Oliver Luck: West Virginia happy to get off the sinking ship that is the Big East

Dr. Saturday

West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck isn't exactly taking the high road as his Mountaineers hightail it out of the Big East and to the greener pastures of the Big 12. Instead, he's burning the bridge.

Luck told the Charleston Gazette last weekend that West Virginia was lucky to get out of the Big East, which is now struggling to fill out its football membership after the Mountaineers, TCU, Pitt and Syracuse all have left for other leagues.

"We were fortunate to get out," Luck told the paper. "We got out [of the Big East] when the ship was seriously going down. I mean, only the tip of the sail was showing."

It probably doesn't help that West Virginia and the Big East are in a heated legal battle over when the Mountaineers can start their new Big 12 venture. West Virginia sued to play in the Big 12 by 2012. The Big East countersued for the Mountaineers to abide by the 27-month waiting period that is outlined in the conference bylaws.

One of the reasons Luck cited for his university's move to the Big 12 was possible changes in the BCS system. Currently, a proposal is on the table doing away from the automatic qualification for BCS bowl games and having the BCS just proctor the national championship game. That would open up bowls such as the Rose, Fiesta, Sugar and Orange to take the most attractive team rather than get locked into taking a team just because it has an automatic bid.
Even if the BCS system doesn't change, there's no guarantee the Big East will keep it's automatic qualifying status, which will be reevaluated at the end of the current BCS cycle in 2013. That's why the conference has set its sights on grabbing the most attractive teams available, including Boise State, BYU, Central Florida, Houston, SMU, Air Force and Navy to fill out its sparse football ranks.

"If the AQ goes away," Luck said, "a Big East team will be forced to go unbeaten. That's doable. Houston, for instance, has a claim. But even then, would that team go into the top 10?

"If the goal is to go to a BCS game, it's better to play in one of the power conferences."

For years, BCS pundits have complained that the level of play in the Big East has not warranted an automatic BCS bid. Last season, Connecticut was drummed by Oklahoma. The year before Florida had little trouble with Cincinnati. The year before that, Virginia Tech handled the Bearcats. In recent years, teams from the nonautomatic qualifying leagues have been better matchups in BCS games than teams from the Big East.

Luck said he believes that if the automatic bids for the BCS were to disappear, the Big East would have a tough time being invited to the top tier bowl games and would, in essence, be no better than off than the WAC or Conference USA.

"In my mind, if we do go back to the old system, where conferences realign themselves with bowls, I can't see any of the big bowls wanting Big East teams," Luck said. "It remains to be seen whether we move to that model but I think that would make our recent move [to the Big 12] all the more valuable.

"It will make the delineation even more pronounced between the haves and have-nots."

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Graham Watson is on Facebook and Twitter: Follow her @Yahoo_Graham.

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