By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
There was a cold, ill wind blowing in from the north on Friday.
It was the kind of wind that blows whenever a Pitt man opens his mouth, as the Pittsburgh athletic director Steve Pederson did.
If you thought West Virginia’s move to the Big 12 and the Panthers’ jump to the Atlantic Coast Conference signified the end of the rivalry between the two schools, you can put that to bed.
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s sports columnist Dejan Kovacevic tried to paint a picture in a column that the local team up there came out almost as good, or even as good, as the Mountaineers in the game of musical conferences.
Pederson was more than happy to help him make his case.
While the entire collegiate athletic world seems to be thinking that the conference realignment has left the ACC fifth among the six BCS conferences (the Big East, of course, taking up the rear) with the conventional wisdom being that the game is headed for a four-team playoff, possible between the champions of the Big Ten, Pac-12, SEC and Big 12, leaving the ACC somewhere on the level of Conference-USA, Pederson dismisses such a thought.
“No way,” Pederson said when Kovacevic brought up the thought. “We don't know where a lot of this is headed, and we might still be looking at some form of the current BCS setup. But everyone absolutely will have access to the national championship.”
Right. Sure, that’s why everyone has scrambled for position. That’s why Boise State has to be rethinking its promised move to the Big East, a move that gains it nothing but less respect than it had before.
And as for Pederson’s ACC, think about that conference should Florida State and Clemson make the leap to the Big 12, a proposition that seems to be more likely than less likely.
There is, too, the shadow of Notre Dame being cast over the playoff, for it appears they are not going to put their football program into a conference but would be more in the picture for a playoff spot than the ACC champion in the pecking order of college football as it is working out.
Pederson, however, refuses to give in, to admit that the football tradition and power lies with the other conferences. When Kovacevic asked him if a 12-1 ACC champion would make the Final Four or whatever the football playoff comes to be called, he responded:
“Oh, I would think so. Look, it’s pretty clear that there are five power conferences and that the ACC is one of them. We control the eastern seaboard, we’ve got the prestige, the athletics, the academics ... we’re thrilled to be where we are.”
If it’s clear to Pederson that there are five “power conferences,” the world would like to schedule an appointment with his optometrist, for he certainly is seeing things far differently than everyone else is.
To begin with, let’s take a look at that statement about controlling the eastern seaboard.
Well, if he means that Boston College is the best team in
Massachusetts and Syracuse the best in New York, maybe ... but I think it’s fair to say that Pitt is No. 3 between Penn State and West Virginia, and that while Virginia Tech is Virginia’s best team, the ACC doesn’t surpass South Carolina with Clemson, especially if Clemson jumps, nor does Georgia Tech stand taller than Georgia or FSU — again, if it stays — or Miami stand above Florida.
That doesn’t scream out control ... and if you’re looking for prestige, the ACC is No. 5 for a reason.
To add to the insanity, Kovacevic tried to make a case that the $20 million WVU gets from the Big 12 is the same as the $17 million Pitt will take in from the ACC, noting the added travel costs for the Mountaineer teams.
That, of course, is absurd on the surface, as the only added expense is in travel, for food and accommodations will remain the same. It also ignores what the take might increase to if FSU and Clemson come into the league.
Did WVU come out of all this better than Pittsburgh? Without question ... and the prospects of the Big 12 football situation getting even better with more expansion and a playoff make you wonder what in the name of Tony Dorsett the Panthers were thinking when they jilted WVU and went off on their own to the ACC.
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @bhertzel.