MORGANTOWN — If you happen to be a fan of — or have even a passing interest in — West Virginia University athletics, you probably have an opinion on where the school rests at this moment in the ever-changing landscape that is NCAA Division I athletics.
Just to be clear here, we're not talking about the competitive balance that exists within big-time college football and men's basketball. You probably have an opinion about that, as well, and in that context you probably aren't thrilled. In the wake of 7-6 and 4-8 football seasons and a 13-19 men's basketball season that seems far more likely to repeat than to improve by much, the notion isn't so much about competitive balance as it is imbalance.
Let's face it, things just aren't going well.
Again, that's not the topic today. All schools go through periods like this, when performance on the field or the court do not measure up to expectations. Deal with it. Complain about coaching or recruiting or styles or whatever you choose. It's your right. You're a fan. That's what fans do.
No, the topic today is the broader question of where West Virginia is positioned in terms of the haves and the have-nots of college athletics. That you have an opinion on, as well. Trust me, I know. It has been an issue for decades now.
It began in earnest in the 1970s and 1980s when the football program was, along with its Eastern counterparts, adrift in independence and the basketball program was bouncing from the league to league in search of relevance.
Things improved with the formation of the Big East's football-only amalgamation in the 1990s and then the school struck gold when it was allowed a seat at that league's basketball table. There were a few years of calm before the Big East's first cracks appeared with the ACC's raid of Miami, etc., and then only a few more years before the whole thing crashed and burned.
When we say that we know you have opinions, we're talking about where West Virginia has landed since then, specifically in the Big 12.
There are those who still pine for the comfort of what was the Big East. That's understandable. As it was structured at one point it was the absolute perfect fit for WVU. That doesn't exist anymore, though, so get over it.
There are others who insist that in jumping headlong into the Big 12, West Virginia effectively slammed the door shut on what might have been a better fit; say the ACC. OK, for just a moment we'll dismiss a half a century of history and believe that somehow, someway that league might have changed its entrenched opposition to ever inviting WVU.
Just for kicks we will also sprinkle some fairy dust around the Puskar Center and the Coliseum and wins will magically begin to roll in.
And then there are others who just like to complain without forwarding any solutions. They complain about the travel and the competition and the absence of rivalries and the coaches and the administration and, for good measure, parking and salaries and reseating and just about anything else that has changed.
And you know what? In a way I think I just might have a modicum of respect (or at least sympathy) for those people. All they know is that things used to be better than they are today and they wish we could all go back. Sure, it's simplistic and wholly detached from reality, but who doesn't yearn for a simpler time?