WHEN IT comes to college athletics these days, one needs a program to keep up with the programs. In football, there are polls and computer rankings. There are league standings. Conference realignment is affecting all.
And now, in addition to all that, the difficult-to-understand Bowl Championship Series might be undergoing a makeover. Reports say BCS leagues might sever ties with their bowls and simply concentrate on a No. 1-2 national championship matchup. The BCS bowls - Rose, Sugar, Fiesta and Orange - would have more freedom. Matching up last season's Big East champ, Connecticut, against Oklahoma (a 48-20 Sooner rout), for instance, would no longer be necessary.
If that comes to pass?
West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck is even more pleased his program is moving from the Big East to the Big 12.
"In my mind, if we do go back to the old system, where conferences realign themselves with bowls, I can't see any of the big bowls wanting Big East teams," Luck said in a telephone interview.
Unless the Big East makes major moves, Luck is correct. Fiesta Bowl officials didn't want Connecticut last season. In 2009, the Sugar Bowl certainly didn't want to match up Florida with the Big East's Cincinnati (a 51-24 Gator rout). The year before, the Orange took Virginia Tech and the Bearcats (a 20-7 Hokie victory). How about after the 2006 season, when the Orange Bowl had Louisville and Wake Forest?
In most cases, these bowls would rather have the No. 3 or 4 Southeastern Conference team than the Big East champ. So the automatic qualifying system might go out the window.
Perhaps that's why BYU, Boise State and Air Force haven't signed with the Big East yet. If there's no AQ, there's little appeal to joining the conference. (Except, perhaps, a decent television contract. Perhaps.)
"It remains to be seen whether we move to that model," Luck said of the bowl structure. "But I think that would make our recent move [to the Big 12] all the more valuable."
It's been argued that WVU would have a better chance of reaching the higher-profile bowls by staying in the Big East. The current BCS bowls, as well as, perhaps, the Cotton, could use a rating system and take the top eight to 10 teams regardless of conference affiliation. Then again, the bowls could play off league ties and take whichever teams strike their fancy.
"It will make the delineation even more pronounced between the haves and have-nots," Luck predicted.
He predicts the remaining power conferences - SEC, Pac 12, Big Ten, ACC and Big 12 - would dominate the slots in the more prestigious bowls, which is why WVU is fortuitous to be jumping to the Big 12.
"We were fortunate to get out," said the WVU AD. "We got out [of the Big East] when the ship was seriously going down. I mean, only the tip of the sail was showing."
He focused on the AQ.
"If the AQ goes away," Luck said, "a Big East team will be forced to go unbeaten. That's doable. [Conference USA member] Houston, for instance, has a claim. But even then, would that team go into the top 10?
"If the goal is to go to a BCS game, it's better to play in one of the power conferences."
Indeed. The take from here is a school like WVU can stay in a weaker conference, defeat lesser opponents and try to beat one of the traditional big boys in a bowl. (If it can get there in a new system.) Or it can play better opponents and strive to become one of the big boys.
Will that be difficult?