it is not. We are committed to keeping the athletic department at its current level.

"We have made a bigger commitment to private fundraising. We just completed our Building Greatness program, and the WVU Foundation is doing more work in the athletic arena. Our revenues were up $4.5 million over last year."

On the makeup of the conference, the president noted that the Big East is committed to a diversity of schools, and believes that to be a strength, and not a weakness. He noted that several different configurations have been discussed for the revamped football side of the league, including "eight teams, twelve teams, and numbers in between".

Hardesty expects that the final bill for the lawsuit currently being pursued against the defecting schools and ACC officials will be significantly more than the $400,000 figure quoted early in the process, but that the possible rewards for the suit, as well as its merits, justify it being pursued.

Hardesty also reminded media on a conference call that members of the Big East used their membership in the conference to build their programs. Although not saying so specifically, the inference to be drawn was that new schools could do likewise.

"Virginia Tech's football emergence came while part of the Big East. The same is true for Connecticut's women's basketball progam," Hardesty noted.

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