In 2003 the University of Miami and Virginia Tech both left the Big East conference. They were followed shortly after by Boston College.
The Big East went on a major offensive, recruiting Louisville, South Florida, Cincinnati, Marquette and DePaul.
But many fans of Big East schools, especially on the football side, worried about what would become of their sports programs in the new-look Big East.
The results over the past half decade are in, and the schools have prospered.
The void created by Miami and Virginia Tech, the two best teams in the Big East FB conference prior to their exit, allowed for other schools to improve and become recognized as legitimate programs in a BCS conference. The schools have been backing up their ascent into college football royalty with a very impressive bowl game winning percentage.
Rutgers, long considered the joke of college athletics, has gone to five straight bowl games, winning its last four.
Pittsburgh was a power in the early 1980s but was not a very good team throughout most of the Big East FB conference's existence. Pitt beat an ACC team last year in the Meineke Car Care Bowl.
Cincinnati and Louisville have been invited to BCS bowl games. Who would have thought that possible 10 years ago?
South Florida and UConn, I-AA schools at the turn of the century, have established themselves as solid BCS teams.
Syracuse has struggled, but their basketball team was a No. 1 seed in last year's tournament, and that is what is really important in upstate New York.
The team that has really taken advantage of the wonderful opportunity created by the 2003 conference realignment is West Virginia.
West Virginia has a proud tradition in football and basketball. They have had some nice football teams, and the NBA logo features a West Virginia alum. But despite this proud tradition, West Virginia has struggled to really be considered elite in either sport.
From 1990-2004, West Virginia football was only ranked in two seasons: a No. 7 ranking in 1993 and a No. 25 ranking in 2002. Prior to the conference realignment of 2003, West Virginia football was not a national power, was not respected and had not accomplished much in generations.
West Virginia football has spent the last five seasons ranked, including Top 10 rankings in 2005, 2006 and 2007. Their longest prior streak of ranked seasons was three, from 1953-1955 and 1981-1983.
West Virginia has only had six teams ranked in the Top 10 nationally to finish a season: 1953 (No. 10), 1988 (No. 5), 1993 (No. 7), 2005 (No. 5), 2006 (No. 10) and 2007 (No. 6).
Carquest, Insight, Continental Tire and Music City Bowls have been replaced with a healthy diet of Gator, Sugar and Fiesta Bowls.
The closest West Virginia has ever come to a national championship was 2007, when they had the inside track to the BCS title game before losing a heartbreaker to Pitt.
Make no mistake about it—this is the golden age of West Virginia football. West Virginia has jumped into the void created by Miami and Virginia Tech and prospered. The Big East has been a wonderful platform for West Virginia football.
On to basketball. West Virginia had a good team in the 1950s, but in the 20-year stretch from 1985 through 2004, West Virginia won a measly three NCAA Tournament games.
In the last six years, West Virginia has won 11 NCAA Tournament games, almost half of the school's 23 all-time NCAA Tournament wins.
From 1960-2004, West Virginia only advanced past the second round of the NCAA Tournament once, in 1998. In the last six years, West Virginia has advanced past the second round of the NCAA Tournament four times—a stunning difference.
Make no mistake about it—this is the golden age of West Virginia basketball.
Make no mistake about it—this is the golden age of West Virginia athletics.
West Virginia fans should be thankful to the Big East for the platform the conference has provided the school.