West Virginia coach Bob Huggins isn’t one to hold back on the myriad of programs changing conferences.
“I think it sucks like everybody else does,” Huggins said during Big East Men’s Basketball Media Day at the New York Athletic Club yesterday. “It’s done in the name of money. It’s all about money. Whatever they want to tell you, it’s all about money.”
Despite Big East Commissioner John Marinatto’s best efforts to shift the focus onto basketball, the overriding topic of the day was conference realignment. The Big East lost two charter programs in September as Syracuse and Pittsburgh applied to and were accepted by the Atlantic Coast Conference. The earliest Syracuse and Pittsburgh can join the ACC is 2014. Marinatto noted both schools drafted and signed the conference’s 27-month exit agreement years ago, and he seems determined to make those programs honor their commitment.
During a conference call Tuesday, Marinatto reported that the remaining Big East school presidents — not Dr. Nancy Cantor (Syracuse) or Mark A. Nordenberg (Pittsburgh) — voted unanimously to double the exit fee to $10 million and to increase the number of football schools from six to 12. Huggins, who favors a 10-team league, is not in favor of expanding the conference. The Big East would have 20 schools that compete in basketball should Marinatto’s vision come to fruition.
“Why the hell have a league? Why don’t we all go independently? I think there’s a point of [oversaturation],” Huggins said. “Somebody’s going to face first [in the conference] and somebody’s going to face 16th [in the conference], no matter who they are. Everybody takes a job and they say, ‘We’re going to be one of the premier teams in the league.’ Really? Who are you going to pass? You look at our league; who do you pass? It’s going to be hard to pass Connecticut. It’s going to be hard to pass Syracuse. It’s going to be hard to pass Georgetown. When you have all these teams, TV dictates that you play somebody twice. A lot of times, the best team really doesn’t win the regular season and they really should. I understand the other part. I understand how money goes.
“Why don’t we bring 24? Why don’t we bring 24 to Madison Square [Garden]? Why don’t we make it a two week deal? Isn’t that right? Let’s go to 24, bring ‘em all in and let’s have two weeks at the Garden. That’ll be a lot of fun,” said the notoriously shoot-from-the-hip coach sarcastically.
West Virginia has been linked in media reports to a Big 12 expansion plan along with Louisville. Huggins acknowledged that he would have to modify his recruiting strategy should West Virginia join the Big 12.
Follow Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.