- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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Thank goodness for the start of spring practice, because now people will want to talk about actual football instead of expansion. Yeah, right.
Ian from Toms River, N.J., writes: Great blog, Brian. Keep it up! Insane comments from Bill Stewart recently and I suspect not only BE officials but other officials from other conferences have got a gag order on him. Yes, I'm a WVU fan (not a Stew fan) and he sticks his foot in his mouth all the time. Any word/reaction from any other conferences about these statements? Something tells me he wasn't supposed to be saying anything about it ...
Brian Bennett: My take on Stewart's comments is this: He was giving an interview to a Parkersburg, W.Va., TV station as part of a visit to that city to give a speech on faith and values. Parkersburg isn't exactly Manhattan, so Stewart probably thought he could answer the interviewer's question with his honest opinion and it wouldn't be transmitted around the world. But that's how things work these days.
Anyway, I'm glad Stewart said what he did, and not just because it made for excellent fodder for the blog. First of all, let's give him props for being very forthright. Maybe that wasn't the right venue to say those things, but this is an issue that needs to be talked about and discussed, because it's a very real possibility. Just burying your head in the sand and waiting for the hammer to drop isn't going to help matters much. I haven't heard much reaction from other leagues or anything like that, mostly because this was Stewart's opinion and not some insider information he wasn't supposed to be divulging. I've got a feeling we'll be hearing more and more of these opinions as we get closer to the summer and some possible decisions by the Big Ten.
Greg from NYC writes: F irst of all I would like to say WVU won the first of many Big East championships to come in basketball. Now, with all the expansion talk about Syracuse, Rutgers and Pitt going to the Big Ten (or whatever the new name would be), I'm just asking where does this leave WVU? Would the SEC look to expand and scoop us up or are we looking to the ACC? It seems we are in no man's land, which is surprising considering we have a loyal fan base and a pretty good tradition. What are your thoughts on this?
Brian Bennett: It's awfully early to speculate on this since so many dominoes have to fall into place for it even to merit consideration. But let's suppose Stewart's scenario does come true and the Big East teams become free agents, if you will. I have no doubt West Virginia will make out just fine. The Mountaineers have arguably the largest and most passionate football fan base in the league and are a statewide treasure who -- as last week showed -- aren't too shabby in basketball either. The ACC seems to me to be the perfect fit. There are natural rivals in Virginia, Virginia Tech and Maryland and easy travel to the East Coast schools.
Andrew from California writes: You've laid out dozens of sound reasons why Notre Dame has been good for the conference thus far. But with B-10 expansion looming that could possibly have a very negative effect on the Big East, could you see the Big East being proactive and booting Notre Dame? B-10 wants Notre Dame above all else. If Notre Dame was homeless in all other sports it would force their hand and protect the remaining Big East members. It might finally be in the Big East's financial and self-preservation interests to let Notre Dame go.
Brian Bennett: I disagree with your premise, Andrew. Football is absolutely king at Notre Dame, and the school isn't going to decide to abandon its independence based on conference affiliation for other sports. I think another league would eagerly sweep up the Irish in other sports just as the Big East has done. All the Big East would accomplish by booting Notre Dame would be to lose the draw the Irish bring in non-revenue sports and to hurt the league's bowl contracts.
John Z. from Buffalo, N.Y., writes: Regarding expansion, do you think there has been any discussion of going to a 9+3 configuration? That is, the eight football schools form a new conference, invite a C-USA East Division school and then bring in three non-football schools (say, Georgetown, Notre Dame, Villanova). The only real loser I see in this scenario is Marquette. The other four Catholic schools deserve to be in a mid-major league. Any chance this could happen? Would Georgetown, Notre Dame and Villanova go for it?
Brian Bennett: That's not a bad idea, John, though it doesn't solve the central problem we're facing here: does the Big East keep its current eight football members, or will the Big Ten take one or more? If more than one go, the Big East has major issues. But I like your idea in theory. Would the conference have the guts to cut ties with longtime members like St. John's, Seton Hall and Providence? I'm not so sure about that
Dave from Cincinnati writes: If you want to see a living mascot other than the Husky, stop by Richard E. Linder Varsity Village before a game. They bring Lucy the Bearcat over from the Cincinnati Zoo and let fans pet her.
Brian Bennett: Thanks, Dave, but after checking out Lucy's picture, well, let's just say I hope she has a great personality. Talk about a face only a mother could love. And she smells like hot popcorn? There's a reason not every team brings a live mascot to the sidelines.