Morgantown, West Virginia – With USC and UCLA announcing that they are moving to the Big Ten Conference, the entire landscape of college athletics has completely changed and will likely lead to several other dominoes falling in the coming days.
There seems to be a sense that West Virginia would be lucky to get an invite from the ACC if/when the Big 12 inevitably crumbles.
West Virginia, critics say, is a small market and doesn’t offer the conference major television viewership. In addition, West Virginia doesn’t meet the academic standards of the ACC.
While these criticisms are fair to a certain extent, the pros of adding West Virginia to the ACC far outweighs the cons.
Passionate, loyal fanbase
Pitt is in the ACC. While they have a far better academic ranking, they have a difficult time giving tickets away for their conference football games, regardless of the opponent. Attendance and ticket sales in a sports conference should be much more important than academics.
West Virginia’s fanbase is one of the most loyal and passionate in the entire nation, and selling out conference home games would not be a problem, particularly against geographic rivals.
Natural, geographic Rivals
No team in the the ACC gets excited to play Pitt right now. The same could be said for Boston College, Louisville and Syracuse.
Adding West Virginia immediately brings spirited, impassioned rivalries with Pitt, Virginia Tech, Virginia, as well as old Big East rivals Miami, Boston College and Syracuse.
West Virginia belongs in the ACC, both in terms of geography and rivalries with many of the teams currently in the conference.
State of the Art Facilities
West Virginia has one of the nicest, most up-to-date basketball practice facilities in the country, and recent football renovations put West Virginia near the top of the Big 12 conference in terms of upgraded facilities.
Director of Athletics Shane Lyons has made growth and renovations a real priority, and it’s going to pay off not only in recruiting but also when the school is seeking out membership in a new conference like the ACC.
There’s no way to sugarcoat it, West Virginia University’s academic ranking (#241) is extraordinarily low, but it has recently upgraded to a Tier 1 research university and has one of the most respected presidents in the country in E. Gordon Gee.
Shane Lyons and E. Gordon Gee are the absolute two best people to make a compelling case to the ACC that they belong. Both are highly respected and experienced. Lyons is the former associate commissioner of compliance and governance for the ACC, and is the chairman of the Division 1 Oversight Committee. If anyone can convince the ACC that West Virginia should be added, it’s Lyons and Gee.
While there will always be detractors who insist that West Virginia won’t add much to the ACC, it’s clear that the positives eclipse the negatives. If the ACC is wise, the Mountaineers will soon be where they belong, playing against their natural, geographic rivals.