Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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Sports column

November 29, 2012

Accident avoided despite conference expansion

BLUEFIELD — Thank goodness the SiriusXM feed lost its signal in the East River Mountain Tunnel on my way to Rocky Gap for basketball interviews on Tuesday.

There could have been a tragic accident.

It would have been at least partially my fault, but blame could also go to ridiculous comments made by Mike Aresco, the Big East commissioner, who actually said something that had me so perplexed, so confused that I was trying to scratch my head and control my Hyundai, all with large trucks weaving around next to me at the same time.

It was the second time in two days I had such a moment. The first was Monday, but at least I was sitting at the safety of my desk when a caller told me that the Daily Telegraph doesn’t cover Beaver football, and that our friends at a similar publication in Charleston does more on Bluefield than us.

Excuse me?!! No school gets as much coverage around here than the Beavers, and it’s been that way since the days of Stubby Currence.

They played 12 games this season, we were at all 12. We went on the road to Wayne, Clarksburg, Westside and Lindside, did previews on each of the games, did at least 10 features, including a player of the week article, and four Game of the Week specials on our BDTBlitz website involved the Beavers, including the game in Wayne.

Other than that, we didn’t cover the Beavers much. Sorry about that. We will try to do better.

At least I was sitting at my desk and couldn’t get injured from my reaction to that call, other than my brain in trying to figure out where that came from.

As for what caused the near miss on Tuesday, it was the continued conference expansion which won't quit rearing its ugly head all across college sports.

Is all this really necessary?

Is the Big East really all that excited about getting Tulane and East Carolina? That is apparently the Big East’s answer to losing Rutgers to the Big 10 and Louisville to the ACC. The ACC acted quickly to replace Maryland, which is making the head-scratching decision to join Rutgers in the Big 10.

College sports should be about more than football and the money to be made from television contracts. That is the reason for the moves being made. If not the money, it is trying to be more relevant, which isn’t happening for most of these schools.

Does Maryland really think it can compete in the Big 10? How will they afford it? The Terrapins recently dropped several programs because of economic issues, and now the ACC is suing them to make them pay a $50 million exit fee.

West Virginia paid $20 million to the Big East to leave for the Big 12, but call that money well spent. The Mountaineers have struggled in their first season in the new league, and that could continue for a few years, but at least they got out of this mess.

No wonder Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Rutgers and Louisville have done the same, and it won’t stop there. Cincinnati and Connecticut will be selling their souls to get out too.

Luckily the interview with Aresco was cut off as I entered the East River Tunnel, but I heard enough to nearly make me crash. He actually said, “We are building a national football conference that will compete at the highest level.”

Understand now? What national level is he talking about? It’s certainly not Division I or FBS football. No wonder I could have very easily crashed into a wall or truck in my haste to get through the tunnel to hear the rest of this comedy act.

Aresco must have political aspirations. How else could he make such comments that anyone with a brain and a little sports knowledge knows simply aren’t true.  

The Big East is simply becoming Conference USA, which is about as close to be a nationally prominent football league as my San Diego Chargers are to being a Super Bowl contender, and we all know how far away that is.

As far away as 4th and 29.

West Virginia saw the light and bolted for the Big 12. Syracuse and Pittsburgh will now be joined by Louisville in the ACC, and Rutgers is heading to the Big 10. Cincinnati and Connecticut will follow next, leaving South Florida and Temple as the holdovers from this season.

Ouch. South Florida is far from being a major program, while the Owls were actually kicked out of the Big East once before and then welcomed back with open arms.

Yet, Aresco likes the future. Does anyone else, even the schools who are joining the league? Boise State has got to be thinking like TCU and praying for a better offer so they can pay a huge exit fee to get out of the league they never played a game in, much like the Horned Frogs.

San Diego State, Southern Methodist, Central Florida, Houston and Memphis are coming to the Big East. Navy, East Carolina and Tulane will soon follow, and Brigham Young and Air Force are apparently on their radar as well to give Boise State and the Aztecs a few partners out West to be part of the Big East.

Conference USA  is trying to figure out what to do next, and they’re picking up such powers as Louisiana Tech, Florida International, North Texas and Texas-San Antonio, with Old Dominion and Charlotte following in the near future. Middle Tennessee announced Wednesday it is making the move to ‘the big time.’

Who is next? Bluefield State. They don’t have football, but the Big Blues need a new league to play in. They’re taking everyone else.

Virginia Tech is rumored to be considering the SEC or Big 12, and who knows with Virginia. The Cavaliers ARE the ACC, but so was Maryland and they’re gone. N.C. State, Florida State, Clemson, all could be on the move.  

College sports are supposed to be about the best in amateur athletics, yet all of this movement and change is driven by money, exposure and the desire to be relevant, and it’s all about football.

More change is on the way. Grand Canyon State is even moving, having announced its intentions to move to Division I and join the WAC.

What is next? Don’t worry, it’s coming soon. Just make sure you are ready for it, no need to cause an accident.

Nothing should be shocking anymore when it comes to the world of college football, which is good. It could be hazardous to your health.

—Brian Woodson is the sports editor for the Daily Telegraph. He encourages feedback at bwoodson@bdtonline.com

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