That’s the question everyone is asking around this town this week, even if No. 3 LSU is coming to town for what is the biggest football game in these parts since Pitt derailed the West Virginia University Mountaineers’ bid for a national championship in 2007.
It will be a whacked out, wild and, yes, drunken party time with an 8 p.m. start time for a national ABC audience and day-long celebration with college girl heartthrob Kirk Herbstreit, the man who invented the Heisman pose in Desmond Howard, and the eternal cutup Lee Corso.
But even with this, there will be a voice screaming in the background that WVU had better enjoy this now, for the future is filled with dark clouds of uncertainty.
With turncoat Pitt 80 miles up I-79 taking the low road into the Atlantic Coast Conference and bringing Syracuse along with it, two thieves in the night sneaking out the back door and taking with them the hopes and dreams of their longtime brothers and sisters of the Big East, WVU finds itself in a decaying conference from which there are only two roads to survival.
See, the college landscape is still far from settled, even with the ACC now at 14 teams and with Texas A&M heading into the SEC and with Colorado in the Pacific Coast Conference and TCU in the Big East, a move they surely regret at the present moment.
The word is that the nine-team Big East football conference, now down to seven with the defections of Pitt and Syracuse, could become a five-team conference in the future with Rutgers and Connecticut moving into the ACC, too.
That would give it a lock on the entire Eastern seaboard, from Boston to Miami, the most populace section of the country and a television market unlike anywhere else.
So what are those two roads to survival in the big time left to WVU?
The first — jumping to the SEC — is the most obvious, the most popular, but probably the least advantageous and least likely.
In today’s world the Mountaineers bring nothing to the SEC that it really needs, which translates into television market and money. West Virginia is a small, lightly populated state with an image problem. Even with a 60,000-seat stadium that it fills regularly, it is dwarfed by the likes of Tennessee and Alabama and Auburn, who put from 80,000 to more than 100,000 in their stadiums.
West Virginia offers not even a city of consequence, the situation being so bad that someone in a bar conversation offered the suggestion, jokingly, I am sure, that the only way to create such a city would be to have all the people of West Virginia move to Charleston.
But would things be better in the SEC, especially if college football goes to four 16-school super conferences and creates a 16-team playoff with the top four from each conference invited?
Perhaps not, for the competition to reach that via the SEC would be overbearing, having to finish in the top four in a league deep enough to offer Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Auburn, LSU and Tennessee as yearly opponents.
It would seem to someone not on the inside and not privy to the realignment conversations that the most sensible road would be for the Big 12, which seems to be on the brink of collapse should Oklahoma jump to the Pac-12, and the Big East to form some sort of alliance to make their own 16-team conference.
From the Big East you would have WVU, South Florida, Cincinnati, Louisville and TCU, joined by Texas Tech, Missouri, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, Oklahoma State and Baylor. That would be a 12-team conference without Texas, which has its choice of going to the SEC or the Pac-12 and will probably head west.
While it doesn’t have the glamor of the SEC, or the money, the road to a football playoff would have far fewer landmines that exist in the SEC.
True, this has become about money, but WVU seems to be a far better fit with the likes of Missouri, Kansas, Cincinnati and Louisville than it is in the SEC.
It also could keep WVU as a significant football entity in an atmosphere where no one seems to want much of anything to do with the school.
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- WVU Sports
Local lineman commits to WVU
Morgantown High offensive lineman Amanii Brown has committed to West Virginia’s 2014 recruiting class.
Brown grew up in Clarksburg before moving to Morgantown during his sophomore year of high school.
HERTZEL COLUMN- Nehlen talks evolution of football
In many ways, Don Nehlen spent the last football season feeling like a child from the ’50s who had been dropped into our modern society.
FURFARI COLUMN- Huggins says transfers not isolated case
Coach Bob Huggins will tell you that losing four players to transfer mode from his West Virginia University men’s basketball squad was not an unusual or isolated case.
HERTZEL COLUMN: Independent study of WVU finances needed
It is time someone gets to the bottom of what is going on financially within West Virginia University and its athletic department.
HERTZEL COLUMN: The gamble of leaving college early
One of the first lessons they try to get across to a student-athlete when he comes to school is the evils of gambling.
In truth, college sports still echo with the basketball point-fixing scandal from 60 years ago and a few others that have surfaced over the years, both on a professional and collegiate level.
FURFARI COLUMN: Compton fifth of WVU’s 11 consensus All-Americans
Mike Compton, who was the fifth in West Virginia University’s line of 11 consensus All-America football players, starred on the teams of 1989-90-91-92.
A 6-foot-7, 280-to-295-pound center, he not only excelled on the offensive line, but he was a team captain as a senior.
HERTZEL COLUMN: WVU has its academic ship on course
In the real world the initials APR stand for annual percentage rate, a term with which everyone who has a car loan or home mortgage is quite familiar, but in the world of college athletics it is a term that has a somewhat a different meaning.
Kendrick donates to tornado relief in name of WVU baseball
Arizona Diamondbacks Managing General Partner Ken Kendrick has made a donation of $200,000 to the Mountaineer Athletic Club in the name of the West Virginia University baseball program to the Oklahoma City tornado relief effort.
FURFARI COLUMN: Mon County prosecutor says FOIA handling OK
It wasn’t until about a week ago that I found for certain who is responsible to make sure that the Freedom of Information of Act law is enforced in West Virginia.
You may remember that in February 2013, The Dominion Post of Morgantown filed a grand total of 33 FOIA requests against West Virginia University.
FURFARI COLUMN- Guidi was all-time great wrestler, coach
Lewis Guidi, who unexpectedly died last week in Jefferson (Va.) Hospital at the age of 78, was one of the greatest wrestlers in West Virginia’s athletic history.
- More WVU Sports Headlines
- Local lineman commits to WVU