West Virginia Football 2011: Marinatto Needs Luck to Secure the Future

Jeff Woollard@JeffWoollardCorrespondent IIAugust 16, 2011

The SEC has decided that they will remain at 12 teams, for the immediate future. Calmer heads prevailed and averted a complete overhaul of the current conference affiliations, but for how long?

The current conference alignment in college football is on shaky ground, which could crumble seemingly at any time.

With their negotiations ongoing for the next television contract, the Big East could find the money tree that is college football programming plucked clean, along with members of the conference.

What can the Big East take away from the events of the past week?

Big East member teams need to win out of conference football games. After the first two weeks of the 2010 college football season the Big East was 0-6 against AQ members. A repeat in 2011 could spell doom for the conference.

With expansion tabled, the Big East is still in control of their destiny. Posting a winning percentage against the AQ members strengthens that control.

Additionally, it would give commissioner John Marinatto an advantage in the ongoing negotiations for an enhanced television agreement, even a Big East network.

The Texas Longhorn network caused the recent uproar at Texas A&M, and their attempt to bolt the Big 12 for the SEC.

The Big Ten has its own network and until the recent PAC 12 television deal, the Big Ten paid its member schools the most of any BCS AQ conference.

The new PAC 12 television contract includes a PAC 12 network.

Even the SEC has its own network, ESPN.

The key for the Big East to keep up with the Joneses is to start its own television network.

Currently Big East member schools occupy some of the largest television markets in the United States.

The argument has always been that the member schools do not always draw in those markets.

The counter to that argument is that those members draw from their respective markets when they win football games.

The Big East team with the highest attendance is West Virginia University with athletic director Oliver Luck and new head coach Dana Holgorsen, even with declining attendance under Holgorsen’s predecessor.

It is an accepted belief that the Mountaineers fail to help the Big East when it comes to television market share.

In 2012 WVU will play a home game at FedEx Field, home to the NFL’s Washington Redskins. That fact is old news, what may have been overlooked is that Luck is trying to show that WVU can deliver the Baltimore/DC television market.

If successful, WVU completely changes its marketability for the Big East in the television negotiations.

The depth of Luck’s insight does not stop there, every single Big East football member school is within relatively short driving distance to NFL venues.

If Luck’s experiment with the FedEx game is successful Big East member schools could schedule games at those NFL venues. Those games could help increase revenue and close the current revenue gap with other BCS AQ conferences.

Games at NFL venues would also help the Big East lay claim to those television markets that the experts say they do not control.

It is worth noting that the University of Pittsburgh plays their home games at Heinz Field, home of the Pittsburgh Steelers of the NFL. In addition, the University of Cincinnati currently has home games scheduled at Paul Brown Stadium, home to the Cincinnati Bengals of the NFL.

Another revenue stream that Luck championed, beer sales at Milan Puskar Stadium, started with a proposal that had many scratching their heads. Still, the board of governors approved Luck’s proposal.

Many thought that proposal was all about selling beer to fans at football games. Certainly, that was part of the equation; but as is generally the case with Luck, there is a bigger picture.

Luck has applied for and received approval from the state fire marshal to hold concerts at the stadium, another revenue stream for the Mountaineers—part of creating a successful concert series at any venue is the sale of beer.

WVU fans travel well to away games in general and bowl games in particular. However, do those fans travel from West Virginia? On the other hand, do they travel from almost every state in the union?

Unbelievably the Mountaineers have a national following, the sale of Mountaineer licensed merchandise is among the top performers nationally. It would be shortsighted to believe that the state of West Virginia places WVU on that list by itself.

Most prognosticators have WVU winning nine or ten games in the coming football season, depending on what prognosticator you read. A safe estimate would be the same 9-4 that WVU has posted for the last three years.

A nine-win season in 2012 would place WVU at 94 wins over the last ten seasons. Few BCS AQ teams can boast that amount of prolonged success.

Unfortunately, nine wins a season do not represent a BCS title game appearance, Luck addressed that too; add another change to the list of controversy in Morgantown.

Luck hired Holgorsen to bring that title to Morgantown.

Conference realignment will rear its head again, of that you can be sure.

Another accepted belief in Mountaineer Nation is that Luck is positioning WVU to bolt the Big East for either the ACC or the SEC.

Again, a closer inspection of the moves that Luck has made at WVU may tell another story.

Luck is charting a solid financial course for the future of his university’s athletic department, in non-traditional ways. That does not sound like a man that is chasing a traditional conference.

In fact, Luck may be pointing in an entirely different direction.

Mike Casazza of the Charleston Daily Mail presents a new possibility. Could the Big East and the Big 12 combine to create a championship game for their football members?

Keep in mind that Luck has strong ties in Texas from his time with the Houston Dynamo, as does Holgorsen. If nothing else, it is an intriguing non-traditional possibility, and an avenue to explore.

While securing the WVU athletic department for the future, Luck just might show the Big East how to secure its future.


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