CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Usually, this week gives me a spring in my step as the West Virginia Conference tournament hits Charleston.
I get a spring in my step because, well, it signals spring is just around the corner. And I get a spring in my step because the event brings back fond memories.
This year's event, however, brings a fall to my countenance. It brings a sadness.
For this will be the last real stand of what we've come to know and love as the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
After this school year, most conference members will move to something called the Mountain East Conference. The Civic Center's John Robertson said negotiations are ongoing to keep the hoops tournament in town, at least for next year.
But I simply can't wrap my arms around this MEC replacing the WVC. Our WVC.
I duly note the West Virginia Conference has had its flaws. Yet it's been our conference. It's been the Mountain State's conference. There's never been a need for the word "east." Since 1924.
Here's what the WVC's most time-honored icon had to say about the Mountain East on Tuesday:
"I don't know much about it."
That was from former Fairmont State coaching legend Joe Retton.
Few do know much about it. It will be starting from scratch. It will be trying to build a brand, which will take years, if not decades.
Yes, WVC tournament crowds have dwindled. Yes, some programs needed to step up and act like NCAA Division II schools rather than NAIA schools.
But the WVC has always worked through differences. It took the tired, the poor, the huddled schools yearning to breathe free. It allowed the possibility for schools like Bluefield and Ohio Valley to dream and contribute to a long, rich tradition - an 89-year tradition.
This move seems like change for the sake of change.
"We'll have to see what develops," said Retton, now 81. He then added, "Sometimes change has to occur."
Indeed. My question: Was such a drastic change necessary? A conference call to bring in Virginia-Wise fell a couple votes short and 89 years of tradition are tossed?
What I think those in charge didn't understand is this ragtag WVC conference has meant something to us.