There are still several dominos to fall in college football’s great realignment of 2011, but the picture is starting to clear just a bit. West Virginia has been rumored as a potential candidate for SEC or ACC expansion over the past few weeks, but it appears that talk can quiet down. According to CBSSports.com Brett McMurphy, West Virginia officials have indicated they have been turned down by the SEC and ACC for membership.
Considering the uncertain landscape across college football, there are a lot of teams searching for a new home or at least developing contingency plans. West Virginia was a rumored target to be the SEC’s No. 14 team and under consideration to be the No. 15 or No. 16 team into the ACC.
However, the options seem to be limited for a future home for the Mountaineers.
What happens to the Big 12 will play a key role in determining where several teams will end up.
The Mountaineers could decide to stay in a revamped Big East, if the Big 12 doesn’t break apart. While this option isn’t overly attractive, the conference does have a solid building block with West Virginia, Louisville, South Florida, Cincinnati, Rutgers and Connecticut – provided none of those teams depart for the ACC. TCU is also scheduled to join the Big East in 2012. With that block of six teams to start with, the conference could look to add UCF, Houston, East Carolina and SMU from Conference USA for future members.
If the Big 12 breaks apart, there will be a lot of changes coming to all conferences. What’s left of the Big 12 – Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri – could choose to merge with the remaining schools of the Big East. Although it’s not going to challenge the SEC, Big Ten or ACC in terms of overall strength, the conference would keep an automatic bid to the BCS.
In terms of overall competitiveness, the Mountaineers are one of the top options on the board for the ACC or SEC to expand. However, with the ACC’s desire to explore adding Connecticut and Rutgers, it’s clear the move is not about play on the field.
If adding Connecticut and Rutgers helps the ACC get a better television deal or helps to strengthen the conference's hold on the East Coast, then that’s what it will take. And don’t rule out the conference from making a run at Notre Dame. It’s a longshot that the Irish will join the ACC, but the conference will at least place a phone call to South Bend.
The SEC has already taken the steps to add Texas A&M, but will need a 14th team. Is the conference waiting to pounce on Missouri or Kansas?
Barring a change of direction, it appears West Virginia will not be joining the SEC or ACC. With today’s news, all signs point to the Mountaineers sticking around in a revamped Big East or Big 12.