MCT REGIONAL NEWS
By Mike Casazza
Charleston Daily Mail, W.Va.
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services
Sept. 19--MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- The Big East Conference dealt with two questions about its future over the weekend.
What just happened?
What happens now?
Syracuse, an original member when the conference formed in 1979, and Pittsburgh, which joined three years later, were quickly accepted into the Atlantic Coast Conference Sunday. The conclusion of a brief courtship jeopardizes the future of the Big East and all its leftover members, including West Virginia.
"I believe things will be all right," said Drew Payne, chair of WVU's Board of Governors. "How it's going to end up, how it's going to come down, I don't think we know what that will be, but we will be in one of the major conferences that survive."
WVU representatives spent Sunday on the phone calling around to evaluate the landscape as well as all possibilities and the potential of each. One source said the Mountaineers had conversations with the ACC and the Southeastern Conference. WVU is open to remaining with the Big East if it adds members from the Big 12, but would also prefer to go to the ACC, and then the SEC. WVU is open to joining either the ACC or SEC.
Athletic Director Oliver Luck and President Jim Clements did not return messages. Luck issued a statement late Sunday afternoon reinforcing Payne's position.
"No matter how the college athletic landscape changes, there is no doubt WVU is and will remain a national player," Luck wrote.
Head football Coach Dana Holgorsen said he's not concerned with what he cannot control and trusts WVU's decision-makers.
"My total focus on the preparations for LSU," he said of Saturday's game between the 16th-ranked Mountaineers and the second-ranked Tigers. "I have complete faith in President Clements, Athletic Director Oliver Luck and our campus leadership to do what ever is in the best interest of WVU."
Payne would not discuss those specifics, but said they exist and that he maintained confidence.
"There are a couple of different options, but I think we'll be taken care of in the end," Payne said.
WVU has been in the Big East since 1991 and 1995 in basketball, but has been passed over by the ACC during two expansion episodes. The Big East may attempt to preserve itself by adding schools from other conferences.
"I think we need to be -- and if we weren't already, we better be -- proactive in securing some other people," WVU men's basketball Coach Bob Huggins said. "Obviously, the two leagues that are getting attacked are the Big East and the Big 12."