by Jordan Grove
The SEC is set to add Texas A&M. That much is known but who will be the 14th member is still very much uncertain. Mike Slive and the SEC presidents have been as quiet as possible in keeping the mysterious fourteenth team a secret. Maybe they learned something from Jim Delaney and the Big Ten last year when it came as a surprise when that conference invited Nebraska.
A few days ago Colin Dunlap, former Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writer and current radio host on 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh, posted on his twitter account that West Virginia has sent in paperwork to the SEC
That news came right on the heels of West Virginia Athletic Director Oliver Luck issuing a 62 word statement on the future of WVU in which the word “Big East” never appeared. In the statement Luck stated that West Virginia will be a national player in the changing collegiate landscape.
If what Dunlap said is true, and West Virginia has applied to be a member in the Southeastern Conference, then the Mountaineers would make a solid addition as the 14th member of the SEC and offer several assets while also fitting the criteria of an SEC school.
The Mountaineers Are One Of The Best Football Teams Available
Since joining the Big East in 1991 [Note: Using that date gives a perfect 20 year comparison & provides for conference play], West Virginia quickly established itself as one of the most dominant football programs in that conference by claiming three conference championships (and three split titles) and compete on a regular basis. Since joining their overall record is 156-85 (88-49 in conference play) while playing in 15 bowl games (5-10 bowl record). The Mountaineers have been to two BCS bowls and won both (2007 Fiest Bowl over Oklahoma and 2005 Sugar Bowl over Georgia) and also were in the 1993 Sugar Bowl (a loss to Florida). Again using the date 1991, West Virginia has gone 5-4 against SEC teams.
West Virginia Enhances The Weak SEC Basketball Play
Basketball, the second highest grossing sport in the country, is often an afterthought in the SEC unless your Kentucky, Florida, or Tennessee and sometimes Vanderbilt. The SEC West is woefully embarrassing. WVU would immediately bring in a top quality program coached by Bob Huggins who immediately fits the persona of an SEC personality. The Mountaineers have won the Big East tournament once since 1991, made the NCAA tournament eight times, advanced to the round of 32 six times, been to the Sweet 16 five times, the Elite Eight twice, and the Final Four once They’re on par with the Kentucky’s, Florida’s, and Tennessee’s in basketball.
They Possess A Rabid Fan Base
Every person even remotely knowledgeable about college football knows how fanatical SEC fans are about football. The tailgating at 5am for a 7pm kickoff shouting “Geaux Tigers”, “Roll Tide”, “War Eagle”, “Pig Sooey”, and whatever South Carolina does at opposing fan bases. SEC fans travel in droves to away games in SEC stadiums. Know who else does that? West Virginia fans. So what if the SEC will have two teams that wear dead raccoons on their head? Mountaineer fans are so crazed they burn couches to celebrate victories. They shout profanity at basketball games (like at LSU fans do in Coon’s Corner at baseball games) so loud it can be heard on national television (no one said they’re the classiest) and they wear some of the classiest shirts in all of college sports. Who does this sound like? Bingo. S-E-C!
WVU Fits In Culturally
Ever seen Morgantown on a game day? The place is deserted just like Auburn, Oxford, Starkville, Athens, and to an extent Baton Rouge, Gainesville, and Knoxville. WVU athletics are ingrained into children from an early age which is exactly something SEC fans do. Their mascot is a Mountaineer who fires a musket whenever WVU scores a touchdown. That’s badass and much cooler than cheerleaders doing push-ups after every touchdown. Also, look at a WVU dining guide and one of the first options is a Chic-Fil-A. Yeah, they would fit into the culture of the SEC perfectly.
West Virginia Fits Geographically
Last time I looked at a map West Virginia touched an SEC state. Let me check again. Yep, it still touches Kentucky. West Virginia expands the conference’s footprint while maintaining the geographic alignment which means easy rivalries with Kentucky, Tennessee, and Vanderbilt.
Alignment Is All About Money
The reason for conference realignment is to increase the amount of money each conference gets in television revenue. One of the ways that’s done is by increasing the amount of marquee conferencere games. West Virginia, a national brand, will do that. The gentleman’s agreement between SEC schools about not inviting schools already represented by a school in the SEC remains in tact. [Quick aside: I’ve gone on record stating the only school the SEC would invite that would violate that agreement is Florida State, who is still not out of the question]. The Mountaineers are a team that would help create more top match-ups. Why else would College Game Day be going to Morgantown for the first time when No. 3 LSU comes to town? West Virginia vs Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida are big games that would receive national attention.
Academics Not As Bad As Advertised
One of the major points detractors bring up for not allowing WVU into the SEC is academics. The problem with that is West Virginia is pumping money into academics and research to better their overall academic standing. They’re looking to improve student retention rate and have had 25 students receive Rhodes Scholarships to study at the elite Oxford University in England. The university also possesses top not forensics, business and economics, and law schools. Although they rank 164th in US News academic rankings, that’s only four spots behind SEC considerate Texas Tech and only seven spots behind current SEC member Mississippi State. While their academic ranking is not impressive, the WVU administration is being proactive in its approach to enhance the academic reputation of the university which is a big plus.
Is West Virginia at the top of the SEC’s expansion list? Probably not but they ARE on the list. A high ranking SEC official has said that “every option is on the table right now” concerning conference realignment. At the top of that list? It’s likely Florida State, the only ACC school that formed a committee to explore the university’s options concerning realignment. Next is likely Missouri and then West Virginia. With Virginia Tech unlikely to leave the ACC because of political pressure to keep the Hokies and UVA together, it leaves the SEC with limited possibilities moving to 14 or 16 teams.
The positives that West Virginia provide are sure to have them on the invite list to the superconference party.