Luck: Big East in good spot for expansion
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As speculation on conference expansion permeated college football this week, West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck wondered just how crazy the process might get.
Luck spoke Tuesday about the subject, hours before the Southeastern Conference voted to welcome Texas A&M as its 13th member, pending resolution of whether any Big 12 schools would take legal action against the Aggies for leaving the conference.
The move is expected to put the future of Texas A&M's previous conference, the Big 12, in question. Such conference switching and expansion likely will send ripples through every major college conference.
"It's really a fascinating subject," said Luck. "My ultimate point is this: I don't think anybody has a master plan. There's not much critical thought given to what's really in the best interest of college football.
"Is all of this going to happen in sort of a civilized fashion like you'd see in the NFL or NBA? Or is it going to be a free-for-all with every man for himself?"
Luck said he is confident the Big East, which will expand to nine football programs next year with the addition of TCU, is in a strong position and shared his thoughts about what the league should do.
First, he said, the conference is in a strong position with its television contract up for negotiation in the fall of 2012.
Second, he urged Big East commissioner John Marinatto, and all Big East athletic directors to stay open-minded and not let traditional geography hinder potential expansion.
And, he said, college football fans should get ready.
"Nobody knows ultimately what may or may not shake out," said Luck. "I do think the next moves [after Texas A&M] will involve the Big 12 and I think Texas and Oklahoma hold most -- if not all -- the cards in that conference. At this point, the best thing our commissioner can do is just keep the lines of communication open. Keep your mind open, have your executive committee on speed dial."
Luck said he talks daily with several league athletic directors about expansion.
The Big East is the only major college conference without a long-term football and basketball TV deal. The current deal expires in 2013, and the league can negotiate beginning in November 2012. With geographic boundaries from New York to Florida and west to Chicago, its footprint hits several major markets.
"There's a very strong belief among Big East football and basketball that we'll get a very lucrative TV contract in 2012," said Luck. "I think, and can't speak for every school, but my sense in talking to the other ADs is that we feel pretty good about where we are."
West Virginia's football team climbed to No. 19 this week in The Associated Press Top 25 poll, and the Mountaineers program became the subject of rumors on Twitter Tuesday night suggesting the SEC was considering WVU as its potential 14th member.
Luck could not be reached for comment about that, and Marinatto was not available to comment on expansion issues. Whatever happens, Luck said Tuesday, fans should be prepared.
"Does this happen in a civilized fashion or does it become a street fight with guys doing backroom deals, taking votes at midnight?" asked Luck. "The sport of college football is more popular than ever. It seems to ADs like me, particularly ones new to the industry, there's a better way to do this. Not to say we're ever going to get there."
NOTE -- Beer sales at Mountaineer Field totaled $160,656 gross, with a net profit to the university of $75,781 Sunday, the inaugural day of such sales at the stadium. A total of 21,811 bottles of beer were sold along with 10 kegs of draft beer, according to the university.
First Published September 8, 2011 12:00 am