CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- At West Virginia, as it relates to the athletics conference realignment in which the university is a player, any decision on where to stay or go should not be made about money.
It should be rooted in the ability to consistently compete. Winning does not solve everything, but it sure makes life happier and easier.
The decision should be rooted in realism when it comes to the flagship school in a smaller state with limited resources.
As WVU Athletic Director Oliver Luck put it after a recent Big East gathering: "We are, and will remain, a national player in college athletics."
West Virginia can do that in the Big East, Big 12 or Southeastern conferences. It can do it easier and more handily and consistently in some than in others. Whatever WVU does, it is hedging its bets against other dominos falling.
The Big East has another meeting on Nov. 1 (previously scheduled, prior to the upheaval caused by the Pitt and Syracuse exits). WVU may know where it's going before then, but if it doesn't, it probably needs to have a handle on it by that gathering.
It's fair to assume the Big East and its basketball schools will want answers at that time on who's in and who's out because any expansion won't take place without that. It's fair to assume they could push for a vote to raise the withdrawal fee from $5 million, perhaps as much as triple it.
Big East balloting on policy change and membership need a three-fourths majority (or 11 of 14 right now; TCU is not yet a voting member and Pitt and Syracuse won't get votes as exiting members).
The entire membership votes on any membership additions, not just football members on football-only schools. So, a Marquette or DePaul would vote on a Navy admittance for football.
If this conference upheaval is still in flux, I don't know if the Big East can get 11 votes on a hiked exit fee, because four or more football members still may be trying to figure out where they could land.
Also, any move to raise exit fees is a vote going into effect in future school years (as we learned in the Big 12, when Texas A&M left). So, anyone leaving the Big East this year is still on the $5 million, 27-month plan.
Luck isn't asking my opinion - and WVU President Jim Clements has said so little on this subject compared to some other Big East leaders that we've been getting more stuff from Coach Dana Holgorsen's closed practices - but here's what I think:
If WVU is offered a spot in the Big 12, it should go there. If not, the Mountaineers will remain an elite member of the Big East, one of the cornerstones in the league (and with Rutgers the only remaining original members of the football conference founded in 1991).
As for the SEC, it's a dream by many among WVU fandom, and it might soon become a reality. It also could be a nightmare for the Mountaineers. I don't think WVU should make that very large football leap.
If the SEC chooses WVU and the Mountaineers say yes, well, I'm wrong for now ... but I'll be right about what it will take for WVU to compete.
Simply put, West Virginia will not be as nationally relevant in football - on a consistent basis - in the SEC as it would with its other options.
Yes, WVU can make about $10 million more annually in SEC revenue sharing than it does in the Big East now. But the expense is greater, too. The Mountaineers would need to build, build, build. They would need a new baseball field; they may need to add sports, like golf and softball.