AT LUNCHTIME, I wandered downtown here in Charleston and saw an older gentleman.
He wore a WVU baseball cap. He wore an old Steve Slaton jersey.
I couldn't help but consider how many Mountaineer fans will be affected if West Virginia is left out of the national conference power grab.
News hit on Thursday that TCU was spurning the Big East, WVU's conference, for the Big 12. West Virginia is still without a stable home.
And know there are indications the Mountaineers might remain without a stable home.
When the TCU news surfaced, calls were placed. Those within the WVU circle assured that work was being done across the Morgantown campus to find a new football home. University president Jim Clements has been calling presidents of schools in the power leagues. Athletic director Oliver Luck has been burning the phone lines to other athletic directors.
But I was told the Atlantic Coast Conference, for instance, has 10 schools trying to gain admittance. Word is, if Missouri leaves the Big 12, the next in line would be Louisville, not WVU. The Southeastern Conference can have its pick.
Basically, what WVU officials have been getting is, "We respect your program. If we get to that point, you deserve consideration." (Sprinkle in yada, yada, yada wherever you see fit.)
Understand, West Virginia isn't alone. All of the schools - Louisville, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Rutgers, South Florida, etc. - without stable football futures are making calls.
Yes, WVU has a better football program than all in that paragraph. But Mountaineer officials are being told - to this point - West Virginia is a strong second or third candidate. And the fact is, those power conferences may never get to the second or third candidate.
"It's one of the most disappointing things I've seen in 35 years in the game to see this [Big East] thing break up like this," Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino told the New York Times. "We've stayed loyal to it all along. We've stayed loyal, and by staying loyal we're not sure what's going to happen to us."
No leftover Big East football school, however, has an attachment to its fans like West Virginia. None.
It is a maypole around which state residents gather. And connect. And obsess.
Fans of Rutgers, Cincinnati, South Florida and Connecticut also have area NFL teams to follow. Louisville has its horse racing. USF has its beaches. Connecticut has symphonies and black-tie affairs.
Most West Virginians have their Mountaineers.
I hear you. There are rumors about 48-hour windows and the SEC and financial plans and ...
And West Virginia is still in the Big East.