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Big East mostly about basketball

By Jack Bogaczyk

MORGANTOWN - West Virginia University got an out-of-court response Wednesday to its October lawsuit filed against the Big East Conference.

Well, not officially. However, a pending resolution is nigh, with WVU paying the Big East $11 million in cash as part of a settlement to get to the Big 12 officially on July 1.

I had to figure something was going on or close to coming down Wednesday afternoon. You should have been in Athletic Director Oliver Luck's WVU Coliseum office for 45 minutes with me.

His cellphone beeped and burped incessantly with calls and texts until he muted it - like his own stance on the Big East exit strategy in recent months.

Asked about stronger-than-rumors that WVU's Big 12 home games in 2012 would be Oklahoma, TCU, Kansas State and Baylor, Luck grinned and offered a Sphinx-like, "I'd like to include that in the category I can say nothing about."

He did say, when asked about any money WVU was going to pay, that "none of it is going to be state money."

Luck spent a good part of an interview talking about golf - because all indications are that it will be the men's sport WVU will add because the Mountaineers are one short of Big 12 requirements.

And while he wouldn't much touch the Big East's Wednesday official announcement of Memphis as the conference's 12th football member and 17th all-sports program for the future, he didn't have to say what a lot of people are thinking.

What Boise State is to football, Memphis is to basketball - a mid-major that has risen above its neighborhood to build and keep a prominent program that is a national player with the biggest boys.

Yes, in finalizing its 12-team desires in football, the Big East turned to a basketball power. Surprise, surprise!

The Tigers may play in the Liberty Bowl stadium, but haven't played in a bigger bowl in history than the GMAC.

And wasn't WVU's exit for the Big 12 and its Halloween-filed lawsuit about the Big East's alleged failure to protect the football schools' interest against the wishes of the eight non-football members?

Luck did smile and fiddled with his glasses when I brought this up.

In getting to a Pigskin Dozen for 2013-14, the Big East made WVU's legal point for the Mountaineers.

The conference was founded on hoops - and great hoops it has had and still does - and that's what's most important.

One thing Luck did reference on the Big East was said through a Big 12 prism. He is a proponent of the Big 12 eventually going from its 10 members to at least 12.

The WVU athletic director said that he thought "one of the things the Big East should have done in those years, 2005, '06, '07, back then, was that they stayed at eight (football members). They weren't aggressive enough in expanding.

"The Pac-12 is at 12, Big Ten at 12, SEC at 12, ACC at 14, so I'm not sure 10 (in the Big 12) is enough."

If the Big East wanted to enhance its football profile further, its choice should have been East Carolina, not Memphis. The Pirates have been begging to get into the Big East.

They sellout a 50,000 stadium. They sellout about 24,000 season tickets. The Pirates are football first.

Memphis is a great city with some superb restaurants, but it is about basketball and great ribs.

Temple, for football only, could have been another choice by the Big East. The Owls were booted by the conference after the 2004 season, with lack of support and stadium issues cited. At that time, Owls football was no worse, record-wise than Rutgers.

Temple wasn't going to get a Big East invite, however, because fellow Philadelphia program Villanova didn't want the Owls, and the basketball brethren would have agreed.

So much for the City of Brotherly Love ... Big East basketball speaks loudly ... again.

But last year when the Big East was looking for a then-10th football member (with TCU still expected to be in the fold), Villanova was considered, although the FCS Wildcats also had Philly stadium issues - and suffered a football members backlash, which included West Virginia.

Louisville basketball Coach Rick Pitino lobbied hard for Memphis in the Big East. The Cardinals and Tigers have a long rivalry, dating back to decades-ago Missouri Valley, Metro and Conference USA days.

However, Pitino's school would jump to the Big 12 in one of his Madison Square Garden minutes if an offer came from West Virginia's future league home.

So would Cincinnati, another longtime Louisville and Memphis foe. Just ask a former Bearcats coach named Bob Huggins.

After the Big East lost WVU, Pitt and Syracuse, Pitino repeatedly urged Big East Commissioner John Marinatto to aid Big East hoops by bringing in Memphis and/or Temple.

But Big East basketball didn't need help like football did. Speaking of golf, that was WVU's teed-off contention in the torts-and-retorts of recent months.

The Big East made the Mountaineers' point for them, even if its still going to cost WVU dearly to get leave a league that now stretches from Storrs to San Diego.

Contact Sports Editor Jack Bogaczyk at or 304-348-7949.


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