Conference realignment shook the landscape of college football and basketball from 2010 to 2014. It left many schools scrambling for a major conference. Many schools were fearful of being left out and being an afterthought of college football and basketball.
West Virginia was one of those schools who needed to make plans for life after their current conference. The Big East had lost Boston College, Miami, Virginia Tech, Pitt and Syracuse. Finally in 2011 West Virginia was invited to the Big 12 and immediately accepted. After some legal battles West Virginia was in the Big 12 for the 2012 football season and moving forward in all sports.
As a tribute to West Virginia’s time in the Big East, let’s take a look at “The Run” by Quincy Wilson.
At the time it was a necessary move, but seven years later it has not proven to be a great move for the basketball or football programs. The long trips for every road game seems to grind down the basketball team later in the season. That’s not to say the basketball team hasn’t had some major success, but when your closest opponent is Iowa State, your team’s travel is a daunting task.
Success of the football program has less to do with travel, but that’s not to say flying halfway across the country every other week doesn’t have an impact. The travel rigors, combined with a schedule that is usually back-loaded, has caused some November collapses for West Virginia.
Take 2018, for example. After winning at No. 15 Texas and then blowing out TCU at home, West Virginia went on to lose their last three games at unranked Oklahoma State, at home against No. 6 Oklahoma and then in the Camping World Bowl against No. 17 Syracuse with many top players sitting out.
West Virginia also lost their final three games in 2017. At home against Texas, in Norman against Oklahoma and in the Cotton Bowl against Utah. In 2016 WVU actually won their last two regular season games before losing to the Miami Hurricanes in the beloved Camping World Bowl.
Were these losses because of the travel or because these West Virginia teams actually weren’t that good and ran into better competition? I would lean toward the latter, but all of that travel certainly isn’t helping.
WVU has seemed like an outsider during their time in the Big 12. The football team has attempted to carve out a rival by throwing up a horns down anytime something Texas-related comes around. The Big 12 has thrown West Virginia a bone by letting them play Oklahoma in the finale the last two seasons. West Virginia failed to capitalize on this when they lost at home to the Sooners with their strongest team in years, led by star quarterback Will Grier. In basketball the Mountaineers have had some wins over the top teams in the conference, but with the rivalries being established for so long, it’s hard to break through as a newcomer. TCU also joined the conference in 2012, but their location made the move make a lot more sense for them.
What if I told you there was a better option for WVU than the Big 12? I’m sure many of you have already considered this, but how is West Virginia not in the ACC? Here’s the simple two-step plan:
- Move West Virginia to the ACC. This would give the conference and odd number of members, so there are some different options for working that out. They could make Notre Dame a full member of the conference, which is unlikely. A more likely approach would be to add West Virginia along with Cincinnati. That way you are bringing in two schools who have a history together.
- Move Houston to the Big 12. Mountaineer fans are probably not terribly concerned with what happens to the Big 12 after their exit, but either way we’ll give them their solution. Bring the Houston Cougars and former Mountaineer coach Dana Holgorsen. It makes a great deal of sense on so many levels. Houston is a massive city that would be a great fit in the conference. Why hasn’t this happened already? Well now that West Virginia is in the ACC and there is opening for them, now it happens.
That’s not to say there aren’t some issues with this simple plan. For instance, West Virginia is in an insanely long conference with the Big 12. However, lawyers get paid a lot to figure out that kind of stuff.
Putting legal issues aside, how much sense does this make for West Virginia? It would re-energize the fan base (not that it needs it) by re-establishing old rivalries with Pitt, Virginia Tech, Syracuse, Boston College and Miami. There would be road games that fans would have an option of driving to. Imagine waking up for a noon game in late September against Syracuse. Wouldn’t that be better than playing them in a mid-tier bowl game in late December? Doesn’t Pitt miss some of their best friends driving up I-79 and packing their stadium every other year?
Moving to the Big 12 was a move of necessity. We get that. But after seven years in the conference, it’s obvious another move needs to be made. If offered this, both West Virginia University and the University of Houston accept this offer the day it was made.