More than meets eye in breakup of WVIAC
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The social networking world of Twitter and Facebook exploded last week with the news of the breakup of the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
Traditionalists came out of the woodwork to express their dismay with the word that the WVIAC would be no more.
The nine football-playing schools would secede from the league and create their own conference.
In: Charleston, Concord, Fairmont State, Glenville State, Seton Hill, Shepherd, West Liberty, W.Va. Wesleyan, W.Va. State.
Out: Alderson-Broaddus, Bluefield State, Davis & Elkins, Ohio Valley, Pitt Johnstown, Wheeling Jesuit.
Speculation abounds that this is about some disgruntled presidents and football minds who were tired of the league being spat upon when the time came for postseason bids to be given.
There's a little more to it than that.
Let's just hope they did their homework before jumping to potentially disastrous conclusions.
This is a risky proposition for the nine institutions to recruit three schools and create a 12-team all-sports conference possibly stretching from Pennsylvania (Seton Hill), through the Mountain State to spots west and south of West Virginia - Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina?
Reid Amos, the vice president of broadcasting at West Liberty State University and a longtime radio and television personality in the WVIAC, is the spokesperson for the move. West Liberty President Robin Capehart - also the president of the league - invited each school's brass to meet. Despite the connection, don't think for a minute that West Liberty is solely responsible for this move.
One school can't be held accountable for moving mountains without many others also pushing.
The idea is that a 12-team league would allow each conference football team to play one another once without the need for non-conference scheduling.
That makes sense.
The divide is supposedly rooted in different philosophies of progressivism.
The University of Charleston, for example, has steadily moved forward as one of the three private schools - Seton Hill and W.Va. Wesleyan are the others - included in the proposed secession.
West Liberty State University, one of the public schools involved, has been as aggressive as any in moving into the future - particularly in terms of technology.
Oddly, West Virginia State - long considered one of the financially stagnant football programs in the conference - was included.
I guess because the Yellow Jackets have a football program.
Still, by the time this new league gets off the ground, won't Alderson-Broaddus have one too?
A-B, which has broken ground on a football facility, will begin the program as a club sport this fall and is expected to become a Division II program in 2013. I'm curious why the Battlers weren't included in this conversation. By the time this new league gets off the ground in two seasons, A-B should be ready to fill out a Division II schedule.
I don't deal much in speculation, so I tried to reach A-B President Rick Creehan to get his thoughts on the matter, to no avail.
There isn't much more to being progressive than starting a football program, right?
Don't forget about the ever-improving level of basketball success in the conference that will potentially be left out of postseason play for a couple years.
NCAA bylaws stipulate, until August 2013, that new conferences will not be permitted to receive an automatic bid until their third year of existence.
A bid to get the second year waived had been rejected by the NCAA championship committee, for fear it would start a precedent.
Under legislation that passed last year, the waiting period for new conferences to earn an automatic bid increases to five years at the beginning of the 2013 athletic season. Great American Conference Commissioner Will Prewitt, who was part of the WVIAC for 12 years, isn't sure how that will affect new league, which plans to submit its application for membership by December.
There is the outside possibility that the new conference could take the WVIAC's place in NCAA Division II and not have to wait the required time, but that's also an unknown.
West Liberty Coach and Clarksburg native Jim Crutchfield has led the Hilltoppers to the Elite Eight in each the last two seasons.
He said it might not matter, since usually the best teams get in anyway.
His concern is what happens to the WVIAC Tournament, which began in 1936.
"Big crowd or small crowd, I like the West Virginia Conference Tournament," Crutchfield said. "That's the part I'm going to miss. I haven't even thought about how this might affect us.
"I'm very sad to see our affiliation with the conference end. The presidents work in the best interests of their schools. This is a very tradition-rich conference. I'm going to miss rivalries that might not happen anymore."
Last season four teams - West Liberty, UC, Wheeling Jesuit and Wesleyan - represented the WVIAC in the Atlantic Region Tournament. The Hilltoppers won the regional championship for the second consecutive year, but it was a banner year for the league to put four teams in - three at-large and tournament champion West Liberty.
Who knows if that would happen again?
All of this will come out in the wash in the coming months, but there's more to this fire than smoldering embers.
UC President Edwin Welch said they're still early in the process, but I'm inclined to believe they've given this more thought than having a meeting one day, and revealing their intentions to the press the next.
The differences between members of the league have existed for decades, with one of the most divisive issues being the public-private debate - sound familiar?
We'll still have a league with a mixture of publics and privates, and some haves (UC and have-nots (W.Va. State).
Which makes me question whether or not this is really a move for progressive reasons.
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Rich Stevens at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4837.