It was only nine years ago when West Virginia left the Big East and headed to the Big 12, but soon it could be in for another drastic change.
Earlier this week it was reported that Texas and Oklahoma were looking at the possibility of leaving the Big 12 Conference and joining the SEC. Not only would this change the landscape of the Big 12, but it would likely lead to a total change of the “Power Five” conferences as we know it.
As it stands today, there are five conferences that seem to rule college sports– the ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Pac 12 and SEC.
Let’s say Oklahoma and Texas did leave the Big 12 and went to the SEC or any conference for that matter, meaning the Big 12 would be left with eight teams: Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, TCU, Texas Tech, and West Virginia. Although one could argue that these eight teams could still hold a conference together along with the additions of a handful of other schools, it is unlikely that is sustainable in the long run without the national brands of Oklahoma and Texas. Not only do these two schools bring in a lot of viewership to the conference, but it keeps the conference relevant in football which is the biggest money maker for these conferences.
If Texas and Oklahoma do move on from the Big 12 where does that leave West Virginia. Obviously it would not be smart for West Virginia to stay in the Big 12 if those two powers are gone. The travel situation is already not great compared to the rest of the conference, but without Texas and Oklahoma it could be the end of the Big 12 as we know it and West Virginia cannot get caught without a plan.
However far down the road this might be, West Virginia Athletic Director Shane Lyons should already be making calls about a possible move to the ACC or Big 10.
Geographically both of these moves make sense, with teams such as Maryland, Penn State, Ohio State, and Rutgers that are all within close proximity to West Virginia being in the Big 10. While schools such as Pitt, Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Louisville are all in the ACC and are all a lot closer than any of West Virginia’s current Big 12 opponents.
If West Virginia did have a choice however to pick what conference they would want to move to, the ACC would be the best choice due to the location of opponents and the quality of competition across all sports.
For the sake of this argument let’s say that Texas and Oklahoma bolt to the SEC, then causing a domino effect of West Virginia and Notre Dame joining the ACC full time.
Starting with the obvious is football. If Notre Dame were to join the ACC, there would be at least two Top-10 teams (Clemson and Notre Dame) in the ACC on a yearly basis. Then include schools such as Miami, Louisville, Virginia Tech, and North Carolina who have shown the ability to have good teams in recent years as well as the emergence of West Virginia and the ACC could be just as strong as the Big 12 was in recent years.
In basketball, the ACC boasts blue bloods of Duke and North Carolina along with recent powers such as Virginia and Florida State. Add West Virginia to that group and the ACC would probably be the best college basketball conference in the country.
Even in sports such as baseball and women’s soccer this move makes sense. This past season the ACC sent seven teams to the College World Series in baseball, compared to only four making it from the Big 12 (one being Texas). This move makes sense for women’s soccer too. Although West Virginia has been the standard in the Big 12, moving to the ACC would have them go up against some of the top teams in the country with four teams finishing in the Top-10 this year. Add West Virginia to the ACC and half of the country’s Top-10 teams in women’s soccer from this past season would reside in the ACC.
Obviously this move will not take place tomorrow, and there probably will not be any significant movement taking place in the near future (although I could be wrong). For the time being West Virginia will still have to take long plane rides and recruit to go play across the country. A move to the ACC would put West Virginia back in a more traditional area for recruiting purposes and would allow the fan base to be able to travel to more games.
This move would make sense financially for West Virginia too. According to a report in the USA Today, in 2019 “the Big 12 reported $439 million and payouts ranging from $38.2 million to $42 million.” Contrast that to the ACC who “reported $455.4 million (payouts from $27.6 million to $34 million across 14 schools, plus $6.8 million to Notre Dame).” Add in West Virginia and Notre Dame full time as well as $240 million from the ACC’s television deal with ESPN, and West Virginia could be making more money on a year-to-year basis.
Money aside, if I were Shane Lyons or President Gordon Gee, I would be making the necessary phone calls to find out what has to be done to get to the ACC in the event that Texas and Oklahoma do move on from the Big 12.
Moving to the ACC would not only benefit recruiting, but it would bring back rivalry’s, be better for the players, could bring in more money and improve competition across many sports for West Virginia athletics.