By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian
They have played football at West Virginia since Mickey Furfari, the veteran sports writer who is in his ninth decade and still as spry as a college sophomore, began covering the team and they have never had a week like this one coming up.
Just being unbeaten through three games and welcoming No. 2/3 LSU to town in a game that could define the season would make it a special week, let alone that it is a game that will be shown at 8 p.m. Saturday on ABC-TV and will bring ESPN’s College GameDay to town for the first time.
But toss in the earthquake that registered 8.0 on the college football Richter scale, Pitt and Syracuse leaving the Big East for the ACC, and you have intrigue that could not possibly be matched.
Reports are flowing everywhere, the most prevalent being that WVU has already sent in an application to join the SEC, but that could not be confirmed and probably won’t be confirmed, considering that WVU President Jim Clements and athletic director Oliver Luck were unavailable.
Luck did issue a statement that said absolutely nothing.
“There is no question that the landscape of college athletics is once again changing. West Virginia University has great tradition as the state’s flagship land-grant institution, and we will continue working to do what’s best for our university and its athletic teams. No matter how the college athletic landscape changes, there is no doubt WVU is and will remain a national player.”
How and where remains to be seen.
Considering that WVU has nothing to gain by allowing anyone to reveal their plans, this is being kept top secret. Football coach Dana Holgorsen says he knows nothing and apparently doesn’t want to, considering the fact that he has the LSU game on tap.
“My total focus is on the preparations for LSU. I have complete faith in President Clements, Athletic Director Oliver Luck and our campus leadership to do whatever is in the best interest of WVU,” he said in a statement released by the university, one that said even less than did Luck.
The LSU game now is being played in a totally different light, considering that WVU is looking to join the Tigers’ conference. A victory over such a highly respected team would certainly send a message to the SEC that the quality of football WVU plays will fit in the SEC.
Not that they don’t know it, considering the Mountaineers’ victory over Georgia in the Sugar Bowl when Rich Rodriguez was coaching.
The question is whether or not the SEC wants West Virginia at all. It has accepted Texas A&M as a 13th member and needs a 14th, but also is considering jumping to 16 teams. If that is the case, the Mountaineers probably stand a good chance of attaining SEC membership and the prestige that comes with it.
WVU basketball coach Bob Huggins, contacted on Sunday by the Charleston Daily Mail, doesn’t know what direction WVU will go but understands it is time for action. As a former Big 12 coach at Kansas State, Huggins seems to be leaning toward salvaging the Big East by merging it with what’s left of his former conference that has been a victim of raids.
“I can’t really get into what we need to go do next because I haven’t talked to Oliver and Jim and I don’t know what they’ve got in mind, but the Big East has to go get some people, some BCS people,” Huggins said. “They’ve got to go get Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, Missouri, Baylor, whoever.”
Meanwhile, Holgorsen has begun preparations for LSU, a game that has thrust WVU squarely in the national spotlight.
“I’ve glanced at them defensively, but I haven’t really studied them. I’m not smart enough to get a game ahead, and Thursday night I reluctantly watched the game, which obviously LSU looked really good in. That was just me as a spectator more than a coach, and I’ll worry about us Friday and Saturday trying to get ready to play,” Holgorsen said.
Holgorsen’s offense has been solid but it hasn’t seen a defense like the Tigers’, which may be the nation’s best.
“It’s a work in progress,” Holgorsen said of the offense. “We have our work cut out for us this week. I hope our offense isn’t going to be judged on what happens next week from that standpoint; LSU is really good on defense.”
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @bhertzel.