By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
It is Thanksgiving morning as this is being penned, which, come to think of it, is a word that no longer has much use in this computerized world in which we live and write.
While that is a detour from where we were expecting to head, it sums up precisely what our thoughts are on this morning of thanks.
Our world has changed dramatically, not just in replacing a quill with a laptop or a witch doctor with a neurosurgeon, but in the way we do our sports.
There, I knew we’d get back on track.
See, while there is so much to give thanks for this Thanksgiving day, having the football team travel to Iowa State rather than seeing the Pitt Panthers either in the friendly confines of Milan Puskar Stadium or the unfriendly confines of Heinz Field this holiday weekend is a difficult circumstance to accept.
Even WVU quarterback Geno Smith this past week was moved to comment on it when someone mentioned that this probably would have been the week the Mountaineers would be preparing for Pitt.
“That is kind of strange, isn’t it?’’ he said. “That was a good rivalry.’’
Iowa State is not WVU’s rival … never was, considering this is their first meeting today, never will be … and that’s a promise. It doesn’t matter if they schedule this game on Thanksgiving week every year, and BTW it is back there next year. This is not a rivalry.
What’s more, because it is not, it symbolizes much of what is wrong with WVU’s move to the Big 12, a move that suddenly leads to some questions about whether or not the Mountaineers pulled the trigger on jumping ship from the Big East too quickly.
Of course, Syracuse and Pitt, itself, have fled to the ACC, and just this week the Big Ten came along and grabbed Rutgers away from the Big East and Maryland from the ACC.
The face of college football was changed again. The Big East is bleeding to death as a football conference like a wounded wildebeest on the African plains. The ACC is now in expansion mood again and worrying that Clemson and Florida State will go off and elope elsewhere, and the SEC, it is smugly watching it all with the Nos. 2, 3 and 4 teams in the BCS standings.
But back to the home front, where WVU finds itself caught up in a league which begs the Mountaineers change their entire culture to belong, a league with far-off neighbors who live in oil-rich states and that apparently play football at a different level.
WVU’s Coach Dana Holgorsen made note of how reality differs from expectations when asked about the challenges that are presented in the Big 12.
“I don’t know what the fan base thinks, but I think we all understand the challenges that we have encountered,” he said. “Yes, it is pretty difficult, and this is the eighth team in a row that has either been ranked or close to ranked. I think it is eight in a row. You lose track. Every Big 12 team that we have played is going to go to a bowl game. That probably tells you something right there.”
Let us understand one thing right now, and it is that Oliver Luck, the athletic director, and WVU President Jim Clements were not wrong in making the move when and where they did. They had no choice.
The Big East was crumbling around them. The ACC would not so much as consider them as a member, and the SEC … well it took Texas A&M and Missouri and wasn’t looking to change anything further.
But what if … (We can dream, can’t we?)
What if they were stubborn; what if they had played in the Big East this year. Would they not have swept through that conference? Would they not be heading to a BCS bowl instead of fighting just to qualify for a bowl? And would not they be today targeted by the ACC, which would reunite them with Pitt and the Backyard Brawl, after Maryland left and with rumors of Florida State and Clemson’s departure getting stronger?
We know, they had no benefit of knowing what would happen and had to look out for No. 1, but it’s tough being a Mountaineer in the Big 12, where you don’t have a big alumni base in the member cities, where each game is road trip and not many of them to vacation sites like Florida, New York City or, even in basketball, Chicago.
OK, it is what it is, and this is Iowa State today, not Pitt, and it’s going to be the same the next year, but that isn’t the way it’s supposed to be in a perfect world, just the way it is.
Email Bob Hertzel at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.