Now I bring this up today not as a rant or to fill space, but instead because something happened late last week in San Diego that stands to change the face of college athletics. In an informal straw poll of administrators representing the membership of the NCAA, there was a clear consensus formed that the member schools of the five major conferences — ACC, SEC, Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-12 — should vote alone in at least some matters dealing with their level of intercollegiate athletics.
Quite simply, the big boys are going to decide what's best for the big boys. No more North Texas having the same voting power as Texas.
This is huge. If it happens — and it will — the members of those five conferences are going to play by their own rules. Most notably, they will begin to pay their scholarship athletes a stipend. It's the proposal that has been bouncing around for years but never got enough traction because of the financial divide that exists between the upper and lower levels of Division I.
The ramifications could be game-changing.
If you thought there existed a divide between the members of, say, the SEC and Conference USA before, just wait until the big schools begin playing by their own rules. I'm not saying that is good or bad — that's a debate for another day — just that it is undeniable. Just one for-instance: Schools in those five conferences already get the cream of the recruiting crop, but essentially only because of the status of their programs.
A scholarship to a C-USA school now pays the same as a scholarship to an SEC school. When that SEC (or Big 12, Big Ten, etc.) scholarship is actually worth more, the balance of power is naturally going to shift even more.
Anyway, back to West Virginia. Just for a moment imagine that the school had not found a landing pad in the Big 12. In the last decade WVU has played in three BCS bowls and a Final Four. Let's face it, both the football and basketball teams are a long way from that level right now, but how far would they be if they weren't in one of those five conferences?
In other words, what if they were Connecticut? Or Cincinnati? Or South Florida? Or Boise State? Maybe those schools find a safe haven, but for right now they are scared to death they're going to be relegated to second-tier status. And they should be.
Is there any question that had West Virginia not latched onto the lifeboat that is the Big 12, it would today be one of those schools? And then what would the chorus of complaints sound like?
So sure, you can complain that West Virginia's two revenue-producing sports are at low tide. And you can pin the blame anywhere you like.
Know, though, that in the long term at least West Virginia is positioned to succeed. You might not like how things have turned out in conference realignment, but very soon there will be concrete evidence as to how much worse it could have been.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1